Overview of Laguna Cuicocha:
Up in the mountains of Ecuador lies the Cuicocha Crater Lagoon at the base of the extinct volcano Cotocahci. The lagoon reaches a peak of 3240m and provides amazing views of Otavalo and the mountainous region. In the center of the lagoon lies two lava domes populated with wildlife and covered in vegetation. A 4-5 trail leads around the lagoon and provides some of the most amazing views of the crystal like lava water. Take your time and use our guide to enjoy your trip to Laguna Cuicocha.
- Budget: Hostal Chasqui through HOSTELWORLD.COM
- Splurge: Hacienda Hosteria Pinsaqui through HOTELS.COM
Time and Cost:
- Entrance: Free
- Bus & Taxi: 10.50 round trip
- Time Needed: 4-5 Hours
- Distance: 14km / 8.4 mi
- Trail Type: Round Trip
- Optional Boat Ride: $3-4 each way to the center islands
- Snacks & Packed Lunch
- Rain Coat during the rainy season
There are no buses up to the Laguna so you will need to take a bus and then a taxi to get to the crater. Starting at the Otavalo bus terminal take a bus to Quiroga (.25 cents). From here you will need to take a taxi to Laguna Cuicocha. It should be about $5 to take a taxi, so make sure you try and bargain with the taxi driver.
Hiking around the crater takes 5 hours at the most, so unless you want to take the boat ride to one of the islands you should ask the taxi driver to come pick you up in 5 hours. Otherwise you can ask the lodge to call you one so you can get back down.
Hiking Laguna Cuicocha can be done either clockwise or counter clockwise. We have done both and didn’t feel one was easier then the other, so our guide will be counter clockwise since the beginning of the trail is well marked unlike going clockwise.
From the main lodge head up pass the car park and follow the road to the visitor center. Near the visitor center is the begging of the trial going up and around the crater. You will take this trail and this is the trail you will follow around the crater. The trail is very well marked and provides amazing views of the lagoon. Along the way there will be two coverings where you can take a few minutes to rest, enjoy lunch or a snack, and provide shelter from the sun or rain. Plus the picture opportunities are amazing!
After the last covering the trail leads down and around the crater and the views of the lagoon start to disappear. Continue following though until you reach the (now) paved road. Follow this road down the hill until you reach a restaurant on your left hand side. The restaurant will advertise a “mirador”, food and other services. However, we need to go up here as its the way back to the lagoon! Hike up the short road to the restaurant and right in the back is a path leading down to the main lodge where we started.
Once back at the lodge you can get some coffee while waiting for a taxi to come and pick you up. Or if you have time you can catch a boat ride to the center islands and enjoy the lagoon even more!
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