Did you know that Ecuador is the home of amazing and naturally beautiful landscapes? The perfect examples are the famous Quilotoa Lagoon and the nearby Toachi Canyon. Perfect for those who love adventures, seeing local wildlife and delighting themselves with amazing landscapes. The canyon and the lagoon are must-see destinations in any visit to Ecuador. Discover why with us!
The Toachi Canyon can also be known as the Canyon of the Toachi river. It is a product of the pyroclastic flows from the eruption of the Quilotoa volcano. The last eruption happened around 1280 and was one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the past 1000 years. However geological excavations of the site suggest that the canyon itself is around 1800 years old, meaning that it was formed by a previous eruption. The flow of lava from Quilotoa was responsible for generating the undeniably spectacular canyon, which is home to wildlife, forests and a river. The canyon runs from the Quilotoa volcano and eventually fades into the landscape.
The view from the highest part of the canyon is truly spectacular. As much as it is a must-stop before reaching Quilotoa Lagoon, barely any tours visit this spectacular location. In fact, Ecuador Hop is the biggest and the best company to find this little spot with, and it is included as a great free-stop on the way to Quilotoa. The tour will stop at the canyons deepest point, at 100 meters deep, and allow you to take in the view and learn a little about the canyon on your way to the famous and magnificent Quilotoa lagoon.
The base of the canyon is formed by small stones called lapilli and volcanic bombs. Volcanic bombs are pieces of lava that are spat out of a volcano into the air while it erupts. They are categorized as volcanic bombs because they are liquid when ejected from the volcano but cool in the air and are solid by the time they hit the ground. In order to be defined as a bomb, they must be greater than 64 millimeters in diameter.
At points in the canyon closer to the coast it is becoming more popular for tourists to explore, especially for those who love more extreme sports, with rafting as the perfect example. Not just for the adrenaline junkies, the canyon is also the perfect place for hiking and trekking and is surrounded by the beautiful landscapes that you can expect from the country of Ecuador. You will also see the Toachi river that runs inside the canyon, giving the canyon its namesake.
The Toachi Canyon is located 50 kilometers from the town of Sigchos Cantón, which resides in the province of Cotopaxi. It is also 170 kilometers from the capital of Quito and just 10 kilometers from the Quilotoa lagoon, making it the perfect stop on your way to the lagoon.
At its deepest Toachi Canyon is 100 meters deep, however, it has an average depth of around 40 meters. Part of the canyon is made up of steep, almost vertical drops, but most of the canyon has a much less intimidating slope of 60 degrees.
As the Toachi Canyon is located in the highlands of Ecuador, the weather is similar to what can typically be expected. Unfortunately for travelers who love the sunshine, this typically means that the weather is cloudy and rain is a regular player for visitors, but often only for brief showers so there’s no need to worry. The annual precipitation level falls between 500 millimeters and 1000 millimeters. Remember to pack a jumper as the average temperature is around 13°C.
The lower part of the canyon is filled with the type of biodiversity you can come to expect from Ecuador, as it proudly boasts to be one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet. In the Toachi Canyon there are shrubs and herbaceous vegetation as well as moss, fern, orchids, pumamaqui (which is a plant unique to the local area), arrayan, chilca, suro, pines and laurel. We recommend that if you would like to explore the biodiversity then to look for a private tour.
What makes Quilotoa so special is the bright, brilliant blue water. This does depend a little on the season and on the weather, as when it rains the color sinks to deep green, and at other points in the seasons, the water may appear anything from blueish green to an almost yellow color. Whatever the color is, it is a truly magnificent sight to behold.
The lagoon holds these colors because of mineral deposits from the volcanic rock eroding into the water. Thanks to the large quantities of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide dissolved in the water, a chemical imbalance is created that leaves the water unsafe for consumption.
The name Quilotoa comes from two Quechua words: “Quiru” which means tooth and “toa” which means queen. This name was given to it because of the shape of the lagoon after the eruptions could almost be a crown. It is roughly 3 km across and has an average depth of 240 meters.
The Quilotoa Lagoon is a fantastic adventure for those who enjoy the great outdoors. Often, travelers forget about the highlands of Ecuador in favor of the Galapagos, the Amazon, or Ecuador’s unforgettable beaches. While all of these places are completely worthwhile visiting, for those with a more relaxed itinerary or those who want to get off the beaten track and explore the real Ecuador, Quilotoa is the perfect opportunity. From the moment that you lay eyes on the lagoon, you will be in love.
It has become increasingly popular to swim in the lake, but because of the natural chemicals in the water, it is crucial to be careful not to swallow anything. The temperature of the water varies from 16°C at its highest and -1°C at its lowest. Make sure that if you want to swim, you have experience in cold water swimming and a change of clothes waiting for you on the bank. Alternatively, if you want to experience the lagoon a little more intimately than from the side but aren’t feeling up to the freezing swim, you can rent a canoe from the edge of the water. Prices are cheap and you can paddle about with a friend or alone, whichever you prefer.
You can also walk around the outside of the volcano for 7.5 kilometers of brilliant views. This should take you around four or five hours, and is a great way to spend a day high in the Andes. You can find many species of animals on your way as well, as long as you are quiet and patient!
The Quilotoa Loop is a multi-day walk that connects small Andean villages. At around 38 kilometers in length with plenty of chances to either shorten or lengthen the walk, it is one of the most popular hikes in all of Ecuador, and for good reason! There are some truly unforgettable views on the way around! It’s important to remember that you are walking through the farmland and livelihood of indigenous people, be respectful of that and take your rubbish home with you. By all accounts, it is now a well-signposted route.
The easiest way to get to the Quilotoa Lagoon from whichever direction is to travel using our Ecuador Hop service. If you want to visit you can hop off here, or just snap a few photos at the top viewpoint before continuing along on the way, either to Quito or Baños, the buses come and go from both directions. This is a service that is completely unique to Ecuador Hop. Get on board!
Alternatively, you can take a tour of the lagoon on one of our one, two or three-day tours, where you can add in Cotopaxi, the tallest active volcano in all of South America and namesake of the surrounding region and even Baños, the adventure capital of Ecuador. The tours all include walks down to the lake, exploration of local museums and even lunch.
The Quilotoa daily tours begin at 7:45 am and ends at 3:00 pm. A tour of the Quilotoa Lagoon is a great way to visit some local communities, spend some time in one of South America’s most beautiful destinations and, of course, to discover the real Ecuador.
Below is a list of things to bring to Quilotoa, make sure that you don’t forget anything important on your trip.
There’s never a bad moment to start planning your next trip! Ecuador Hop holds the keys for you to unlock the real Ecuador in comfort. Whether you’re looking for a wild adventure or just an unforgettable experience, Ecuador Hop has the ticket for you.