Quilotoa Lagoon is one of the most famous volcanic lagoons in the world. Quilotoa volcano is home to the lagoon of a 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) diametre. The turquoise waters of this spectacularly beautiful natural wonder make both the volcano and lagoon, destinations worth your visit on your trip to Ecuador. For this reason, we would like to provide you with information on how to reach Quilotoa from Quito.
Cover photo by Instagram @ecuadorentusojos
The Quilotoa volcano and lagoon can be found in the Zumbahua municipality of the Pujilí district, in the Cotopaxi province, amidst the Ecuadorian mountains.
Quilotoa lagoon is one of the main allures of Los Ilinizas Nature Reserve in which it is located. The Nature Reserve is also home to the snowy Ilinizas and Corazón Hill, so named as it is the shape of an upside-down heart. The reserve covers 500 hectares and ranges between 2 800 – 4 210 meters (9 186 – 13 812 feet) in altitude.
Quilotoa Lagoon sits at 3 914 meters (12 841 feet) above sea level. The average temperature is 10 °C (50°F) and it tends to be very windy, so we recommend bringing a coat and scarf. However, in the rainy season, an anorak is recommended.
The path between the Quilotoa viewpoint and the shores of the lagoon is aproximately 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) long. If you are physiclally fit, the round trip to the lagoon will take you 01h00, but if you walk at a tranquil pace it is likely to take you a couple of hours or more. People generally walk this path, however there is also the option to hire a donkey service that will help you reach the edge of the crater. The donkey ride up will take around 30 minutes. Equally, you can circle the crater in approximately 4 hours, but we recommend that you are accompanied by a guide.
The busiest time of year to visit Quilotoa Lagoon is during July and August as this is holiday season in the Ecuadorian mountains and Amazon. That said, Quilotoa lagoon receives tourists from across the globe throughout the year.
What should you bring? Remember to pack a coat, cap, scarf, sunglasses, walking boots, suncream, camera, anorak and hydradrating drinks.
It is possible to camp on the shore of Quilotoa lagoon. If you decide to do so, you will need to bring your own camping gear, and very importantly, bottled water. There are bathrooms in the area. You can also rent kayaks to take out on the lagoon.
How to get to Quilotoa from Quito using different means of transport
There are many ways to get to Quilotoa from Quito, which we will explore below.
To get to Quilotoa from Quito, you first need to reach the city of Latacunga. Take a public bus from Quitumbe bus terminal, located south of Quito. Buses to Latacunga are frequent, tickets cost approximately $2.50 USD and the journey takes about 01h30.
Once at Latacunga bus terminal, take a bus (around $2,50 USD) to the municipality of Zumbahua (63 km – 39.2 miles). This journey takes about 01h00, buses leave every hour and run every day of the week.
Getting to Quilotoa lagoon by car is a great option. The distance between Quito and Quilotoa is approximately 178 kilometers (111 miles). Leaving Quito, take the South Pan-American Highway until you reach Latacunga. This part of the journey takes 45 minutes to one hour. When you arrive at Latacunga, the capital of the Cotopaxi province, take the Pujilí-La Maná road until you reach the municipality of Zumbahua. Once in the village, drive another 13 kilometers (8.1 miles) on a tarmacked road and you will arrive at the top of the Quilotoa crater. Paid parking is available near the lagoon entrance.
There is an alternative way to get to Quilotoa which is through La Virgen entrance. Take the South Pan-American highway to the town of Machachi. Take the main, tarmacked road until you come to El Chaupi. From El Chaupi, take an unpaved road to La Virgen.
Remember to stick to speed limits to avoid accidents and speeding fines.
One day tour
If you haven’t already decided how to get to Quilotoa from Quito, we recommend that you reach this exceptional tourist destination through our Quilotoa Tour.
The tour leaves with no minimum number of passengers required from any of these strategic points in Quito: Naciones Unidas Boulevard (07h05), La Mariscal / Plaza Foch (07h25) and Quinde Visitors Center (07h50).
During the Quilotoa Tour, you will not only get to know the impressive Quilotoa lagoon, but also other beautiful locations in the surrounding area that are highly recommended to visit when you are there. Let us tell you about the activities included during this tour.
Visit the Shalalá and Quilotoa viewpoints
While driving southwards, you will first stop at the Shalalá view point, a space built out of sustainable materials, and known for its transparent structure.
This is an ideal place to admire the beauty of nature, 3 900 meters (12 795 feet) above sea level. Later on, when you arrive at the Quilotoa view point, you will be able to admire the combinations of nature in all their glory.
Quilotoa Walk and visit to Quilotoa lagoon
Following this, you will begin the walk to Quilotoa. The lagoon’s turquoise waters will surprise you with their beauty. This gorgeous colour is due to a large accumulation of sulphur in the water.
Visit an artisan workshop in the Tigua community
Tigua is a small, indigenous community found on Pujilí road – La Maná. It is famous because many of its inhabitants dedicate themselves to the making and painting of masks that are worn at local celebrations, such as creating works of art from sheep leather. One of the activities offered on the Quilotoa Tour is precisely visiting this community and getting an understanding of the artists’ work.
Visit to the Toachi river canyon.
Later on, we will take you to the Toachi river canyon. From the viewpoint, located at 2 606 meters (8540 feet) above sea level, you can make out the canyon which extends over nearly 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) and drops down 100 meters (328 feet). Shaped by the volcanic eruptions, this Andean landscape is totally unique. At the end of the trip we will return back to Quito.
The Quilotoa Tour is a fantastic way to get to know this destination located in the Cotopaxi province. You will be accompanied by a bilingual guide (Spanish-English), who will look after you throughout the trip.