Posted by: Jena Davison | August 20, 2012

Lagunas de Mojanda

While Otavalo is on almost everyone’s agenda while in Ecuador, few people know of  or go to the Lagunas de Mojanda, which are only a little over 15 kilometers away. In stark contrast to the droves of tourists that come to one of South America’s largest artisan markets, Lagunas de Mojanda is a place where you may find yourself the only foreigner among a few locals selling grilled choclo or maduros on the side of the road.

Laguna Grande at Ground Level

Laguna Grande, or Laguna Caricocha, is rather beautiful—a calm lagoon housed in an ancient volcanic crater, surrounded by the páramo. Laguna Caricocha means “Male Lagoon” in the indigenous language Quechua and the lagoon next to it is called Laguna Huarmicocha, which means “Female Lagoon” in Quechua. Legend says that the two lagoons represent an Inca prince and princess that were in love but not allowed to married, and that together they formed the Mojanda Crater, which created the two lakes side by side.

View of Laguna Grande from Further Up

Although it is not possible to do water activities (except sport fishing) in the lagoon, some locals mentioned they may be hiring out boats soon to generate income for the community. The biggest draw to these lagoons is actually the hiking around them, which includes the ability to climb up a few different peaks for beautiful views, in addition to a three- to four-hour circuit around part of Laguna Grande (part of it is adjacent to a swamp so it is impossible to hike all around it), Laguna Negra (Laguna Yanacocha) and Laguna Chiquita (Laguna Huarmicocha).

Laguna Grande and Me

A popular option is to hike up the mountain Fuya Fuya (4,2,63 meters), which is a steep 1.5- to two-hour climb (40 minutes to walk down). On a clear day, though, this mountain affords the most beautiful views of the lagoons and the surrounding countryside. For a shorter climb, some choose to hike up Cerro Tourichupa (3,950 meters) or Cerro Negro (4,260 meters), which are both steep but take only 45 minutes each to summit. The Cerro Negro hike starts at the viewpoint that is part of the multi-hour circuit, on the path toward Tabacundo. It is also possible to hike up Cerro Tolillas (3,900 meters), which is the place to go for views of Lago San Pablo.

Hike Up To Fuya Fuya

The Peak Of Fuya Fuya

No matter which you choose to do, keep in mind that the high altitude may be a challenge and you may find yourself resting and breathing heavily more than you are used to. Also, since it is in the páramo, it tends to be pretty cold and windy, so dress accordingly. After all, Fuya Fuya means “Cold, Cold” in Quechua. Many days, there is nowhere to buy food or water here, so come prepared with enough of both.

Countryside Around Lagunas de Mojanda

There is no public transportation to the Lagunas de Mojanda and there is no fee to enter. Visitors must take a taxi from Otavalo or from one of the few hotels located along the cobblestone road to the lagoons. It typically costs $10-15 each way, then $5-10 per hour you want the taxi driver to wait. From the hostel I stayed at, it costed $20 round-trip as long as we wanted to stay at the lagoons for  a minimum of four hours so the driver could leave and come back. The only other option is to walk up the cobblestone path, but this is steep the whole way up and takes at least five hours. It is not recommended to do this, especially if not in a substantial-sized group.

Hike Down From Fuya Fuya

All photos were taken by Jena Davison at Lagunas de Mojanda, Ecuador.  © All Rights Reserved 2012.


  1. Hi Jena! Thanks for posting! My husband and I are going to Ecuador in February and staying in Otavalo. This hike looks really neat! Thanks for sharing the information about the hikes and how long they are. Which would you recommend if you were only to do one?

  2. […] Lagos de Mojanda: A lagoon inside an ancient volcanic crater. Lagos de Mojanda is a great day hike with fantastic views. Taxi: $20 for the day. […]

  3. […] Lagos de Mojanda: A lagoon inside an ancient volcanic crater. Lagos de Mojanda is a great day hike with fantastic views. Taxi: $20 for the day. […]

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