The route to take is the following: from Quito take the Panamerican
Highway South, route E35 to the city of Latacunga (95 km or
60 miles). On the first stoplight take a right on the route
to Pujilí, route E30 and continue on to the moorland
of "Zumbahua" (66km. or 41 miles).
If you like to try typical foods, stop for lunch at the entrance
to Latacunga to eat "Chugchucaras", a dish composed
of delicious pork (fritada and chicharrón) with hommony
(stewed maize), an empanada (cheese pastry), and plantain.
your travel upland, observe the artisans' clay pottery of
pre-Columbian designs to this day. Once you are in the highlands,
you can see the Indian peasants, as they live and work in
communities. Maybe you are fortunate to see them in action,
men and women in their colorful shawls harvesting together.
The "llamas" are still used for cargo (this was
practically abolished after the Spaniards introduced the horse
The landscape is that of different colored patches of crops
even on the steepest mountainsides. Llamas and sheep are part
of the daily lives. These animals provide food, wool for clothing
and weaving, and transportation.
Close to "Zumbahua" you will run into "Tigua",
a small town with a community dedicated to produce naïf
paintings not on traditional canvass but on dried sheep skin.
These paintings are very colorful, and portray the lands and
customs of the people that live around the Quilotoa. (see
cover) Olga Fish, a German resident in Ecuador, discovered
the skills of these people and encouraged them to paint not
only on drums of sheep skin as they originally did, but also
on sheep skin canvasses. Now these paintings are found in
all Ecuadorian folklore shops. We recommend the book: "Tigua
Painters" by Mayra Casares.
After Tigua, you will see a very rustic sign that points the
way to the Quilotoa lake. This lake is in the crater of the
volcano of the same name, 14 km or 9 miles from Zumbahua.
In twenty minutes you will be at the border of the crater
of the Quilotoa lake. The word Quilotoa is taken from the
Quichua words "Quiru" (tooth) and "toa"
because of the shape of the lake. The border is at an altitude
of 3610 meters, and the lake at 2270 meters above sea level.
The lake in the crater is of an extraordinary turquoise color.
It will take you a half hour hike down to the lake. We recommend
that you hire a mule for your return (the locals hire this
service for US $3.00). Enjoy the hike down and the ride up
while you take in the amazing view.
There are two small inns in the town of Chugchilán,
22 km or 14 miles from the Quilotoa Lake. The ride will take
about an hour on a good dirt road, full of remarkable landscapes.
One is the Black Sheep Inn, at a rate of 18 dollars daily
with breakfast and dinner included. This is an ecolodge run
by Michelle Kirby and Andres Hammermann: firstname.lastname@example.org,
phone 03 814 587.
Hostería Mama Hilda, run by the Herrera family, offers
the same services for a rate of 8 dollars daily with breakfast
and dinner included. Mama Hilda gives her personalized attention
and cooks the delicious food herself. The entire Herrera family
is most hospitable. Phone 03 814 814
Should you wish to return via another route, take the road
from Chugchilán to Sigchos (24 km or 15 miles). From
Sigchos take the mountain path to the town of Mulaló
in the Andes. This dirt road offers beautiful landscapes,
you will see many orquids on the way. From there you take
the paved road once again toward Latacunga and Quito.
By: Gustavo Vallejo.