Looking at a map, getting to Quilotoa from Quito seems like it should be a pice of cake. Unfortunately, there are NO direct busses from the capital city to the central highland town. We must travel from Quito to Latacunga and then onto Quilotoa. For this reason, Latacunga is a popular one-night stopover city for those heading to/from the Quilotoa Loop.
With time on our side, we decided to take the public bus (for $0.25/ea) instead of the estimated $11+ cab fare to Quitumbe, Quito’s southern bus terminal. From there we paid the $0.20 terminal fee and $2.15 per person for transportation to main terminal in Latacunga. Not typical for me, I am glad I kept the receipt as tickets were checked about three quarters the way through the trip. We stayed in a recommended hostel (thanks Lonely Planet) and head back to the station. In all honesty, we didn’t have to work too hard to find the correct bus. An employee spotted the trekking poles and immediately summoned us over to Quilotoa bound ticket counter. $2 each, one hour and forty five minutes, and countless hairpin turns later, we arrived at Quilotoa.
Quilotoa is approximately 3,500’ higher in elevation than Quito and the difference was immediately evident. It was significantly cooler and the simple act of bending over to pick up bags made us dizzy. After searching for a pen, we signed into the visitor log near the main entrance and made our way to Chukirawa Hostel. We unloaded our bags and almost ran over to what we’ve anxiously been waiting to see: the Quilotoa crater.
What is now a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains was once a massive volcano. Approximately 800 years ago it collapsed and exploded sending ash throughout the Andes and producing mud flows that reached the Pacific. The colossal explosion left a crater just under 2 miles in diameter and a crater rim towering 1,200 feet above the water that eventually filled this hole. The lake now has a depth exceeding 800 feet and dissolved minerals produce a theme-park-like green tint. Facts aside, the views are stunning. Clouds are constantly on the move here, always providing a change of scenery. As the sun set that evening and then rose the next morning, we had the opportunity to see the lake in many different lights.