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Lakes & Peaks

  • 3 Days / 2 Nights
  • Group : Private
  • Community homestay
  • Difficulty : 3
  • Pickup: Quito
  • Min Age : 8+

The Northern Sierra is a perfect choice if you want to escape from the metropolitan hustle and bustle. Just two hours from Quito, our hiking trails take you through breathtaking scenery with tranquil Andean lakes and impressive volcanic peaks.

This trek offers a fascinating window into the traditions and culture of the Kichwa communities. You will visit an alpaca farm, stroll through the Otavalo crafts market, and learn how the indigenous people honor Pachamama (Mother Earth). The homestay with local families is a great opportunity to experience daily life in the high Andes and even learn some Kichwa.

Starting Place


What to Expect

The Lakes & Peaks program is a perfect option to start your Ecuador hiking trip and work on your acclimatization – all you need is good physical fitness. The average hiking time is 4 – 5 hours on day 1, 3 – 4 hours on day 2, and 8 hours on day 3. If you think the Imbabura climb might be too strenuous, it can be replaced by the half-day hike to Cubilche combined with optional activities in the community. 

This trek is community-run: you will hike with local certified guides (English-speaking) and spend the nights in indigenous communities. The homestay with Kichwa families includes a private room with your own bathroom and hot water. Dinner and breakfast will be shared with your hosts in the main house. 


  • Distance: 26 km / 16 mi
  • Trail type: rugged terrain with grassy, sandy and rocky parts
  • Altitude range 3060 m – 4610 m / 10039 – 15124 ft
  • Average day temperature: 8 – 18° C / 46 - 64° F
  • Average night temperature: 5 – 12° C / 41 – 53° F
  • Best months: June – September, December – February

Day 1From Guineapig Lake to Alpaca Farm

At 7.00 a.m. you will be picked up in Quito.  After a 2,5-hour drive, we arrive at the Cotacachi-Cayapas Reserve. Our hike starts at Cuicocha (3060 m / 10.039 ft) or Guineapig Lake. This crater lake was created by a huge volcanic eruption, about 3100 years ago. The name Cuicocha is Kichwa, it refers to the guinea pig shape of one of the two forested islands in the middle of the lake.

We hike for 2 hours on the crater rim, with many wildflowers and beautiful views of the crystal-clear lake. Then we continue uphill for another 2 hours to a community-owned alpaca farm on the slopes of Cotacachi volcano (3400 m / 11.154 ft.) More than 90 alpacas are raised here, benefiting both the environment and the people. Their soft, padded feet help protect the paramo ecosystem and reduce erosion. The precious alpaca fleece is turned into beautiful sweaters and shawls.  

Hike down to the community and short transfer to the homestay. Get to know the host family and share in activities such as the preparation of chicha de jora, fermented corn drink.


Day 2Mojanda-Fuya Fuya and Otavalo

After breakfast, 1-hour drive to Mojanda-Fuya Fuay.  This is what volcanologists call a volcanic complex, consisting of two dormant stratovolcanoes. It has a cluster of three splendid lakes surrounded by the rocky peaks of Yanahurco and Fuya Fuya.

Today’s hike (3 – 4 hours total) takes us to the first summit of Fuya Fuya (4250 m / 13.943 ft). We start with a gentle uphill through paramo grassland, while the final stretch requires some easy rock scrambling. In Kichwa, fuya means cloud – a sign that these twin peaks often are lost in the clouds. But just as often the paramo winds move the clouds, enabling panoramic views of Cotacachi, Cayambe, Antisana, Cotopaxi, and (on very clear days) Chimborazo. Below, you will see not only the Mojanda but also Laguna San Pablo and Cuicocha. 

Descent and transfer to Otavalo, free time to stroll through the crafts market. We then continue to a homestay in the foothills of Imbabura. A great opportunity to practice Spanish and Kichwa with your hosts, and learn about their spiritual relationship with Pachamama.


Day 3Imbabura Peak

At sunrise, we will have a short transfer to the trailhead of the Imbabura climb (3300 m / 10826 ft). Overlooking San Pablo Lake, Imbabura is the most iconic volcano in the northern Sierra. The 5-hour trek to its peak (4610 m / 15124 ft) is long and steep, but well worth the effort. It traverses native forest and paramo with colorful flora, including daisies, passion flowers, and the spectacular achupalla. Lava rock formations show evidence of Imbabura’s eruptive history. The last eruption was thousands of years ago, but Imbabura is still considered potentially active.

Once above the tree line, we follow a rocky trail, and with the help of the guide, will complete some rock scrambling before reaching the northern peak. On a clear day, you will have magnificent views of Ibarra, Cuicocha, Cotacachi, and snowcapped Cayambe. 

After the 3-hour descent transfer back to the community for a short rest and return transfer to Quito.




  • 1 person (private tour): USD 760
  • Party of 2 – 3: USD 460 per person
  • Party of 4 – 5: USD 380 per person
  • Party of 6 – 8: USD 330 per person

Price Includes

  • Private transfers according to the itinerary
  • Certified local guides
  • Homestay accommodation in private room with private bath and hot water
  • Meals full board plus coffee, tea, filtered water
  • Use of helmets on Imbabura
  • Entrance permit Cotacachi-Cayapas Reserve
  • Entrance fee Alpaca Farm

Price Excludes

  • Travel insurance
  • Tips (optional)
  • Optional activities in the community like Temazcal ceremony, Yunta traditional ploughing, Pachamanka (contact us for more details)