ITINERARY 4 DAYS / 3 NIGHTS
Zumbahua to Quilotoa.
Approx. walking time: 5-6 hours.
Approx. Distance: 13 km
Be prepared for a hard first day of your main trek. Start on a dirt track northeast out of Zumbahua which cuts alongside a desert canyon. Follow a varied route of pine forest and small farms until the track divides in two. Take the left trail along the Toachi Canyon, descending to a small stream (Toachi River) before the trail heads up out of the Canyon past a small town called Ponce (3590m). The last part of the trail leading up to the rim is sandy (it is daunting but easier than it looks). After taking a break, the trail continues upwards to Shalala camp on the side of the Quilotoa crater. Returning to Samay Kirutoa Lodge. Note: Carry sufficient water for the day as refilling options can be limited.
Approx. walking time: 6-7 hours
Approx. distance: 13 km
This is a 6-7 hour trek around the crater which is very spectacular and should be done at a comfortable pace so you can appreciate the views. Turn north. There is a wooden viewing platform after a short climb which gives the first spectacular view of the Lake. Follow the trail to the right. Be aware there are some steep drops into the crater so it is important to take care and stick to the trail; your guide will advise you on this. The highest altitude of the circuit is 3914m. Once the trip is complete, set up camp near the small village of Quilotoa at the Samay Kirutoa Lodge (3810m). There is an alternative camping spot further away for small groups. There are some arts and crafts to look at here and if you have time, you can hike down to the lake at the bottom, a descent which takes approx. 1 hour down and 2 hours back up. Make sure to carry enough water for the entire trek today as there is no opportunity to refill.
Quilotoa village to Chugchilán
Approx. walking time: 5-6 hours
Approx distance: 12 km
The highest point on the trek today is 3810m. Make your way along the crater route until you meet the trail that descends to Guayama. Note that the trails are quite steep so care needs to be taken here. Beautiful scenery surrounds the route at Guayama. Pass the school and an old church before taking the trail bearing north-west to the rim of the canyon. From this lookout point you can see Chugchilán on the other side (a great lunch spot). There is a covered picnic area here. Snack lunches, egg and potato fritters, are available in Guayama St. John. Prepare for a steep descent into the canyon and later, make the ascent to Chugchilán where the team will stay tonight. The family that run the cloud forest hostel can arrange some Rest and Relaxation activities including tales of village folklore and traditional dancing. For US$10pp the team can get dinner, lodging and breakfast in the hostel.
Chugchilán to Insilivi
Approx. Walking time: 5-6 hours
Approx. distance: 14 km
Today you will complete this trek by heading out to Insilivi where you will get great views of the surrounding valleys and peaks. Take the same start route as day 4 but instead of turning left for the cheese factory, continue on the road and then take a path to the right leading down to a small community. If you are lucky the village school will be on recess as you pass through their play area. Take the path that goes from Chugchilán, down the canyon to the river bed and cross the narrow wooden bridge. After an initial climb out of the canyon, there is a grassy plateau overlooking it which makes a good lunch spot. Continue along this path until you finally reach the town of Isinlivi. Here you can enjoy an amazing view of the valley. You will then pick up transport and head onwards to your next phase.