Hiking the Loop

For many travelers, the Quilotoa Loop is one of the highlights of their trip to Ecuador. The hiking is fantastic, and although guides are inexpensive and a good way to support the local economy, many hostales (small, reasonably priced hotels) and inns also have maps for solo wanderers. Llullu Llama in Isinlivi is a particularly good source of information.

The loop is shorthand for the circular route clockwise by road from the Panamericana past Tigua, Zumbahua, Quilotoa, Chugchilán, Sigchos and Saquisilí; it's also possible to start at Saquisilí and travel the route in a counterclockwise direction. Isinliví lies off the main road, between Chugchilán and Sigchos.

Hikers usually choose to walk a two- to four-day section of the loop. Sigchos is a good place to start a three-day hike, with overnight stops in Isinliví and Chugchilán, finishing the walk in Quilotoa. Bear in mind that doing the walk in this way means slightly more uphill climbs (good for acclimatization but harder on the legs). Another option is to hike from Tigua to Quilotoa and on to Chugchilán.

Transportation is infrequent, so it takes some planning if your time is limited. It’s wise to travel the loop with rain gear, water and plenty of snacks for long waits and hikes, but try to leave your heavy luggage behind and hike with a day pack; Hostal Tiana in Latacunga has a luggage storage room.

Many travelers have reported problems with dogs along the way. If they charge you, don’t run away. Stand your ground, grab a rock and pretend to throw it. Also, it's good to have a walking stick, for this reason.