We just came back from 5 days exploring the Andes mountains and hiking the Quilotoa Loop and I just have to say that this has been one of the highlights of our trip in Ecuador. The Andes mountains are so green and beautiful, the people are so authentic and nice, the markets so NOT touristy and real, and the hikes are awesome.
We took the bus from latacunga to a small mountain village called Isinlivi, and we spent the night at the cosy hostel Llullu Llama, this is the recommended place to stay and we ended up staying for three nights because the food was so great. We got to explore the surrounding area on different shorter and longer hikes and even went horse-riding for a day. On the Monday we went to to market in Guantualo which is a great experience, they have a small livestock market where you can see how the locals trade their animals. There is also a small fruit and vegetable market, we got some great pictures! From the hostel we hiked for about two and a half hourse to get to the market and it is recommended to go early.
From isinlivi we then hiked to the village of Chugilan, also a great village and a bit bigger than Isinlivi. There are lots of hostels there, and the one we chose was the Hostal Cloudforest run by lovely people! The next day we hiked for 4 hours to get to the famous Quilotoa Crater - well, the feeling when after some tough hiking you reach the rim of the crater is indescribable, it´s unbelievable! The views are so pure, so amazingly beautiful, what a treasure! From Quilotoa you can also hike further to Tigua or Zumbahua, but we took the bus back to Latacunga...I wish we had more time in this area. If you like hiking, being in the outdoors, then the Quilotoa Loop should not be missed from your travel program for sure!!! We just LOVED it!!!