Arriving up to the crater around Lake Cuicocha offers expansive views up to the mountains. It is breathtaking.
Cuicocha is a lake in the Andes of Ecuador’s Imbabura province. Approximately 3,000 years ago the Cotacachi volcano erupted so powerfully that a huge crater, now Lake Cuicocha, was formed. The most notable feature is the two islands in the middle of the 3 km wide lake. Formed by four lava domes, the islands, rich in flora, are named Yeorovi and Teodoro Wolf respectively.
The initial path around the lake provides information points relating to the lives of the Caranquis indigenous people. These include offering and bathing sites as well as solar and lunar calendars. Continuing along the edge of the crater there are views over the lake on the left and nearby Imbarra and the larger Imbabura volcano to the right. The views become more majestic the higher you climb. A six hour trek takes you around the entire lake.
The Caranquis people have a folktale which tells of the love of the masculine Taita Imbabura volcano (Taita is the Kichwa word for father) and the feminine Maria Isabel Nieves Cotacachi volcano. Their love was so strong that their eruptions created smaller hills and mountains which are their children. Two of those children are the islands in Cuicocha, Cotacachi’s lake.
It is also possible to take a boat on the lake and around one of the islands, passing through the the narrow course between the islands. The boat stops behind one of the islands, look closely to see streams of bubble coming up from below. We were that these gas emissions indicate that the volcano is still active.
Make sure to bring trainers and sportswear for trekking along the crater. The weather changes quickly so a wool poncho (my current obsession) will not go amiss. Though I spent the afternoon at Cuicocha I would recommend going in the morning to get the best light for your photos – priorities! It is located approximately two hours from Quito.
Another beautiful wonder in Ecuador!