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Cuicocha volcanic lake walk

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Hike around the rim of a volcanic caldera in Ecuador with views over its lake Cuicocha and the snow-draped Andean peaks beyond.

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.

Activity Rating: easy

Ecuador & Galapagos Islands
Otavalo and the northern highlands

Papagaio

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Expert

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia and beyond to Antarctica.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Expert

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

  • Evie Oswald
    Evie Oswald - Travel Expert

    It's hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.

  • Kathryn Rhodes
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

  • Hannah Donaldson
    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Expert

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is a much valued Travel Expert in our Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tours sales team.

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Expert

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.

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