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Cuicocha Lagoon

The most visited attraction in Cotacachi, Cuicocha Lagoon is located about a 20 minute drive from Cotacachi. Entry and parking are free and there is a museum, arts and crafts shops, a restaurant and a small hotel. Boat rides are available for a small fee (weather permitting).

There is a hiking trail that circles the crater. The hike is about 14 kilometers, includes an ascent of 550 meters with a starting elevation of 3,071 meters, topping out at 3,512 meters. The hike takes about 5 hours to complete.

About 3,100 years ago the volcano erupted, leaving the caldera to fill up with water and create a 3 kilometer (2 mile) wide crater lake at the foot of the Cotacachi volcano. Cuicocha in Kichwa is Kuykucha, meaning “lake of guinea pigs” or Kuychikucha, meaning “rainbow lake”. It was given this name due to the guinea pig shape of the largest Island in the middle of the lagoon. The guinea pig play a significant part in the everyday life of Ecuadorians, as they reproduce rapidly and need a minimum of food and care to survive. They make for a high protein meal especially for populations living in high altitude.