“A secret underwater civilization flourished, where the creatures worked relentlessly to forge every dream we have. And when the edge of the mist brushed off the water, all these dreams would come true.”
Crater lakes are special. Sitting at the edge of the lake Quilotoa, this is what came to my mind. The water sparkled in the brilliant sunlight, with the color of a new leaf. A zephyr would often ruffle the water. The splashes of the tiny ripples hitting the shore would reach my ears like the snatches of a love song that I heard when it rained crazy, and I couldn’t drive. At least ten kayaks were circling the surface of the lake. In a distant corner of the sky, a few clouds hung around, as if acting as the lone emissaries of their world. And, with all this going on, I wondered about the bottom of the lake.
At the bottom of the crater lake, all words became hushed like water turning in to steam. The sunlight was always out of reach. A secret underwater civilization flourished, where the creatures worked relentlessly to forge every dream we have. And when the edge of the mist brushed off the water, all these dreams would come true.
When I was by lake Quilotoa, it seemed like the hard-at-it, eventful reality of the world just disappeared. Like a turtle into a pond.
Lake Quilotoa is gorgeous. Like, the type of drop-dead gorgeous that plays with your mind, blending the unreal with reality, until the view in front of your face is so awe-inspiring, you stop wondering where the make-believe begins.
The beauty of your surroundings affects you the moment your eyes rest upon the lake. It stays with you as you descend towards it on the slippery road. You have to constantly check yourself to make sure you don’t skid off (like someone I witnessed). It stays with you in spite of the frequent horse droppings and accompanying smell. You push yourself against the barrier, giving the right-of-way to the passing horses, despite the unpleasant surprises they leave behind. The beauty stays with you, even when you’re recovering from a spectacularly bad day. It’s magical the way this lake affects you.
When all is said and done, the beauty stays with you always, even when you’re battling against all of the kayaks, selfie-stick-wielding weirdos and the small restaurant noise. You realize something: it’s worth it.
I guess by now you have had enough of the stuff about magic and dream and all that, so I will tell you about the logistics.
From Quito to lake Quilotoa
From the Quitumbe bus terminal in South Quito, I and two friends caught a bus to Ambato. There are frequent buses from Quito to Ambato (every 10 minutes). It cost me 2.35$. We got off at Pujili, and caught another bus to Zumbahua. This one cost 1.5$. From Zumbahua, we caught a taxi to the lake. The taxis charge 5$ from there to the lake, and we had befriended 2 fellow tourists from the bus before, and in the end, the taxi cost us 5$ altogether.
The whole journey took us almost 3 hours.
Alternate route through Latacunga
The more popular route is Quito- Latacunga- Quilotoa. There are frequent buses from the Quitumbe terminal to Latacunga, and then from there to the lake. It would cost more or less the same, and take somewhere around 2.5 hours.
When coming back, we took a taxi from Quilotoa to Zumbahua, then a bus to Latacunga ( 2$), and another one from there to Quito for 2$.
Due to the slippery path, you gotta play it safe when going downhill. It took us almost 40 minutes to get to the lake.
When coming back, you can opt for a horse ride for 10 bucks or if you dare like me, you could hike up. It’s not an easy hike, and the high altitude sucks up a big part of your energy which you would otherwise have at a lower altitude. I often took shortcuts to cut down the distance. In the end, it took me 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Length: 1.7 kms
Difficulty : Moderate
Where to stay
There are a bunch of hostels near Quilotoa. They cost at least 20$ per night. The cheaper options are to stay in Zumbahua or in Latacunga. You can always get a place for less than 10$ a night. But to me, the best option is to camp down near the lake. You can rent a tent from the information office up top for 5$ a night. Of course, it will be too cold down there. So, if your sleeping bag isn’t enough, you can rent 4 blankets for 5$ near the lake. My only regret is not being able to camp down there. Had I known this before, there was no way I wouldn’t have done it.
- Buses from Quilotoa leave every 30 minutes, until 4.30 pm I was told. The sole reason, why we took a taxi to Zumbahua rather than taking a direct bus to Latacunga.
- Food is expensive near Quilotoa. On an average, a lunch would cost 5$. You can opt to have a picnic near the lake if you want to.
- There are buses from Latacunga to Quito only until 7.30 pm. If by any chance, you reach Latacunga terminal too late, and there is no bus (which happened to us), you can try your luck to catch a bus to Quito from a bus stop on the other side of the road. And, there are taxis (collectivos) that take you to Quito for 2.5$ as well.
- In case you are interested, you can do a loop around the lake. It can take easily take 3 days or more. And, if you are not a budget traveler like me, you can stay in Black sheep inn. I have heard amazing things about them.
Have you been to lake Quilotoa? How was it for you?