Quilotoa Volcano

Quilotoa Volcano
Elevation Table
Highest Summit:3933m
South Crater Viewpoint:3882m


Quilotoa is a beautiful volcanic crater with a lagoon of green waters inside. The volcano in the Cotopaxi Province has a crater approximately 3 kilometers in diameter and the lagoon is 375 meters below the crater viewpoint, with a calculated depth of up to 250 meters. Quilotoa continues to receive constant volcanic monitoring although its current activity is low, its waters owe their green color precisely to the minerals and gases expelled by the volcano; They are somewhat toxic and this has hindered the emergence of life within. In the volcano surroundings, some ancestral indigenous communities have settled, now distributed in the picturesque towns of Zumbahua, Chucchilán, Tigua, Isinlivi and Sigchos.

National Park: Reserva Ecológica Los Illinizas


Crop fields, Zumbahua
Crop fields, Zumbahua
Quilotoa lagoon
Quilotoa lagoon
Going down to the lagoon
Going down to the lagoon

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Western Cordillera; 32 kilometers in a straight line west of Latacunga. There are two approaches to Quilotoa:

1) Normal approach "Zumbahua": From Latacunga take the Pujilí - Zumbahua road (western direction); alternatively, when you go up from the coast, you can take the Quevedo - La Maná - Zumbahua road. You enter the town of Zumbahua and continue by paved road, approximately 12 additional kilometers, to the viewpoint of the Quilotoa Crater.

2) "Chucchilán" approach: This is a longer approach and requires a hike from the town of Chucchilan to the north side of the Quilotoa crater. The easiest way to get to Chucchilán is to continue by car from Zumbahua in the direction of the crater viewpoint, almost reaching the viewpoint you can find on the left a paved road that goes to the Chucchilán community, a total of 29 kilometers from Zumbahua, an approximate time of 40 minutes.

3) "Sigchos" approach: An approach for the more adventurous that also offers beautiful landscapes. It is a tough two-day trek between Sigchos and the Crater Viewpoint on the north side. You could spend the night in the existing hostels at Chucchilan or Isinlivi. This route may require a prior study of the maps and knowledge of navigation with compass or GPS. It is recommended to obtain more information at Sigchos before starting the hike.

"Zumbahua" Normal Approach:
Quito – Zumbahua2h40min169km
Latacunga – Zumbahua1h30min76km
Panamerican Hw – Zumbahua1h10min58km
Quevedo – La Maná – Zumbahua2h15min110km
Zumbahua – South Crater Viewpoint18min12.2km
"Sigchos" Approach:
Quito – Sigchos2h30min130km
Sigchos – Zumbahua1h15min53.3km


  • It is recommended to take as starting point Latacunga as the buses to Zumbahua leave from this city; in this case, it is possible to make the visit in a single day.
  • If your starting point is the city of Quito, Guayaquil or Riobamba, it is recommended to spend 2 days to visit the Quilotoa, spending the night in one of the hostels in the area.
  • Both in Zumbahua and in the Crater Viewpoint, it is very easy to rent a pickup truck - taxi.
  • The essential activity is to visit the viewpoint of the Quilotoa Crater; you can stay or have lunch next to the Viewpoint; In this place there are also small shops and supermarkets.
  • The cars are usually parked at the community parking lot, it will be necessary to walk a few blocks to the Viewpoint; The problem that has arisen in recent years is that this space is small and in times of great tourist influx, especially on holidays, vehicles should be parked everywhere it's possible to find a place, and that may mean a longer walk to the Viewpoint.
  • If you have a reservation of accommodation in one of the hostels in the upper part, as long as there are free positions, it will be possible to get on with your vehicle a little above the community parking, you could even park a few meters from the Viewpoint.
  • The descent to the lagoon is very attractive; about 1 hour with beautiful views of the crater outline. There are a camping area and restrooms near the lagoon. They also rent kayaks for as long as you want: 1/2 hour, US 3.00; 1 hour, US 6, schedule hours from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (sometimes open earlier). The climb up to the Viewpoint is somewhat stronger, between 1 and 2 hours, depending on your physical condition. If you wish you can also rent a horse with the help of a muleteer; the price is US $ 10.00.
  • Another hiking route is the circumvallation along the crater edge, it follows a perfectly marked trail that will give you the best views from all angles of the lagoon and surrounding valleys and villages. This route of multiple ascents and descents requires a hike between 4 and 5 hours. Recommendation: go prepared for a rain.
  • For those who want to go hiking: bring sunscreen, a hat and enough fluids to hydrate.

Climbing and Hiking

There are some attractive routes in the Quilotoa area; here are the most frequented:

  • Descent from the South Viewpoint to the lagoon
  • Quilotoa Loop
  • South Viewpoint to Chucchilán
  • Sigchos to South Viewpoint
  • South Viewpoint to Isinlivi
  • Cañón del Toachi Viewpoint - Río Toachi
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Gentianella sp.
Gentianella sp.
Lamourouxia Virgata
Lamourouxia Virgata

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The Quilotoa volcano is an example of dacitic volcanism in a crater lake. It is located on the Volcanic Front west of the city of Latacunga. It has had a series of Plinian eruptions of moderate to large size (VEI = 4-6), at intervals between 10 and 15 thousand years. At least eight eruptive cycles have been recognized in the Quilotoa in the last 200,000 years. These cycles have generally begun with freato-magmatic activity followed by falls of pumice lapilli and later waves and flows of ash rich in lithics and crystals. These deposits have created the particular landscape of the volcano area and have traveled exceptionally up to 17 km along the Toachi River valley (Hall and Mothes, 2008). Another of the dangers associated with the activity of this volcano is the potential formation of mud flows due to the large volume of water available in the lake.
The last eruption took place approx. 800 years ago (12th century), producing large pyroclastic flows of pumice and a fall deposit that is distributed throughout the North of the country. It should be noted that this ash buried several pre-Columbian agricultural areas, which apparently forced the migration of the indigenous peoples that inhabited them (Mothes and Hall, 1998).

Source: Instituto Geofísico de la EPN

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