If you hike the Quilotoa Loop counterclockwise, like we did, you’ll go from Isinlivi to Chugchilan. And from Chugchilan to Isinlivi if you do it clockwise, naturally.

So after getting thoroughly lost two days before and enjoying a low-key day-trip the day after that, we finally hit the road again. The day started out promisingly enough: with plenty of sunshine and full stomachs.

On the road from Isinlivi to Chugchilan | Quilotoa Loop | Hiking | Ecuador | MichWanderlust

Warning: picture-heavy post ahead. #sorrynotsorry!

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Not exactly a walk in the park, but I’d take this any day – strolling along with no other soul in sight, and not a sound to be heard but our own footsteps.

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On the road from Isinlivi to Chugchilan | Quilotoa Loop | Hiking | Ecuador | MichWanderlust

The white cliffs below were one of the landmarks in our directions. Can you spot the trail?

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New animal sighting along the way: a baby goat, watched over by its canine friends. Bring on the heart eyes emojis! 😍

On the road from Isinlivi to Chugchilan | Quilotoa Loop | Hiking | Ecuador | MichWanderlust

Also spotted: a brightly-painted sheep (I wonder what the occasion was!).

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And a couple of horses grazing near the all-important sign that we were on the right track. Can you spot it?

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Don’t try this while drunk…

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The bridge crossing took us aback. According to the directions, we were to cross the river using a log bridge with a wire handrail – but there was no wire! This was the widest log bridge for miles, though, so we figured this was it.

It may look like an easy crossing to you now, but there was something unnerving about doing it with nothing to hold on to and nothing to stop you from falling into the rushing river.

Thankfully, we made it to the other side without losing anyone. Cue the first fist pumps of the day!

Weather woes

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side. It started raining during our lunch break, which resulted in a mad scramble for rain gear and a hasty departure.

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“Do you have any food?”

We walked past this little girl’s house and she literally came running out to meet us.

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But before you go “awww, how cute!” – it quickly became clear that she wasn’t interested in us for our charming personalities or winsome good looks (shocker, right?). She had one, and only one, thing on her mind – food!

My hiking buddy Katie, being the incredibly kind-hearted person that she is, promptly gave her one of her snacks. The little girl continued holding her hand out, though, and Katie ended up offloading a lot of snacks.

Now, it could just be me being far more sceptical than she is, but that girl doesn’t exactly look malnourished, does she?

My own take is that she had become accustomed to hikers on that path and had learned to take advantage of their generosity.

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She wasn’t the only such kid we encountered, either. Later on, we met other adorable kids who followed us around and asked for food (and/or money). I even had grown men ask me for food!

One particularly enterprising guy asked for “donations” to improve a lookout point (mirador) which he said was on his land but allowed people to use for free.

He said he wanted to paint the fences and build a lid for the trash can, which dumpster-diving dogs kept knocking over.

Again, I was pretty sceptical and didn’t give him anything, but Katie’s husband kindly gave him a few bucks. (My husband doesn’t understand Spanish, so nobody approached him – a blessing in disguise, maybe!)

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Looking back, I’m not sure if I would stand by my decision a second time. Perhaps if I hadn’t been taking a career break (i.e. unemployed), I would’ve been less tightfisted.

Nobody likes to be scammed. But if in doubt, isn’t it better to err on the side of generosity? Goodness knows those villagers could probably have used a few extra bucks. More so than most of us who have the means for overseas travel!

Nonetheless, these incidents made me realise that the Quilotoa Loop is not quite as off-the-beaten-path as it might seem.

Sure, you can walk for hours through breathtaking landscapes and not see another soul. But when you do, you can expect that the locals you meet will be well-prepared for tourists.

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If you really want to go where few (tourists) have tread before, my recommendation? Intag. I had the best time of my life at Cloud Forest Adventure!



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How do I describe spotting the sign for your destination after almost 7 hours of hiking?

We spent the night at Cloud Forest Hostal, which cost just $15 per person. Breakfast and dinner included!

And of course, hot showers. (At an altitude of 3200m, cold showers are a definite no-go for me.)

It was worth every penny.

On the road from Isinlivi to Chugchilan | Quilotoa Loop | Hiking | Ecuador | MichWanderlust

Distance covered: 13.7km in 6.5h.

Over to you! What are your thoughts on giving food/money to people you meet when travelling?

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HIking the Quilotoa Loop | Isinlivi to Chugchilan | Ecuador


This post is part of The Weekly Postcard hosted by Travel Notes & Beyond, California Globetrotter, Toddlers on Tour, Two Traveling Texans and TravelLatte – check out what’s going on elsewhere!

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40 Comments on "Hiking the Quilotoa Loop: Isinlivi to Chugchilán & a dilemma"

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California Globetrotter

Looks like a lovely hike! It breaks my heart that little girl was begging for food! 🙁 Glad you were kind enough to give her some! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

Michelle | michwanderlust

yeah it’s always so hard to say no to kids, isn’t it? Thanks for stopping by 🙂

Anisa & Katherine (@2travelingtxns)

First off, I don’t know if I would have been able to cross that bridge. Even in the pictures it looks scary to me.

Secondly, yes you definitely had an ethical dilemma there. I don’t want children starving! I do wonder if it was a scam though. I wonder if other locals would know?

Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

Michelle | michwanderlust

It was pretty scary indeed, but at that point it was either cross the bridge or swim across. You’d be surprised at what you can do when compelled by necessity!

