Quilotoa is a caldera home to the famous Quilotoa lagoon, considered to be one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world and highly regarded for its turquoise and emerald green waters when the sun shines on it. This unique place, located in the inter-Andean region of Ecuador, in the Andes mountain range, more specifically in the Los Ilinizas Ecological Reserve, is considered a must-see destination if you are visiting the country.
Cover Photo by: Instagram @the_monster_machine
In Quilotoa you will find yourself at an altitude of 3,914 meters (12,841 feet) above sea level and the average temperature of the site is between 3 and 15 degrees Celsius (37° to 59° Fahrenheit), (Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador, 2019).
If you want to know how to get to Quilotoa, take a look at our article where we explain how to get there using various means of transport. Click here: how to get to Quilotoa.
1. Begin your journey early in the morning
Regardless of what you plan to do when you arrive at the Quilotoa Lagoon, we recommend that you get there early in the morning. Take advantage of the morning light to get the best pictures and enjoy the place which is not so crowded at that time. Besides, if you arrive early, you will have enough time to go around the Quilotoa crater, whose diameter is approximately 3 kilometers (1.9 miles). This activity takes between 5 and 6 hours, depending on your fitness level. We recommend you do this activity accompanied by a professional guide.
It is also highly recommended to make the descent to the lagoon early in the morning, since you will share the path with the donkeys, so it is better to make the hike earlier. This hike takes about 1 hour if you are in very good physical condition and about 2 hours if you walk at a regular pace.
If you want to start your trip early in the morning from the city of Quito and be one of the first to arrive at this destination in Ecuador, you can do it in a fun, comfortable and safe way with the Quito Quilotoa Tour Bus. For more information, click here: Quilotoa Tour from Quito
2. Avoid walking under the midday sun
We also recommend that you avoid walking in the middle of the day as the sun’s rays fall perpendicularly on the equator, so they can be quite harsh on your skin. For this reason, we recommend that you always wear sunscreen and a hat, and at midday you can enjoy lunch or a snack in the local restaurants that offer typical food from the Ecuadorian highlands. In addition, at midday you could go to the viewpoints and enjoy the view that the Quilotoa offers since at this time of day the waters change colour. The scenery will be simply fantastic.
3. Start your hikes very early in the morning
As we mentioned earlier, if you are going to do the hike around the Quilotoa volcano crater, we recommend you do it early in the morning, so you will have enough time to finish this activity around noon. Or if you decide to go down to the lagoon and climb again, we recommend you do it early as you will avoid the road being too busy with visitors arriving and with the donkeys going along the trail.
4. Hire a donkey if the climb is challenging
You must take into account that the descent/ ascent to the Quilotoa lagoon can be a bit challenging if you are not in very good physical condition. In that case, it is recommended to rent a donkey. You can do both the descent and ascent in this way, or either way. However, do not forget that you do not need to be a professional to get to and from the lagoon.
The trail to the lagoon is approximately 2 kilometers (1.2 miles), and the donkey ride service is offered by the Quilotoa community.
5. Rent a kayak or a boat if you want to sail the turquoise waters
Kayaking or boating are among the most recommended activities for those who wish to enjoy the lagoon and its turquoise waters. If you go down to the lagoon you will find an area where these boats are rented out. We also recommend that you do this activity early in the morning so that you can enjoy it to the fullest.
6. What should you wear?
Depending on the time of year, Quilotoa can be a very cold and windy destination, although it can also be quite hot at midday, which is why we recommend that you wear a few layers of clothing that you can easily take on and off. Make sure you bring a coat for the cold, a windbreaker and, in case of rain, a raincoat. Don’t forget to wear your hat at all times as you will need it for protection from the sun.
In addition, we recommend that you wear trekking or hiking shoes with grippy soles to avoid slipping. You will find them useful at all times.
7. What should you bring?
Here’s what you should take with you if you’re going to Quilotoa.
A light snack
Bring a light snack or appetizer, a sandwich, some fruit and chocolate. You don’t need to carry much food as this will make you heavier and therefore make the walk more difficult. In addition, there are restaurants and small shops in the area that you can go to if you want to have lunch or buy snacks and drinks.
1.5 litres of water and no more than 2 litres per person
If you are going to go down to the lagoon and come back up you must be constantly hydrated. It is necessary to bring your own water or favourite drink and, if you forget to do so, there are several shops at the entrance of the Quilotoa where you can buy drinks.
Take your camera or your cell phone with enough battery. Once in Quilotoa, you will definitely want to get pictures of all the surroundings, we can assure you of that!
Also, in the surrounding areas of Quilotoa you will find some beautiful llamas (Andean mammals) that you may want to photograph.
As we mentioned earlier, in Ecuador the sun’s rays fall perpendicularly so it is vitally important that you wear sunscreen and a hat at all times if you are doing any outdoor activity.
Money in cash
You will need cash as there are no ATMs there and it is only possible to pay with credit or debit cards in very few places. With cash you can pay at local restaurants, buy souvenirs, pay for a kayak or rent a donkey to go up/down the lagoon.
A first aid kit
Whenever you do an activity you run the risk of sustaining some kind of injury or wound, so it is recommended that you take a small first aid kit with you. Your first aid kit can contain: painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, liquid antiseptic for disinfection, anti-diarrhoeal drugs, antihistamine for allergies, multi-purpose elastic or stretch bandage, sterile wound dressings, disposable gloves, among other things.
If you are looking to get to know this fantastic destination in Ecuador, we recommend a day tour. Quito Tour Bus offers you the Quilotoa Tour, a one-day tour that has scheduled departures on Fridays with no minimum number of passengers.
The Quilotoa Tour from Quito departs from the United Nations Boulevard and during the day you will visit: 1) The Shalalá Lookout, a space built in 2014, with sustainable materials, which allows you to contemplate the beauty of nature from 3,900 meters (1,295 feet) above sea level. 2) A walk and a visit to the Quilotoa Lagoon. You can approach the lagoon in the company of our guides who will accompany you at all times. 3) A visit to an artisan workshop in the community of Tigua. You will visit an artisan workshop in the community of Tigua (located 15 minutes from the parish of Zumbahua, where the Quilotoa lagoon is located). This area is famous for the work of its artisans who have specialized in making pine wood masks and sheepskin paintings. 4). A visit to the Toachi River canyon. In this canyon of almost 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) of extension and a 100 meters (328 feet) drop you can marvel at the magnificent Andean landscapes.
Quilotoa is, without a doubt, an unmissable destination in Ecuador. If you are visiting the country and have dared to visit this famous lagoon, considered one of the most beautiful of its kind, you will wonder what to do once you get there, so we recommend reading our blog: What to do in Quilotoa.
Make this day trip in the company of Quito Tour Bus and we assure you that fun and safety are guaranteed.