Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve

Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve

Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve
4.5
About
This large reserve extends from the Sierra Mountains to the western edge of the rainforest in the Esmeraldas region and features a crater lake that is located more than 3,000 meters in elevation.
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Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

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4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles38 reviews
Excellent
27
Very good
9
Average
2
Poor
0
Terrible
0

Fred G
Milton, Canada583 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2022
We were a group of sixteen travelers from Canada, and visited this beautiful area on our travels. The highest altitude, at the top of the volcano was 14,832 feet but we only went to 11,000 feet. At the end of our trek up, after many stops due to the altitude, we saw the lake that is in the caldera. The lake is called Laguna Cuicocha, beautiful. They say that when you take a boat around the domes (islands) in the lake you can see bubbles coming up because it is still an active volcano. Worth the visit!
Written October 6, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Kristin F
237 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2012 • Friends
All Ecological Reserves in Ecuador (not including Galapagos) are for the most part not victims of heavy traffic. Cotacachi-Cayapas is well-travelled due to it's easy-to-hike trail that borders the lagoon. The Lagoon itself is beautiful with the two formed islands in the middle. This was once an active volcano but has since collected rain and glacial water to form this deep lagoon. The local Kitchwa of the surrounding indigenous communities have considered the lagoon a sacred place and still, during Inti Raymi, make a trek to the cold waters to bathe in celebration of the new harvest season and Pacha Mama.

Regardless of when you visit the lagoon is beautiful. Views of Mount Cotacachi and Imbabura are of course contingent on clear skies. The most likely time of the year that this will happen will be during the dry months June-August but the weather is not very predicable so any time of the year is a good time to visit. Warmth is also contingent on there being sun. If the sun is out be sure to wear sunscreen to protect yourself against those intense rays. If it's cloudy be sure to have a jacket or coat. Entrance fees into all Ecological Reserves (not National Parks) in Ecuador are currently free.

To get to the reserve you can take a $5 dollar taxi or hop on a camioneta (truck) from Cotacachi.

Visit the museum inside the visitors center to learn about the entire reserve which spans two provinces. You can learn also about the elusive communities that live inside the reserve and get a taste of just how diverse Ecuador really is.
Written July 10, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Aurora B.
San Diego, CA51 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2014 • Couples
The trail starts with an uphill climb. Take it slowly to acclimate to the altitude. The lake view and volcano view are amazing. Very rewarding. However, the hike takes you to a road at the end which is very far from the starting place. It is an ugly walk back to where you started. Arrange for transportation to pick you up higher on the road. The hike is nowhere near as long that way and you miss the ugly, tiring part at the end. We were lucky but others were less so. We stopped on the way down with our taxi to pick up some French girls on the way down. Be generous that way.
Written January 6, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Reardan
11 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2014 • Friends
My GF and a friend wanted to hike around Quicocha, so we waited for a nice day and caught a truck in Quiroga to take us to Los Pinos and to start the hike from the high side and work our way down, around the lake back to the visitor center and park entrance. I would recommend this way, one because it is a little shorter, but also because it starts you at our favorite part of the hike. If you get dropped of at Los Pinos, you will walk a little ways on a trail alongside a fence blocking off some abandoned buildings. This fence is well worn and there are significant gaps in and under it. My recommendation is to take a picnic, duck the fence, and relax in the abandoned building with probably the best view of the crater and skip the hike. The hike is good and all, but honestly the view from the building is about as good as it gets, for me and my friends at least. Do your best to leave it better than you found it. Getting back from the lake can be a little tricky, but it usually just involves walking back along the road and waiting for another one of the green-lined trucks to pick you up. Fares should be between 5 and 8 bucks. The second time we went to the lake, my GF, a friend, and I decided we wanted to hike for the summit of Cotacachi. After reading on SummitPost that it was possible without a guide, we hired another truck and headed for the lake. Upon arrival, I asked how to get to the summit, upon where I was told hiking above the lake without a guide was prohibited, however having been to the lake previously, I knew there was a road that went up to the antenna about half way through the regular hike. So instead of starting on a road at the entrance, we hiked in the opposite direction to normal around the lake until it meets up with the road. From there we switched and hiked along the road for another 4ish hours until we arrived at the antenna for camp. We were approached by two well bundled guards who asked us if we had permission to be there, whether we had food, shelter, etc, and if it the weather got bad that we could come to their guard station for the night. I think having two blonde American girls along help in that last instance. Anyways, we passed the long windy, rainy night three deep in my two person minimalist tent to an incredible sunrise over the Imbabura Valley. Lots of pictures were taken. After breakfast, we started our hike up to the summit, only to have the usual heavy cloud and fog set in, at which point we forfeited our bid and started our return home. A few weeks later, a friend bid for the summit, also to forfeit, but he said there was another trail at some point along the road that lead straight to the antenna. He said he never was approached by any guards, but he also camped much higher than us, supposedly 30 minutes higher than where we turned around at the "Virgin Mary" picture. I would recommend the hike for the sunrise alone. I volunteered in Quiroga for 4 months with a perfect view of the summit and only saw it a handful of times at random parts of the day. It is almost always covered in clouds. My friend also said that higher up the rock was very week and seemed dangerous. Your mileage may vary.
Written June 20, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

