If you have only one day to spend in Otavalo, just visit Cuicocha Lake. It was one of the most spectacular hikes I have ever done so far. And in this post, I explain why.
To learn more about Ecuador entry requirements and how to plan your trip, read my Ecuador travel guide
I went from Quito to Otavalo by public bus and although there were also daily tours that I could have joined, I believe I made the right choice to go on my own and stay in Otavalo for about a week. That gave me the time to explore the spectacular surroundings and Otavalo market and cafes.
Among all the things to do in Otavalo, the hikes on the surrounding volcanoes have been my highlights. The Cuicocha lake was the easiest and safest one to hike among all the lakes in Ecuador, especially for a female solo traveler. Definitely considered among some of the prettiest lakes in South America
It’s 5 hours walk, at 3200 mt, sometimes upwards, sometimes downwards, sometimes on a rim, some others in sorts of tunnels carved in the mountain rocks.
But most of the time, you will be walking with spectacular views over the Cuicocha lake. The blue color is so intense you can’t get tired of looking at it.
Consider that Otavalo elevation is 2500 mt., so your body might feel the altitude. Be prepared. 🙂
FACTS ABOUT CUICOCHA LAKE ECUADOR
- 14 km to walk around the lake
- 5 hours approximately (it took me exactly 5 hours, but I was walking slow and stopped a lot to take pictures)
- 3100 mt to 3450 mt elevation
Read also: 25 Interesting Facts about Ecuador
HOW TO GET TO CUICOCHA LAKE
If you are staying in Otavalo, you will need to get a bus from the bus station to Quiroga (direction Cotacachi). Those are green busses with the writing Cotacachi on it.
Easy to see. Tell the ticket guy that you are going to Lago Cuicocha and he will let you know where to get off to get a taxi.
It’s about 20 minutes bus ride. Then you will get a taxi to the entrance of the lake. (5USD)
You should tell the driver to pick you up. Calculate about 5 hours, more if you like to spend some time there, after the hike.
Consider that there are also boats that will take you around the lake. In case you want to do it, calculate another 1hr 30 min.
The best thing would be to ask your taxi driver a phone number so that you can call him/her when you are ready. It’s easier.
In any case be aware that over there, there is no taxi stand, so you need to arrange it previously.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET TO CUICOCHA LAKE
Once you arrive, right at the entrance, the park guards will ask you to sign in and write down your passport number
you have 2 hiking options. You will have a choice of going right or going a little further where the boats are and going left, walking clock-wise.
I chose the second option, walking clockwise and I was happy with it because I found the hills milder and softer, and I loved to have the best views at the end.
In case you don’t want to do the entire loop, go right cause that is the side with the most spectacular views.
But whatever direction you chose you are going to have a blast.
The path is very well marked and there is no chance to get lost.
I am really scared to be in nature on my own and I felt totally confident all along the way.
Only be careful because in some part of the trail the terrain is quite slippery.
Other than that, just enjoy the views and the hike.
The area is very safe even if you are walking alone. At least I felt very safe.
It was such an achievement for me to be able to do it without freaking out or feeling lost.
My only problem was that I didn’t bring enough water. It was extremely hot and I brought only 1 liter of water. Bring 2, you will need them.
HOW TO GET BACK TO OTAVALO
To get back to Otavalo, you can ask your taxi to drop you off in the main square where buses to Otavalo are passing by every 15 minutes all day long until 7 pm.
I put together a video for you to see what I am talking about.
Enjoy and let me know how it went.
WHAT TO BRING FOR YOUR HIKE AROUND CUICOCHA LAKE
- 2 lt of water at least
- hiking shoes are ideal, otherwise gym shoes.
- something to eat if you feel hungry along the way
- good attitude
- a camera- you don’t want to miss capturing those spectacular views
More pictures of the Cuicocha lake views here below
FOR FURTHER READING
- The Andean Condor: Ecuador National Animal
- Does it Snow in Ecuador?: Places to Visit and Things to Do in Ecuador in Winter
- Ecuador National Flower: The Flower of the Andes (Chuquiraga jussieui)
- A detailed guide to Mindo Cloud Forest Ecuador
- 20 Things to Do in Cuenca, Ecuador 
Planning a trip soon? Here are My Recommended
- TRAVEL INSURANCE – Safety Wing or TRAVEL INSURANCE MASTER
- BOOK FLIGHTS – Expedia, Scott’s Cheap Flights, and always remember to compare
- BOOK TOURS – GetYourGuide or Viator. Some of their tours are refundable up to 24h in advance.
- HOTELS & HOMES – Booking.com – Expedia – VRBO
- CAR RENTALS: Discover Car Rentals