|The Quilotoa Loop|
The Quilotoa Loop
A 2-Day Self-Guided Motorcycle Adventure
Although gaining in popularity, the Quilotoa Loop is still a destination for travellers seeking adventure off the beaten track. The Quilotoa Loop is one of Ecuador's most scenic routes. The route takes you through small indigenous villages, spectacular mountain views, lush valleys and across roaring rivers. The route will bring you to the spectacular Quilotoa Crater Lake, indigenous markets and give you insight into how native Ecuadorians have lived for centuries.
Distance Covered: 100 miles / 161 km (25% cobblestone / unpaved road)
After a briefing and orientation to acquaint you with the customs and rules of the road in Ecuador, you will head out on the motorcycle of your choice that has been pre-programmed with each day's route. You will be shown how to operate the GPS and given a paper map as a backup. Your hotel for each night has been reserved and paid for in advance. All you need to do now, is hop on the bike - and enjoy the ride - safe in the knowledge that you will see some of the best sights and the best roads in Ecuador!
You will roll out of Quito on the Panamerican highway, passing incredibly green high-altitude pasturelands and then after a few miles, you will find yourself in a valley surrounded on both sides by two massive mountain ranges. This is the beginning of the famous "Avenue of Volcanoes." You will feel tiny as you roll through this valley with snow-covered volcanoes at either side. On the left you will get an increasingly closer and closer view of the majestic Cotopaxi Volcano, which rises to almost 4 miles in height and is the world's tallest active volcano.
You can stop for a fantastic lunch at the famous "Cafe de la Vaca" in Mochachi.
The GPS unit will indicate where you will take a right, onto a stretch of road known as the "Quilotoa Loop." This road will take you through many traditional Andean villages with friendly and helpful indigenous people and eventually to the Quilotoa Crater Lake. For now, you will be treated to some incredible cobblestone roads, challenging (but fun) hairpin turns and majestic views.
You will pass through the town of Sigchos, a colonial city founded by the Spanish in the 1500's in an indigenous settlement that was already centuries old. Sigchos has a beautiful church and and a covered market in the center of town. Continue on dirt road weaving past overlooks on the valley and canyons below and follw the twisty road to the friendly town of Chugchilan. Chugchilan is a firiendly Quechua town, known for its outstanding wood furniture workshops and the Andean cheeses made in the Swiss tradition in the center of town. You carefully chosen accomodations for the night are at the friendly Mama Hilda's Hostel in the center of Chugchilan. Included is a dinner at Mama Hilda's - a great family style meal with pots and pots of food that will replenish you and help you get a good night's sleep in the chilly mountain air.
Chugchilan - Quilotoa Crater Lake -Zumbahua - Pujilli - Latacunga - Quito
Distance Covered: 119 miles / 193 km (15% unpaved road)
After a great Mama Hilda country breakfast, re-attach your GPS and start back on the Quilotoa Loop. The memories of the special morning air, sunlight, and the dogs (you'll see what we mean) here along with all of the busy activities of the people along this road will stay with you for a long time after this ride.
You will soon arrive at the Quilotoa Crater lake, a water-filled caldera and the most western volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes. The 3 kilometres (2 mi) wide caldera was formed by the collapse of this dacite volcano following a catastrophic VEI-6 eruption about 800 years ago, which produced pyroclastic flows and lahars that reached the Pacific Ocean, and spread an airborne deposit of volcanic ash throughout the northern Andes. The caldera has since accumulated a 250 m (820 ft) deep crater lake, which has a greenish color as a result of dissolved minerals. Fumaroles are found on the lake floor and hot springs occur on the eastern flank of the volcano.
After the lake, you'll ride into the Indigenous town of Zumbahua - a friendly, picturesque town with a great indigenous market on Saturday mornings. It is also a great place to have lunch or a snack from the makret vendors in the center of town with home made empanadas or hot dogs with french fries (salchipapas).
After Zumbahua you will climb into the small Andean town of Tigua, which is famous for its school of art and its art gallery. A great place to stop and take a look at the great art made in this region.
You'll climb again into the chilly air of the highlands pampa and overlook the valley below. You will want to have an extra layer of clothes ready. Then you will twist and curve down into the city of Pujili. The Pujili Market takes place at Pujili every Sunday. People from surrounding villages and towns gather at the indigenous market to sell a wonderful variety of traditional trades and crafts in order to make a meager living for their families. The variety of goods here is often more beautiful and carefully crafted than those found in more easy-to-reach places where stock goes quicker and the emphasis on quality and beauty is not as important.
Then you will rejoin the Avenue of Volcanoes in the city of Latacunga, a beautiful old colonial city. You can go downtown and see its beautiful plaza. If you’re hungry, ask for a plate of chugchucara at one of the roadside restaurants.
Riding back to Quito you'll have the Cootpaxi and Illiniza mountains towering above you as you return to Quito, having experienced one of Ecuador's most scenic routes.