ITINERARY 4 DAYS / 3 NIGHTS
Iruginchu to Bosque Polilepis – Churoloma
Approx. walking time: 5-7 hours.
Approx. Distance: 5 km
You will start the hike by passing through mixed farm land where you will observe a variety of local crops. Make sure to ask your guide about local customs and the way they prepare the various products. Most of this day you will be following a mud road which continually ascends. The first climb is steep and challenging until you reach a small crest after 3-4 hours. There are magnificent views of the Otavalo Valley and Lake Cuicocha from here, before you enter the cloud forest of Polilepis Trees. You will start to enter a mix of pine forest and native trees and finally your campsite at Churoloma (3600m). Make sure to ask your guide about this unique environment and how it is formed. Camp is set up within the forest, just off the trail that you arrived on, where you have access to crystal clear flowing water and even the chance to see wild horses. It can be difficult to find water today so make sure you leave Otavalo with plenty.
Bosque Polylepis – Churoloma to Yanococha.
Approx. walking time: 5-6 hours
Leaving the Polylepis Forest, trek out onto the high páramo grasslands, following narrow trails. Altitude does not vary greatly throughout this day; you will climb a pass at 4100m for lunch before continuing to traverse the high flatlands where there are several small stream crossings and hopefully the chance to observe the condor (the national symbol of Ecuador). Part of today’s hike is along part of an old Incan trail. The views continue to be spectacular: look out for Laguna Yanococha where you will set up camp at a height of 3900m.
Yanococha to La Toma.
Approx. walking time: 6-7 hours
On a clear morning the views from here can be amazing. From the campsite, attempt the summit of Yanehurca (4535m) if the team is strong enough. The trail is clear and known well by your guide. You sweep around behind the lake to follow a trail through páramo. There is no loose rock on the trail and it is non-technical, however it is a challenging walk. Either upon your return down or simply from the lake you will descend into a valley to visit the lake known locally as the Lago del Burro (Donkey Lake). This is a day of high páramo that will see you descending through the valley to a clearing where you will set up camp at La Toma (3700m). Be cautious whilst descending as walking through páramo can be tiring.
La Toma to Timbuyaco
Approx. Walking time: 5-6 hours
Start the day crossing páramo and continuing down through the valley towards Timbuyaco before descending into the cloud forest where there is a change of atmosphere amongst the aged trees. Continue through the forest where you will get to see the Cascada de Conrayaro and on to Timbuyaco, the end of your trek where there are the thermal pools…keep this in mind if you start feeling a little tired. From here you will be collected and taken to Otavalo where you can either rest for the night or take an onward bus.