Hiking in Ecuador – The Quilotoa Loop

Hiking in Ecuador – The Quilotoa Loop

Quilotoa Loop Day 2 – Isinlivi to Chugchilan

My first day on the Qutilotoa Loop wasn’t really that difficult so I still had plenty of energy to start day 2. With a great breakfast in my belly and a few snacks in my backpack I was ready to go.

The trail to Chugchilan starts directly below both hostals in Isinlivi and is easy to find. The owner of my hostal gave me a hand-drawn map to help me on my way. There were two options to choose from this day. A 6-hour trail or a 4 1/2 hour trail, both ending up at the same place, with another 45-minute walk into town. I chose the shorter route and was not disappointed.

Isinlivi, Ecuador, Quilotoa Loop
Isinlivi in the distance

Once again it was a fairly easy trail to begin with. It’s when you cross from one side of the Toachi Canyon to the other is when things get difficult. Thanks to The Cloud Forest Hostal in Chugchilan, the trail is again well signposted and easy to follow most of the time.

This day the weather was much better and the scenery was equally more impressive than the day before. There are some great views of the surrounding countryside and all its greenery. Maybe it was the weather, but this first stretch just seemed so much nicer than anything the day before.

Toachi Canyon, Ecuador
The Toachi Canyon

There seemed to be a few more local people around in this area too, most of them friendly too. But don’t expect any English to be spoken in these parts. Whether you speak Spanish or not, you will surely understand when someone s asking for money when you take a photo of them!

Isinlivi, Ecuador
Friendly locals and a 50 cents photo

The trail continues for a few hours on what is mostly a dirt road. You will pass some local houses and quite a few barking dogs. I read a few stories about aggressive dogs on the trail but I never had any problems with any of them.

After a while, you will reach a beautiful mirador looking down on the river valley below. This is just a beautiful spot to sit for a while and take in the scenery and the silence around you.

mirador, viewpoint, Quilotoa Loop

The scenery from the mirador is impressive, but you know you soon have to descend into the canyon and climb back up the other side again. Get used to it. You will have to do it again the next day too!

Toachi Canyon, Ecuador, hiking, Quilotoa Loop
The Toachi river far below

The trail down to the river starts right next to the mirador sign. It is a steep single-track trail all the way down. There will be several gates on the trail but these are for the cows, not the hikers. All the way down you will be thinking that you are glad you are not climbing this part.

At the bottom of the trail you will have to cross the river. Luckily there is a cool wooden suspension bridge to help you cross.

It’s all uphill from here

Turn left after the bridge for a gentle climb to the next small village of Itualo. There is not much to see in the village and it’s hard to imagine living in a place like this. But the village is the starting point for the next steep climb.

Quilotoa Loop, hiking, Ecuador
Turn right here

From this little hut, it is a steep and sweaty 30-minute climb up to the next mirador and resting point. Don’t be surprised to see local kids in flip flops running by you while you struggle to catch your breath. The kids are friendly and well trained to ask any gringo for money or candy.

local kids, Ecuador
Friendly local kids

I happily shared a pack of cookies with these kids I met, although I didn’t buy them new shoes like they asked for. A few minutes later up the hill I noticed some other kids eating the cookies. It was nice to see that they had shared them with others. I can’t imagine doing that when I was a kid!

local kids, Ecuador
Another cookie recipient

After a little rest at the mirador, it is still another 45 minutes walk to the town of Chugchilan. It is half on the trail, then half on a nice paved road. The paved road part seemed to last forever. But after 5 1/2 hours on the trail, I finally reached the Cloud Forest Hostal, my home for the night.

The Cloud Forest Hostal was my favorite place I stayed on the Quilotoa Loop. I took a private room for $20 a night including a great dinner and breakfast. The room was super comfortable with a great hot shower which I was definitely ready for. The only disappointment was that they didn’t have any cold beer in the fridge when I arrived. They happily put one in the freezer for me while I took a long hot shower, and after that life was good.

beer, cerveza, Pilsener, Ecuador
Aaahh, much better!

I really enjoyed the hospitality of the owners here and considered staying another night, but I didn’t. The hostal has forty rooms and there was only me and one other guest that night. This emptiness was becoming normal for me in Ecuador. The other guest was a 19 year old German girl who had hiked here by herself from Sigchos that day. We shared a wonderful dinner together and were both happy to have a hiking partner for the difficult day that lay ahead of us.

After an equally great and filling breakfast, it was time for day 3 of the Quilotoa Loop, by far the most difficult one yet!

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