~THIS ITINERARY IS OUT OF DATE - IT IS ONLY MEANT AS A GUIDE~
The Quilotoa Circuit is a series of winding mountain roads that connect Cotopaxi Volcano, The Ilinizas twin peaks, Lake Quilotoa and several colorful pueblos with thriving markets. Because we are far off the beaten path, we recommend planning your journey here to include sights along the way.
Below is a suggested 7 Day Itinerary. You can shorten this trip by combining days (days 1 + 2, days 3 + 4) or skipping day 5. Or you can lengthen the trip by adding time for relaxation, further day hikes, some mountain biking, or visits to local markets.
You can follow this itinerary via private jeep with a driver, or you can catch local buses to travel the circuit.
Day 1 - Quito to Cotopaxi National Park
Travel from Quito, 2 hours south, to stay near Cotopaxi National Park.
Public buses cost approximately $2 each.
Taxi or private transport
from Quito is $50 to $80. We recommend the following hotels/haciendas.
Hacienda San Augustine de Callo Luxury option. Hacienda built on top of Incan Ruins at the foot of Cotopaxi Volcano. All bathrooms have both claw-footed bathtubs and fireplaces. $250 doubles includes dinner & breakfast, fishing, horses. incahacienda.com
Hacienda La Cienega Mid Range. 400 year old Hacienda has walls that are 3 to 4 feet wide (1 meter thick ). Beautiful gardens and chapel. It is worth the extra money for the suite as you will be in a room with a balcony that many famous dignitaries stayed in... literally the king of the castle. $65 doubles, $155 suite HosteriaLaCienega.com
Hosteria San Mateo Mid Range. Great steaks, comfortable rooms, very friendly. $70 doubles HosteriaSanMateo.com
La Quinta Colorado Budget option. Also a converted Hacienda on the way to Toacazo, quiet on a back road near flower plantations. $28 doubles includes dinner & breakfast.
Hotel Rodelu Budget option. In the center of Latacunga with a good Pizzeria Restaurant downstairs. Not as quiet or quaint as the options listed above, but one of the nicest places in Latacunga. $18-29 doubles Rodelu.com.ec
Day 2 - Cotopaxi Volcano
Cotopaxi National Park -- the Highest Active Volcano in the World.
At your hotel you can arrange for a driver to pick you up after breakfast and take you into the park. $10 entrance fee per person. You can drive up to the parking lot at 14,650 feet (4500 meters), and then walk one hour to the refuge at 15,650 feet (4800 meters). Cotopaxi National Park also includes a museum and a high alpine lake.
If you are not terribly effected by the altitude, you can continue past the refuge, to climb as high as the beginning of the glacier. Note: if you are interested in summiting Cotopaxi, you will need to budget an extra day, as the climb to the summit generally begins at midnight, reaching the summit about dawn.
Night: Spend the night in the Hacienda of your choice (see day 1 for choices).
Fancy Breakfast Option
If you do not stay at Hacienda San Augustine de Callo, but would like to visit, you can go there for a fancy breakfast (US$20 per person) and see the beautiful Incan rock walls.
Lunch or Dinner Option
Hacienda La Cienega also has a good restaurant for Lunch or Dinner. The drive down the tree lined entrance is very impressive.
Day 3 - Travel to Black Sheep Inn
Driving to Black Sheep Inn
On your drive you will pass close to Iliniza Twin Peaks. Our driver can take you deeper into the back country on twisting windy narrow Andean roads which hug the skirts of the Iliniza Twin Peaks. Stop for photos as you wish and arrive at the Black Sheep Inn with time for a short afternoon walk into the village to watch the locals play volleyball. Driver charges $60 for up to 4 people.
Taking the Bus
The public bus to Chugchilán (and the Black Sheep Inn) leaves Saquisilí Market at 11am. Make sure you buy your ticket an hour in advance $2.50. Buses to Chugchilán leave from Latacunga at 11;00 AM and 11:30 AM every day, and they also cost $2.50.
Day 4 - Acclimatization Walks
There are several self guided
hikes and walks that you can take right
from the front door of the Black Sheep Inn. For your first day we recommend
two short hikes: to the plateau with beautiful views looking into the Rio
Toachi canyon (2-4 hours) and the ridge hike which takes you high above
the Black Sheep Inn property (1 hour).
If you are more ambitious, or more used to altitude, we recommend a beautiful longer hike (about 5 hours) through Rio Toachi Canyon.
Day 5 - Horse Riding Trek
Take horses up into the paramó to see the Cloud Forest. You can include a stop
at the local cheese factory on this route. The horse guide will tether the
horses at the edge of the cloud forest, and lead a hike into the dense foliage.
Alternatively, you can arrange a horse trek into the Rio Toachi canyon, visiting the village of Itualo and the suspension bridge. On the way out of the canyon, you can stop at the Don Bosco furniture workshop (fine hand-crafted woodworking).
