Ecuador has a multitude of lakes worthy of exploring and the mountainous Andes are sprinkled with pretty waters. Ecuador’s best lakes are in some cases located just a few hours from Quito, but others are further afield. Some of the most interesting and picturesque lakes and lagoons of Ecuador that are worth a visit are described below. The main lakes of Ecuador that visitors travel to are Quilotoa, Cuicocha, Mojanda, San Pablo, El Cajas and Panacocha, but there are lots of others too. Here we will consider Ecuador’s best lakes and why people travel to see them, and you can too of course with some of our personalized and private Ecuador tours.
Of all the lakes and lagoons in Ecuador, Quilotoa Lake is perhaps one of the most spectacular to behold. South of Quito, and a couple of hours from Latacunga, the lake fills a volcano caldera that is two miles (three kilometers) wide. There is plenty to do here, and for those that enjoy hiking, a good option is to walk around the lake. This takes four to five hours. Some prefer the shorter walk down from the top of the crater to the lake itself. This takes about half an hour and you can ride on a mule back up again, or hike if you prefer. While this is one of Ecuador’s best lakes, its relative remoteness means that it is not visited by all who travel to Ecuador. You can extend your trip to Lake Quilotoa by travelling on the Quilotoa Loop and visiting numerous traditional villages in this area.
Cuichocha Lake is another crater lake sitting in a two mile (three kilometer) wide caldera, in this case north of Quito in the Imbabura province, not too far from the fascinating market town of Otavalo. Cuichocha Lake is one of Ecuador’s main lakes for tourism visits due to its proximity to this town. The lake’s name means the “lake of guinea pigs” and it is situated in the shadow of the Cotacachi volcano. Some visitors to this lake enjoy just a quick visit to take some photographs to capture its beauty, and others prefer to stay a while to walk around it. The walk takes approximately four hours and includes some steep slopes. There are places to stay nearby too.
Mojanda Lake is also not far from Otavalo with its famous market, and it is approximately two hours or so from Quito. Actually, there are three lakes here, a “male lake”, a “female lake” and a big lake. To get a great view of these lakes it is worth climbing up the Fuya-Fuya mountain to the east of the lakes. The hike up to the summit from the Mojanda Lakes takes between two to three hours. From here on a clear day you can gain a great view of the surrounding landscape. There are guesthouses and hotels not too far away for those that want to stay overnight in this pretty rural area.
San Pablo Lake is situated just 2.5 miles (four kilometers) west of Otavalo, and it is on the way to Otavalo from Quito. It takes approximately two hours to get to this lake from Quito. In the vicinity of the San Pablo Lake it is possible to do water sports, walking and to enjoy horseback riding activities. There are also very pleasant restaurants for a spot to eat overlooking the lake, and some lovely accommodations in this area too. Some just stop to take a photo at the mirador (viewpoint) overlooking the lake with the mountainous scenery beyond. Looking at these later you will remember why this is one of Ecuador’s best lakes.
Unlike the other main lakes in Ecuador described above, the El Cajas National Park is situated in the Southern Andes region of the country not that far from the city of Cuenca. El Cajas has more than 200 lakes within its boundaries and it is well worth a visit. It is possible to take a half day trip to the El Cajas National Park, or there are opportunities for overnight trips to hike and camp. There is excellent trout fishing in some of the El Cajas National Park lakes for those that enjoy this pursuit.
Panacocha Lake is one of Ecuador’s best lakes that is unusually not located in the Andean regions of the country. Panacocha Lake is situated in the Amazon region and it can be reached by taking a boat ride from the Rio Napo river. The name of the lake means “Lake of Piranhas” in the local indigenous language. Unsurprisingly this is one of the lakes and lagoons of Ecuador where piranhas can be found. On a trip to the Amazon you might even be taken piranha fishing there. It is sometimes also possible to see pink river dolphins in or nearby this stunning lake.
If you would like to start planning your own adventure to Ecuador including any of these beautiful sites or any others, remember to get in touch with our team of local experts part of the biggest Ecuadorian travel company organizing customized trips of Ecuador and the Galapagos islands! Don't wait more and start planning your trip now.