Day three was the most difficult, with an ascent of over 1000m up to the Quilotoa crater. The terrain is tough but the views and the destination in the end are 100% worth it! We managed to beast the trek and made it to the crater in 3.5 hours, taking another 1.5 hours to get to the town of Quilotoa from there.
To get to the start of the trail walk through the town until you see the library on your left. You will pass the main square and church on the way.
Turn left at the library and walk down the road. At the end of the road you will hit the trail which starts going downhill.
After walking for a short distance down the trail you will hit a T-junction and a sign for Quilotoa. Follow the sign and take the path going left.
The trail will take you along the mountain side allowing you stunning views of the valleys spread out below you.
Eventually you will reach a sign on the road pointing in the direction of Quilotoa. There is a trail heading off to the left beside it. Here you have a choice: you can take the trail which takes you through the valleys and over mountains, or you can follow the road. Both will take you to the crater. The route along the road is much longer, but safer. There had been recent landslides in the area where the trail went so if it had been raining we would have taken the road. As the weather was gorgeous and there was a large group of us we decided to go along the trail. Another group of hikers we met at the crater took the road and said it was fine.
As you walk along the trail it will start to wind downhill and you will see more signs for Quilotoa along the way.
Eventually you will cross the river over a wooden bridge.
Crossing the bridge marks the end of your descent and the beginning of your ascent for the rest of the day. It’s a long climb and is pretty tough at parts so just take it at your own pace and you’ll get through it fine. Follow the trail that heads off to the left uphill.
After the first bit of climbing you will walk along the mountain side. This is where the landslides had been occurring so care needs to be taken. Make sure to watch above you for falling rocks. Part of the path had been covered and is essentially a sandy bank. It’s already been walked across so there’s a clear path to take and the sand is compact and stable.
Once you clear that bit you can relax and enjoy the gorgeous views.
Eventually the trail will take you into the town of Guyama.
You will see two main roads to the right either side of an outdoor hall. Turn down the second one and walk to the end. You will pass a cemetery, a shop and a sign for leaving Guayama.
At the end of the road you will reach a T-junction. Turn left and walk down the road.
Take the first road you hit on the right. This looks more like a dirt track than a road, and runs between fields. This is the road that will take you straight to the crater.
As you walk along, you’ll spot bits of track that go straight up the hill. They go from one part of the road to the other, so if you feel like a bit of extra steepness you can take these and cut a bit of distance off your journey, or you can continue walking along the road.
After a very steep last climb you will have reached the crater, congratulations! Take a break, tonnes of photos, and enjoy the breathtaking views of the crater. If you’ve left early that day and have made it to the crater in good time then you should have really clear views of the crater. By early afternoon the mist and fog rolls in and the crater is pretty much invisible. There’s a bench right on the edge of the crater that’s fun to sit on and there’s lots of places to get really great photos.
Once you’re ready to head on to the town of Quilotoa you have two options: left or right. We chose to go right because it’s a much shorter distance and we didn’t feel like hiking any more than necessary. When you go to the right you will see you have a choice of three trails, one to the left, one in the middle going straight uphill and one to the right. Do NOT take the trail to the left as it will take you down into the crater and getting back up to the rim and the town will be a complete pain. We decided to take the middle trail to get up on top of the crater rim, while other hikers we know took the trail to the right. I can’t speak for the trail on the right only that they said it was easier and it’s shorter as they made it into Quilotoa before us.
At the start of the trail in the middle you need to do a little bit of mild scrambling before you’re up. If there’s a group of you, make sure someone strong goes up first and then directs anyone nervous or unsure of where to put their hands/feet.
Once you’re up you’ll be on a very obvious trail that runs along the crater rim and has bits of uphill and downhill. You’ll be treated to views of the crater and lake on your left and the valleys and villages on your right. You’ll also be able to see Chugchilan where you started your hike in the distance. There will be lots of orange markers along the way.
At one point along the trail you will hit a fork; it doesn’t matter which path you take, they meet up about 5 minutes later.
Near the end of the trail you will reach a sort of clearing area with an orange pole in the middle and paths heading off to the left and right. Take the path to the left.
After about 20 minutes you will reach the town of Quilotoa, congratulations! There are a number of hostels in the area. We stayed in the hostel Chukirawa which was very nice, and they light a fire in your room after dinner so you’re super toasty going to bed!