Guinea Pig Lake- Lake Cuicocho, Ecuador – Date 364/365
We’ve been to numerous lakes, mountains and volcanoes throughout Central America so when we arrived in Otavalo and were told there were several lakes near by and countless mountains so we weren’t sure which one to choose given our limited weekend stay. Through some research and some recommendations we ended up choosing to go to Lake Cuicocho, Ecuador (Kichwa/Quichua for lake guinea pig). On our way from Central America we knew we’d see a huge guinea pig influence in Peru but didn’t expect to see that same influence in Ecuador. These little guys were used in religious and social ceremonies and are frequently on BBQ sticks and dinner plates in the Andes. The lake is named after this docile creature due to its too islands that apparently resemble its shape.
The lake itself is in the middle of a caldera created after an eruption thousands of years ago that created the crater that was filled with water due to the melting of the volcano. The lake sits just over 3000 meters, with a diameter of about 3 kilometers, and is around 200 meters at its deepest point. While we are not experts in botany we found a variety of beautiful plants on a short 1-1.5 hike up and back.
You can easily hike circumference of the lake but know that its 14 kilometers around. The sun is quite strong given the high altitude and if you haven’t acclimatized to the Andes you may have a harder time. At the beginning of the trail it shows a hike of about 5 hours. I imagine it would be longer for some people. I ran up about 10 minutes further than Camille to get a better view but was pretty winded.
The views from every part of the lake were spectacular and when you the other way with your back to the lake you’re surrounded by Andean valleys and mountains. We had an incredibly clear day and were able to snow-capped mountains in a far off distance!
This trip is super budget friendly, the most expensive thing was the single taxi that took us up to the mountain from the little pueblo below. We were told it’d be easy to just hitchhike down so we stuck our thumbs out and were picked up by a lovely Ecuadorian family on a summer vacation trip! Thanks James and family we’ll be sure to try all the different cuisines Ecuador has to offer including the guinea pig!
From Otavalo- $0.30 from the terminal in Otavalo, 20 minutes to Quiriga. Get off at Quiriga in front of the yellow church. Take a taxi to the lake $5 about 10km uphill. We ended up hitch hiking down back to the bus stop and took the same bus back for the same $0.30 we came in.
Boats into the lake are $2.50- We didn’t take this into the lake as it was a super windy day but it looked like a great way to explore and see different views.