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An update from Evaneos

Cuicocha (Ecuador)

Practical information on Cuicocha

  • Encounters with locals
  • Nature Reserve / Wildlife Observation / Safari
  • Viewpoint
  • Hiking / Trekking
  • Countryside
  • Mountain
  • Volcano
  • Lake
  • Off the beaten track
4 / 5 - 3 reviews
How to get there
45mins by shared taxi from Otavalo
When to go
All year round
Minimum stay
One day

Reviews of Cuicocha

David Debrincat Seasoned Traveller
459 written opinions

At 32km from Otavalo, you can reach Cuicocha by shared taxi and go on a hike around some amazing countryside.

My suggestion:
Being in the Andes, at 3,000m alttitude, the weather can be unpredictable. Even if the walk itself isn't hard, do check out the weather conditions before you leave.
My review

Not far from Otavalo, you'll find that the hike around the Cuicocha Lagoon is a great alternative if climbing Cotopaxi and Chimborazo is too daunting. During my trip to Ecuador, I didn't feel up to confronting these 6,000m giants. But, wanting to explore the Andes, I settled for Cuicocha.

So I set off on the six-hour walk, which is at an altitude of 3,000m to 3,500m. In the hope that you'll also have a sunny, clear sky, I suggest you follow the path that runs along the edge. The water is a striking blue. In the middle, you'll see two islands that look like guinea pigs! Which is why the lagoon is called 'Cuicocha'. 'Cuy' means guinea pig and 'Cocha' means lake. The landscape around the lagoon is simply stunning. It's luxuriant, bordered by the snow capped peaks of mountains that dominate the horizon. Suffice to say that words can't express what a fantastic day out in Ecuador this is! At the end of the walk I stumbled upon a llama farm. They seemed as interested in me as I was in them and came up to the boundary fence to take a closer look. I managed to stroke them without irritating them - the last thing I needed was being covered in llama spit.

Have I already mentioned that Ecuador is a fascinating country, filled with breathtaking landscapes? No? Really?

The Cuicocha Lagoon
Seasoned Traveller
54 written opinions

Cuicocha lagoon is part of the Cotacatchi Volcano ecological reserve. In Quecha, "cuycocha" means "guinea pig" (cuy) and "lake" (cocha). Because one of the two islands in the middle of the lake is shaped like a guinea pig.

My suggestion:
Rather than arriving direct from Otavalo, it's better to have a break in the town of Cotacachi. The promenade is nice and there is an interesting museum.
My review

Cuicocha lagoon is 3,068 metres above sea level and only a few kilometres from the tourist centre of Otavalo, so well worth a visit during a trip to Ecuador. I arrived there in the middle of the Christmas holidays when the place is quite popular, especially for local holidaymakers.

The day was already well advanced and I knew I wouldn't have enough time to go around the lake, which takes about 4 to 5 hours on foot. Instead, I chose a guided tour of the lake by boat, which was about an hour long. The guide told us lots about how this volcanic lake was formed.

From the water it was hard to see that the Island is supposed to be shaped like a guinea pig. So i went for a short walk on the ridges where the view of the lake and its surroundings is really beautiful. I wasn't long in turning round though, because night was drawing in, and I still needed to find a way to get back to Otavalo...

View of Cuicocha lake
Julie Olagnol Seasoned Traveller
91 written opinions

You can take a boat trip on Lake Cuicocha which is a still active crater of Cotacachi!

My suggestion:
For lunch I had a trio of sweetcorn (on the cob, white and grilled) with pork, which is typical of the region and delicious!
My review

During my trip to Ecuador I was able to do an in-depth visit of the region of Otavalo thanks to an Ecuadorian friend. We went to see Lake Cuicocha . To get there we had to pay a few pennies to hitchhike in a lorry, which is how things are done in Ecuador.

Lake Cuicocha is actually…  a crater of the volcano, Cotacachi. Make sure you go for a walk in the park to see some beautiful orchids. You can also take a motorised boat trip on Cuicocha. I recommend the boat trip because it goes through los ensuenos (the Enchanted Channel) between the three green islets.

According to my friend, who was also my guide, some volcanic gas emissions had been seen recently. Which made the trip a lot more exciting! To sum up, Cuicocha is a trip, that looks simple from the outside but is amazing when you come to think about it, in the peaceful region of Otavalo.

On the banks of Lake Cuicocha.