That’s a really good question about other locals – those who saw what happened seemed pretty okay with the other kids/adults asking us for food and money. I guess they probably view it as harmless, since it’s not like we were being fleeced out of millions of dollars 😀

Thanks for stopping by, Anisa!


I love that kind of hikes, and that bridge 🙂 No tourist just me and nature, locals… Pin it for later 😉 #TheWeeklyPostcard

Michelle | michwanderlust

Glad you enjoyed it, Toimas! 🙂 Hope you get to do the hike for yourself someday.

Nancy @ NY Foodie Family

This hike looks beautiful! Sadly, I think that the locals have learned to take advantage of the tourists that come through. I hope that isn’t the case though and like you,just my own skepticism. That “bridge” crossing looks scary! Yikes! #TheWeeklyPostcard

Michelle | michwanderlust

It’s so hard to balance our scepticism with our desire to help people who truly need it, isn’t it? 🙁 As for the bridge crossing, it’s surprising what you can do when you have no other choice. It was actually wide enough for you to sit and scoot across on your butt, so it wasn’t that bad! Thanks for stopping by, Nancy 🙂

Sally@Tips 4 Trips

I tend to be like you when it comes to the begging. Skeptical and tight fisted. I have been approached by all ages in all sorts of foreign locations begging usually for money. Young kids asking for sweets is kind of another thing – it’s a treat they don’t normally get.
The thing to remember is not to give away more than you can afford to loose money or food wise.

Michelle | michwanderlust

That’s an excellent point to remember, Sally, especially on a multi-day hike! Also another excellent point about sweets being a real treat for those kids. I did give them some sweets, but drew the line at cash. Thanks for your insightful comment, Sally!


Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. It makes you so sad to see how much poverty is in the world. When I see people begging I always have the same dilemma: should I encourage them to beg by giving them something, or not? One thing is however sure. Even if they aren’t quite starving, they surely are poor enough that they need to bag. By the way, that bridge looks so scary, I don’t think I would have dared to cross it. #TheWeeklyPostcard

Michelle | michwanderlust

I guess some people might say that they do it out of greed rather than necessity (since it takes very little time out of their daily routines), but personally I agree with you. It’s a really complex question, isn’t it? 🙁

The bridge was actually wide enough to sit down and scoot across on your butt, but nobody actually did that, so it wasn’t that bad!

Thanks for stopping by and your insightful comment, Anda 🙂


Absolutely amazing!!! Such great photos 🙂 you’re making me miss Ecuador so much haha.

Michelle | michwanderlust

Thank you!! You need to go back then (as do I)! 🙂

At Lifestyle Crossroads
At Lifestyle Crossroads

These views are amazing! So green … as to donating money I have a very conflicted attitude with this issue myself cause I love helping people in general and saying “no” to kinds or ignoring them is even harder! But at the same time I definitely don’t like someone taking an advantage of this! Sad truth about this life is that often people who need food/money the most would never ask or could even offer you the little they have! And yes lol this girl doesn’t look malnourished to me as well…

Michelle | michwanderlust

Yes, you captured the dilemma perfectly! And you’re so right that often people who need help the most would never ask for it. Isn’t it strange? Thanks for the insightful comment, Anna!


Looks beautiful! I understand the dilemma with those asking for money and food. I always struggle in those situations, because I want to say yes but hate feeling pressured or taken advantage of! I love your philosophy of erring on the side of generosity.


Unfortunately it’s really easy to get tired of people asking for handouts. But you’re probably right that they are just taking advantage of an opportunity. You’re photos are really great and it looks like you had a great time.


This seems like an epic adventure. It’s always so hard to see people begging tho, I always feel worried it is a scam and then feel guilty for thinking that.


Most of the time I err on the side of generosity too and don’t mind giving up a few coins if I’ve got them handy & someone asks (I’ve never been asked for food). Even if it is a scam, it usually coming from people who have far less than I do & they’re just trying to get by so I don’t mind. These photos are beautiful by the way!


Awww Equador has been on my bucket list for ages. Your pictures of green hikes makes want to leave now! (Your blog looks great BTW, gonna check that out and your insta as well!) safe travels Mich!


Wow, this looks really cool and it’s amazing how many pictures you share here. I love the combination of pictures and information/background here!

Eve Kay
The scenery is so lovely! Not so much the begging.. That I find a bit stressful and uncomfortable. I mean, a lot of times these activities are organized by gangs and triads (at least in the place I live in currently) so when you give to the kids begging, you are actually benefiting the gangs and not the children. What’s more, you’re encouraging the gangs to continue to use children to beg money/food, because it works. I’m not sure if it’s the same case in Ecuador where you went, perhaps not. And if it’s really going to genuinely help the… Read more »
Diana • Opium Teahouse

Beautiful photos! My favourite is probably the first one, of the little girl. Her face is priceless!

And I tend to shy away from donating food/money to locals that approach me. Not because I don’t believe that they need it, but because it creates a vicious and unsustainable cycle. I prefer to research local responsible charities or foundations and donate/do voluntary work.


Finally I’ ve found my soulmate 😀 This is execallly my kind of traveling – no tourists, just me and nature 🙂 Beautiful place for hiking. Ecuador is on my bucket list for sure !


Wow what a pretty and adventurous hike! Looks like so much fun, thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

Agness of Fit Travelling

Wow! This place seems astonishing and pitch-perfect for hiking, The scenery is breathtaking, When’s the best time of the year to go there hiking?


I’m literally at Hostal Taita Cristobal right now searching for next day trek and your article popped up in Google! A lady tried to scam me today too, charging me $1 to cross a bridge haha