Horse treks range from 4 to 6 hours - $15 per person. If you don't like horses you can also hike the same routes in 5+ hours. Walking guides are available.
Day 6 - Lake Quilotoa
Laguna Quilotoa is a beautiful volcanic crater lake located at 3800
meters (12,400 feet) between the towns of Zumbahua and Chugchilán.
Its emerald water spans two kilometers. Local legend claims it is
connected to the ocean and is therefore salty and sulfuric.
Take a truck in the morning to Laguna Quilotoa, an emerald volcanic crater lake at an altitude of 3800 meters (12,400 feet). The 5 hour hike back to Chugchilán is one of the best in Ecuador, with stunning views of the crater lake, passing through the indigenous village of Guayama and crossing the Rio Sihui Canyon, a tributary to the Rio Toachi. Guides are available for $10 plus tips.
If you don't prefer a long hike, you can visit Lake Quilotoa by hired truck or local bus, and arrange for a return ride after spending some time on the crater ridge.
Day 7 - Return trip to Quito
The drive back takes 4 to 5 hours in a private vehicle. A private driver costs
$100 for up to 5 passengers.
Buses take a bit longer, but you can get back to Quito for about $7 per person. If you are traveling by bus, it's good to note that Sunday is the best day to catch transport back to Quito or Latacunga. Bus Schedule
Here are a few possibilities to include in a trip around the Quilotoa Loop.
In addition to these suggestions, the many
local markets are quite worth visiting.
Bike Down Cotopaxi
A great downhill bike trip on the slopes of Cotopaxi National Park is provided by The Biking Dutchman. They can pick you up or drop you off at the Hacienda of your choice.
Indigenous Artwork in Tigua
Naïf or primitive paintings on sheep skin depict local festivals, traditions and landscapes. The local style of vividly colorful painting originated in the town of Tigua, 20 kilometers away from Black Sheep Inn. In Tigua they have a small gallery and museum. Painted wooden masks are also available. In addition, many artists sell their work at the rim of Lake Quilotoa.
|Prices for Activities in this Itinerary:|
|Private Taxi or 4x4 Jeep between Latacunga and Quito||$50 - $80|
|Hacienda San Augustine de Callo||$250 doubles|
|Hacienda La Cienega||$65 doubles, $155 suite|
|La Quinta Colorado||$28 doubles|
|Hotel Rodelu||$18-29 doubles|
|Private Taxi or 4x4 Jeep into Cotopaxi Park||$60 up to 4 people|
|Cotopaxi National Park Entrance Fee||$10 per person|
|Private Taxi or 4x4 Jeep between Latacunga or Lasso and Black Sheep Inn||$60 up to 4 people|
|Hire a local truck in Chugchilan||$25 to $30 plus waiting time|
|Horseback Riding with Guide in Chugchilán||$15 to $20|
|Native Guides in Chugchilan||$10 minimum|
|Private Transportation between Quito and Black Sheep Inn||$100 up to 5 people|
|Prices at Black Sheep Inn||$32.50 to $100 per person|
Saquisilí Market -- Thursday
Saquisilí is a town just 20 minutes outside of Latacunga, so it's easy to visit if you're in the Cotopaxi area on a Thursday. You can also catch this market on your way from Latacunga (the Cotopaxi area) to Black Sheep Inn.
Economically, Saquisilí market is one of the most important markets in the province of Cotopaxi. The entire community comes alive with vendors at every street corner selling everything imaginable throughout the village. If you want to buy a llama, the best selection at the animal market is at 6 am, so make sure you get an early start. Good weavings and tourist items are for sale until approximately 1pm.
Zumbahua Market -- Saturday
Zumbahua is a town located about 90 minutes from the Black Sheep Inn. You can hire a local truck to take you from Black Sheep Inn to the Saturday Morning Zumbahua Market, it's a beautiful town surrounded by rocky peaks. The market is very indigenous and colorful. Lots of llamas. Market ends by 1-2 pm. On the way to or from the market, you can also visit the Naïf painters gallery in Tigua. You can also stop at Laguna Quilotoa for a quick photo on your way to the Market. A round trip truck costs $30-50 for up to 5 people.
Chugchilán Market -- Sunday
Every Sunday at the Black Sheep Inn we have a special Breakfast of Pancakes and JAZZ. After breakfast, you can stroll through the small Sunday Market in Chugchilán. The town of Chugchilán is quite small, but on Sunday an extra 100 people are in town, mostly hanging out.
Guantualo Morning Market -- Monday
From Black Sheep Inn, you can hike or ride horses across the canyon to visit a very small, non-touristy, rural community market. See how people have been trading for hundreds of years. This is a three hour hike each way. Guides and or horses are available.
Latacunga Market -- Tuesday
Latacunga is the largets town in the Quilotoa Loop. Their market is also large, spreading across two plazas in the center of town. Very colorful. Gross views in the slaughter house and meat market.