Most people come to Otavalo Ecuador for its famous Saturday market. It seems like few stay around for anything else. What a mistake that is. Laguna de Cuicocha is one of the most popular hikes in the area, and rightfully so. But it’s not my favorite. Laguna de Mojanda and the twin volcanic peaks of Fuya Fuya are much more of an adventure.
How to get there.
There is no public transport to Laguna de Mojanda so you will need to arrange a taxi or a tour to get there. I went with the manager of the hotel I was staying at in Otavalo, Hostal La Rosa. I paid $35 for the ride out there and a pick up later on. I’m sure you could get it a little cheaper if you shopped around.
It was about an hour’s drive to get there up a shitty road, hence the reason it was so expensive. You will also need to arrange for them to pick you up later in the day. Please note, there is no cell phone reception at the drop off point, although I did get a signal at the top of the mountain. I arrived at 8.30 am and arranged for a 2 pm pick up.
Whoever you go with should know where the trail to Fuya Fuya starts. There are no signs that I saw. It starts just to the left of the picnic/restaurant shack. Of course, you cannot rely on them being open during these COVID times. There is a left and a right entrance to the trail. It doesn’t matter which one you take. They both eventually lead to the same trail.
For me, climbing Fuya Fuya was the real reason to be here. Laguna de Mojanda is beautiful in any direction, but it’s a much better view from the top of Fuya Fuya.
I don’t know the exact altitude here, but it’s high! My driver told me that the lake is at about 4000m/13100ft above sea level. Apparently the summit of Fuya Fuya is about 4500m/14800ft above sea level.
What to take.
- Water – I took 2 liters of water with me and that was more than enough. it was cold the day I went so I wasn’t drinking that much.
- Lunch – Don’t plan on finding any food out there. Pack a lunch and find a beautiful spot for a picnic
- Layers of clothes – The day I was there it seemed like the weather changed very few minutes. I did most of the climb in just a t-shirt, but needed a sweater, a jacket and a hat at the top. I had very strong winds which really dropped the temperature.
- Good shoes – It is a steep trail all the way up so good hiking shoes will really help. The trail itself was quite moist and grippy the day I was there.
- Camera – There are some amazing views from the trail so don’t forget your camera.
The Trail to Fuya Fuya.
The trail starts in the parking area and is a relentless, steep climb all the way to the top. With the altitude, it probably feels a lot steeper than it actually is. It is a narrow trail all the way up and the first half is fairly easy.
When you reach the rock pictured above, you have two options. The trail splits into two but both end up in the same place. I found Maps.me on my phone to be very helpful on this trail.
I chose the trail to the left as it looked like more a gradual incline. For me, this turned out to be a good decision. The trail kept on climbing until it reached a ridge in between the two peaks of Fuya Fuya. This was when you will be thankful for all the extra clothes you have been carrying! It had taken me about 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach this point.
The wind here was howling and I couldn’t get my jacket on fast enough. At one point, I actually sat down on the ridge out of fear of getting blown off of it! To the left is the second summit of Fuya Fuya. I have to admit, I didn’t make it to the top of this one. As you approach it, you have to wonder if it is possible. There is a sheer rock face you have to climb, and being alone, and in that kind of wind, I decided it was just not worth it. Did I mention that I was the only person on the trail the entire day!
If you turn right when you get to the ridge, you will reach the first summit of Fuya Fuya. Although a little rock climbing is still necessary, it is a much easier ascent.
At the top is a nice flat spot that would make a great lunch spot if it wasn’t for the wind that day. The views of Laguna de Mojanda from here are just amazing. With the weather I had that day, the clouds were putting on an amazing show. The temperature and light were constantly changing. You had to be quick with the camera to capture the right moment. One minute you had a great view, the next minute it was gone.
It was at this point that I started to receive messages on my phone. Yes, I had a phone signal all the way up here. It dawned on me that I could text my driver and tell him that I needed more time. Seriously, why rush when you have an amazing place like this to yourself. I also wanted to explore the lakes down below a little too.
From here you don’t need to go back the way you came. The trail continues on the other side of the mountain for a steep hike back down. Once I started going down this way I was glad I hadn’t come up this way. Not because of how steep and slippery it was in places. But because I would have had my back to these amazing views if I was climbing it.
With the terrain and the wind, it was difficult to find a place to stand still and take pictures. I had to be patient as the clouds came and went but it was all worthwhile in the end.
The views continued to change as I walked and slid my way down the mountain. As before, Laguna de Mojanda was there one minute, gone the next. As soon as I reached the rock where the trail divides, I was all of a sudden warm again. The wind stopped but the clouds remained for some more great pictures.
The whole hike took me a little over 4 hours including plenty of stops for photos. I’m sure I would have spent longer at the top if it hadn’t been so windy. But it’s hard to forecast the weather at 4500m!
This left me a couple of hours to visit one of the other lakes. There are two other lakes in the area and the road from the trail entrance leads to both of them. Take the road to the right. The road to the left is just a dead end into a campground.
You could actually drive to these lakes if you had a car there. But it’s a fairly easy walk along a dirt road, or it would be if you hadn’t just climbed Fuya Fuya. There are some nice views of Laguna de Mojanda along the road, but nothing compared to what you have already seen.
I chose to go to Laguna de Chiriacu as it looked much easier and closer than the other lake. I don’t have any pictures to share as it was kind of a disappointment. Compared to Laguna de Mojanda, it was small and without the dramatic background. It was about a 45-minute walk which I wish I hadn’t have bothered with. And now I had a 45-minute walk back too!
The other lake was along the road pictured above. I didn’t have the time or the energy at this point to even consider going there.
There are lots of other trails in the area to explore if you have time. But I don’t think any of them could compare to Fuya Fuya. I might be wrong but I’m not prepared to spend another $35 getting there to find out.
Fuya Fuya was definitely worth the money to get there. Heck, just to spend 6 hours without worrying about wearing a facemask was worth the money!! It quickly became my favorite hiking trail on my trip to Ecuador so far. Although I’m sure this is likely to change the longer I stay.
What is your favorite hiking trail in Ecuador? Please let me know in the comments below.