Volcanoes are a common sight when you visit Ecuador and we decided to visit several of them during our visit. Although many of them are still active, Quilotoa hasn’t erupted for several hundred years. One if its last eruptions was violent enough to create the enormous crater or caldera that has since filled with water that is 800 feet deep. You can either hike around the rim of the crater or hike down the steep trail that takes you down to the lake. We ended up doing a bit of both, but we didn’t go all of the way down to the lake itself. If you want to, there are kayaks for rent if you want to go out on the sulfur laden water, but that didn’t sound too appealing to us.
The trail down to the lake is actually deep sand and not an easy hike going down and even harder going back up. There are mules available for $10 per person if you don’t want to make the difficult hike back up the side of volcano. The spectacular views more than made up for our exhaustion when we made it back to the top. Fortunately there are a couple of restaurants on the rim, so we were able to stop and have lunch before deciding to hike partially around the rim. Going around the entire rim would have taken us about three hours, so we only made it about a third of the way before turning around and heading back.
Visiting Quilotoa is only about an hour and a half drive from Quito and we would definitely recommend going there to anyone who travels to Ecuador. We arranged our private tour through the tour company, Happy Gringo, and our driver picked us up from the hotel. Since the tour was private, we were able to customize it to our needs, which was quite convenient. This was the first of three volcanoes that we hiked on or around during our time in Ecuador, but it was also one of the most memorable. The colors of the water and the sheer size of the caldera are quite impressive to see. We were fortunate to have beautiful weather, although hiking the trail can be very dusty when it isn’t raining.