Travel article: Quilotoa & Cotopaxi

Travel blogger: Christelle & Cedric

Trip story: 3 months in South America!

Image for blog article: Quilotoa & Cotopaxi

Quilotoa, Ecuador

Ecuador 4 days - March 2019






We continue our discovery of volcanoes (we must have climbed more than 10 since our departure in November 2017) going back to the center of Ecuador.

We are still in the carnival period so we decide to stop in Ambato whose celebrations are listed in the Unesco heritage list. Bad luck it is in the evening and it is only 11am. We decide to go to a small festival of traditional dances instead, not amazing but at least Cédric could taste a specialty: the pizza with guinea pig ...! Moreover, many guinea pigs are caged and the gesture of the seller following the innocent question of our new English friends leaves us no doubt: they are sold to be eaten! Apparently it tastes smoky ...

We arrive in Latacunga, a city without charm but best base to visit the surroundings.

First visit: Quilotoa lagoon located in the crater of the volcano of the same name.

Once again, the bus takes us through little festive villages, the men put on their best hats and ponchos and parade on their horses.

We arrive at the village of Quilotoa and surprise: many hostels have grown. However as usual when traveling, just walk 5 minutes to escape the tourists. And we didn’t walk just 5 minutes but 4 hours and 15 minutes climbing the mountainsides, going down, up again then false flat and another climb up hidden by another mountain and so on. 15kms that will be remembered.

All of this between 4,000 and 4,500 meters above sea level! We drooled but no regret as the lagoon is beautiful!

The shades of green-blue change with the sun depending on the sun and our position on the mountain.

Some passages are on the mountainside and we imagine seeing ibexes there. But here we meet only pigs, sheep and some shepherds (with whom Cédric will make a concert of bleating!)

At the end, in less than 30 seconds the wind and clouds cover the lagoon and give it a mystical air. Impressive.

It's time to get back and our 2 hours’ bus ride turns into 3. The biggest carnival event of this region takes place, the locals arrive by hundreds by hugging in the cattle trucks. Adults as children are armed with water bombs, shaving foam and water guns, we are not spared the bus being an easy target!

Cedric sympathizes with the driver who tells him: We need police, it's a mess, where are you from? Do you know any police officers?

We are immersed in the local life.

The next day we go hiking again but this time in Cotopaxi.

Culminating at 5,900 meters, it is the highest active volcano! The name of the volcano would mean "neck of the moon" in cayapa; the Moon coming "to rest" above the volcano would give it the impression of being the neck of the moon. In the caribi languages, it would mean "king of death". Its crater is in the shape of a perfect cone, we will not see it unfortunately because it requires some proper mountain climbing.


As usual in Ecuador, we are left on the edge of the highway.

From there we negotiate a jeep that takes us to the parking at 4,800m. In this park there are no more vicuñas, they moved years ago but we don’t really knowing why.

We are lucky, it is rare to see the Cotopaxi without his hat made of clouds.

From the parking at 4,800 meters we start a short but difficult walk to the refuge and then to the glacier. We spit our lungs because of the altitude and again very quickly a headache is felt. What a view of the park from above!

From 5,000 meters the snow covers the path of black and ocher red ash. The contrast is beautiful.

At 5,100 meters there is the glacier (under the snow). The clouds are rising and we are surrounded by fog, we do not see at 2 meters. Mystical.

Fun fact: when I say "muchas gracias" (thank you very much) to our "guide" this one answers me that "gracias" will suffice because "muchas" means kisses in quichua. Ok I'll just say "gracias" from now on!

It’s already the end of our stay in Ecuador. We undergo the four seasons again in a day that seems to stop in the evening on "autumn" with a deluge.

This small country surrounded by the Peruvian and Colombian giants really has a lot to offer. We focused on the majestic volcanoes but we will not hesitate to come back to the Amazon and the Galapagos of course. In addition the locals although less exuberant than Brazilian or Colombian are really nice and accessible.

Thank you Ecuador, Patagonia now!

Some recommendations:


# from Riobamba to Latacunga: a little over 2 hours by bus with a change to Ambato. Everything goes very fast, ecuadorian buses are always efficient! $ 1.25 USD for Riobamba-Ambato and $ 1.25 USD Ambato-Latacunga.

# We stayed at the Cotopaxi Hotel on the main square of Latacunga for $ 25 USD per night. Better in real life than in the photos, good surprise!

# to reach Quilotoa from Latacunga: there are many direct buses from the city terminal. We recommend the one at 8am because the lagoon is covered in the afternoon. 2 hours of travel. $ 2.50 USD.

# Quilotoa: It is also possible to do a 3-day trek through native villages but the capricious weather in this season has discouraged us. However the tour of the lagoon is unmissable and takes between 4 and 7 hours.

# we recommend lasagna and pizzas at the restaurant down the Cotopaxi Hotel! Cheap and delicious.

# to get to Cotopaxi: take any bus to Quito and ask the driver to stop at the park entrance. $ 1.50 USD. It will stop you on the edge of the highway where jeeps are waiting to make the remaining 30 kilometers towards the refuge. Count between $ 15 and $ 20 USD per person for 4-5h of "tour". We paid $ 16 after negotiation.

# from Latacunga it is very easy to reach the airport: bus to Quito Quipumbe: $ 2.25 USD per person, 1h30 drive. Then bus to the airport from this last terminal: $ 2 USD.


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Apr 5, 2019 - 02:49 PM

superbe !