We had an unforgettable time hiking the Quilotoa Loop - a fantastic little secret sandwiched between the Amazon and the Galapagos. Over the course of five days, we covered around 25 miles, reached 3,800 m altitude, saw some gorgeous landscapes and got to know the Quechua people all on our own.
To help and encourage others to hike the Quilotoa Loop, we've put together an overview of our total costs. One of the best trips in Ecuador won't cost nearly as much as you may think...
TOTAL SPEND = $98.75 USD / £63.5 GBP
That is how little five days of incredible hiking plus everything along the way cost each of us. An average of $19.75/£12.7 each per day is truly incredible value for one of Ecuador's highlights.
Our costs start from the moment we left Latacunga (the biggest city nearby) to the moment we returned five days later. In total, we spent four nights on the Loop (including two at our start point in Insinlivi) but, if time and money is tight, you really only need three nights/four days to complete the circuit which will result in instant savings.
Further, if you are truly frugal and go without alcohol, you could bring your total costs down to $70/£46 per person for this shorter itinerary. This is insanely cheap!
So, as a couple, where did we spend our money?
ACCOMMODATION + MEALS
In every hostel along the Loop we had a private double where the price for the night includes both breakfast and dinner; this arrangement is the norm along the Loop. Our most expensive accommodation was $21 each for a private double with shared bathroom at Llullu Llama in Isinlivi (prices are now $23 however - make a boking here), whilst our cheapest was $15 each at Cloud Forest in Chugchilán. All of these places represented very good value for money and guarantee you a comfy bed, hot shower and full belly after a long day of hiking. For solo travellers, you will save a couple of dollars if you pitch for a dorm bed.
There are no restaurants along the hike trails. So, rather than have lunch, we chose to load up on breakfast to sustain us during the day until dinner, however we know that may not be everyone's preference. Hostels do offer a pack lunch service (sandwiches and fruit) for around $5.
TOTAL = $154 / £99 / 78%
Given that the Loop is a hike, most of your transportation is going to be, well, on foot. However, to start and end the loop, you'll require something with four wheels to get you from and back to Latacunga.
The bus to Insinlivi costs $3 each for a three hour journey. To finish up, you have a variety of options from the little town of Quilotoa - you can catch a bus at around 7 a.m. or 12 p.m., catch a ride in a pick-up truck ($1.50 - $2.50 each) to Zumbahua or walk 12 kms along the main road to the same town, where you'll buses frequently pass to bring you back to Latacunga ($1.50 each).
We took the option of walking halfway to Zumbahua and then taking a pick-up truck the rest of the way for $1 each.
TOTAL = $11 / £7 / 5.6%
As we've outlined in our packing post, the Quilotoa loop offers the opportunity to rid yourself of your big backpack and live out of a small day pack for a few days.
We stored our luggage and valuables at Hostal Tiana in Latacunga at a cost of $1.50 per person per day. Although one of the ladies working there is extremely unhelpful and grumpy, they do offer a secure room with lockers (to which you can attach your own padlock) and CCTV, therefore are definitely the place we recommend. HOWEVER, we didn't stay there and would definitely suggest you check out Hotel Central across the road which is cheaper, better value and run by a lovely Palestinian lady.
TOTAL = $12 / £7.7 / 6%
Water refills are available from hostels throughout the loop for $0.5 - $1 / litre. There is a large supermarket next to the bus station in Latacunga which offers cheap two litre bottles; if you don't have a reusable bottle then it makes sense to purchase one here to top up for the duration of your hike.
TOTAL = $2.7 / £1.7 / 1.4%
SNACKS + REFRESHMENTS
We picked up a few bags of crisps and sweets in Latacunga to bring with us. Other than that, the only other cost was the odd bottle of Sprite or Coke for a sugar boost during or at the end of a day's hiking.
TOTAL = $7.8 / £5 / 3.9%
There were actually only two moments we felt like alcohol during our hike. The first was after an afternoon hiking around Insinlivi when we returned to Llullu Llama and treated ourselves to two glasses of Argentinean red wine ($8) whilst curled up in front of the fire with a book. The other was a celebratory Pilsner after reaching the crater ($2).
TOTAL = $10 / £6.4 / 5.1%
So, for less than $100 per person, you can hike some of the most scenic mountains and countryside in Ecuador all by yourself. What are you waiting for!?