jennywinter23
Bracknell, UK325 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2017 • Couples
This is an amazing and beautiful location. It is moderate to difficult walk depending on you ability, it is undulating with some steep but not lengthy up hills. Worth it as the views all around and over the lake are excellent. The paths are very good so you can not go wrong. There re birds, trees and wild flowers galore so a real nature lovers area. It is worth noting you are altitude so firstly that makes walking a bit more difficult, secondly it means it can get cold but much easier to get sun burnt. Take water and food with you are there isn't cafes on route.
Written March 27, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Fred B
Montreal, Canada669 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2017 • Couples
A wonderful site out in nature surrounded by beauty. The trail up and up around the rim of the former volcano overlooks a stunning lake and has many beautiful flowers. The views across the plains also very fine.
Written February 27, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

JoshandCharlotte
London, UK38 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2015
Amazing views but a reasonably difficult trek - we did it all in about 5 hours walking fairly quickly. Last bit of the trek bizarrely takes you on to a main road, which was a bit less enjoyable but don't think you are lost - keep walking down the road!

Stunning views - bring plenty of water and suncream - it can get very hot in the middle of the day.
Written January 11, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

MaryG_from_Toronto
Toronto, Canada175 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2015 • Couples
This is a lake created in the second crater of an active volcano. Apparently, on some days you can see the water bubbling. Entry to the national park is free but you can take a boat for $3.25 that goes into the lake where you can see some ducks and reeds. No bubbles for us, but the ticket did include a cinnamon tea called Canelazo.

Bring a sweater because it's pretty high up and the boat goes pretty fast and the wind cuts into you.
Written November 19, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

rogerjm
Olympia, WA1,260 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2014 • Friends
It isn't everyday you get to walk around the rim of a volcano crater, filled with water at just under 15,000 feet elevation. It may not be a bucket list item, but if you are in Cotacachi this is definitely worth the side trip. There is a little museum - exhibit room, which my wife went to while I took the rocky stairs up, up and up to the rim. Worth the walk. The views from the rim to the crater and the valleys around it and just great. Like I said, not on my main list of things to do, but worth the 60 to 90 minutes that it took from the center of Cotacachi and back.
Written June 27, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

2-4-T
Ontario, Canada858 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2013 • Friends
This reserve offers a fantastic volcanic crater lake walk which follows the spine of the crater. This can be challenging - especially if you are getting used to altitude. There is lots of climbing, so give yourself ample time, ample water, layered clothing (weather changes quickly), and some energy snacks to keep you going. Don't forget your sunscreen - especially at altitude. I am not in great shape so I covered probably under 1/3 of the circuit in about 1.5 hours before turning back. The steep slopes of the crater are home to lovely paramo grasses and flowers and there are two islands in the lake which are accessible by boat, I believe. Bring your camera and enjoy the incredible vistas! It was not at all crowded.

Definitely worth the visit.
Written April 26, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024)

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