Cuicocha, God’s lake

Magnetism is the word that comes to my mind when contemplating the beauty of this place; the people had reason to call it “God’s Lake”. According to legend, the mountain Maria Isabel Nieves Cotacachi was Taita Imbabura’s wife and together they had two sons (islets) located in the center of the lagoon. Imbabura forsook Mama Cotacachi and she cried so much that the snow turned to water.

“Cuicocha” in the Kichwa language means “Guinea Pig’s Lake” and it got this name because the Incas kept these animals on the islands. There’s even  the myth of the golden guinea pig: if you’re the first person who sees it, you will be rich. But, if you ‘re the second, you’ll turn into  a duck. I can only say that I have seen many ducks swimming in the lagoon.

Geologically speaking, its waters are  collected into a crater of young volcano. After an explosion, its top sank and led to the formation of the lake. For that reason, there’s  no banks.

Important information:


Cuicocha is 3,064 meters above sea level, in Cotacachi city, Imbabura province, Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve.

Cuicocha map


It goes from warm to cold damp regular high andean rainy and dry tropical to temperate periodically.


  • Sailing around the crater which takes 25-30 minutes.
  • A four and a half hour walk around the lake where you can appreciate all the trails and viewpoints. For this you must contact a naturalist guide in the Interpretation Center (see contacts) and plan your trip.

    Nature trails: Arrayanes, Orquídeas, chumavi, Gorky Campuzano and Ruta Sagrada.

    Viewpoints: Cuicocha Loma and De las Antenas (from here you can see Lago San Pablo, Otavalo, Atuntaqui, Ibarra, also paramo Mojanday)

  • Camping (first you should talk with ranger)
  • Bike ride
  • Trekking

Paseo por el Cuicocha


21st june, Summer Solstice.

¿How to get?

On bus: Quito > Otavalo > Cotacachi.

  1. From Carcelén bus station (Quito) take Otavalo bus (San Cristóbal, Imbabura, Velotax), travel time: 2.5 hours.
  2. From Otavalo bus station take Cotacachi bus (15min).
  3. In Cotacachi rent a pick up of Ecocotacachi and continuous 12 kilometers on the Cuicocha Lake way.

If you are going by car, take Panamericana Norte way and when you are passing Otavalo you will find a detour to Cotacachi.


Turismo Comunitario Chilcapamba: You can spend a night with a family in the community, learn farming and learn about their way of life.

Hostería Cuicocha: It has a restaurant with dishes to gourmets, we recommend the mulled wine to keep warm for the cold evenings in front of the lagoon.

Interpretive center along the lagoon: Under the direction of the Environment Ministry, it has a museum, camping areas and lodging in Piñán community which also provides naturalist guides. Phone: (06) 304-9110

Click here to see Cuicocha 360º


Special thanks to Feilim Lawless for translation 🙂



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