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Otavalo and the northern highlands: Cuicocha volcanic lake walk

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Cuicocha volcanic lake walk

Difficulty rating:

Easy
 

There aren’t so many places in the world where you can walk around the rim of an (extinct) volcanic crater – especially one as scenic as this, with a sparkling sapphire blue lake occupying the caldera.

Lake Cuicocha sits at around 3,400m above sea level on the tawny slopes of the extinct volcano Cotacachi, a half-hour drive from Otavalo and just outside the little town of Cotacachi - famous for its leather goods and worth a detour for a bit of shopping.  

There are two islands in the lake, one is supposed to resemble a guinea pig, which is what gave the lake its name (cuy means guinea pig in the Quechua language). You can visit the islands by boat, but the big attraction is the 5 hour walk around the crater’s rim, not only for the magnificent views of the tapestry of little fields and villages lorded over by a clutch of snow-draped volcanoes, but also for the variety of birds and flowering plants you will see.      

If you don’t want to walk for 5 hours you can just go part of the way, or even just visit the interesting interpretation centre.

What our experts say

The views from Lake Cuicocha are undoubtedly stunning, but we were also enchanted by the diversity of flowering plants and the wealth of birdlife to be seen, from soaring birds of prey to busy hummingbirds.   

Sarah

Sarah Bradley

Directors

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