We thought we'd be back in Cotacachi in two or three hours--hah! I've been to many volcanoes and their lagoons but never a caldera like Cuicocha with those crazy domes in the middle of the water. The three "islotas", the product of a second explosion after the core of the volcano had imploded, may be unique on the planet. It's fascinating to see, from the "lancha", how plant life is invading the lava and clothing the intriguing little islands in deep green. The tour around the lake costs $2.50 per adult and is safe, interesting and fairly brief. A free drink of "canazuela" is offered the adults on their return, to combat the cold, say the locals, who find the weather a little frisky at 3,000-some meters.
But then the question of lunch arises and it's easy to be seduced by the excellent, if somewhat pricey, restaurant that shares the premises. We took our guide to lunch and feasted on trout, guinea pig, "carne colorado" (pork in achiote), a corn dish called "mote", fried plantains, potatoes, magnificent avocados, and guanabana juice for $33 plus tip.
Foregoing dessert, we waddled over to the museum just above, and spent the better part of another hour viewing the well-thought-out displays, learning a lot about Ecuador's ecology, georaphy and geology--in Spanish. No charge for the museum.
We spent six hours on this jaunt only a few miles out of Cotacachi. Worth every minute. Visit the website for pictures.