Pululahua — Camping in a Volcanic Crater

During our stay in Quito we obviously had to go see Mitad del Mundo — “the center of the world”. It is a huge tourist draw, and as we hate tourist draws we looked for opportunities to average out the very touristic feel of the day — and this is how we found the Pululahua Crater. 🙂

Just five kilometres from Mitad del Mundo you’ll find the Pululahua Crater, protected as the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve. It is a collapsed volcano forming a huge crater with three lava domes inside — and a village taking advantage of the volcanic soil to grow maize, beans, and the like. And in-between all this, there is a huge recreative and camping area. Idyllic, beautiful, and a little weird. 😉

If you are like us and would like to sleep in a volcanic crater, do some hiking or just enjoy the beautiful landscape we have put together a small guide that you can follow.

How to get to Pululahua — and away

First, you will need to get yourself to Mitad del Mundo. From Quito there are various options, so ask at your accommodation how to get there. Or, you can do like us:

  1. Catch the metro line O3 to La Ofelia (final station to the north; should be 0.25 USD per person).
  1. At La Ofelia: Catch a blue bus to Mitad del Mundo (very easy, everybody knows why tourists are at this station, so look touristic and they will call you towards the right bus — or orientate yourself towards the signposts at all the platforms telling where the buses go). Price is 0.30 USD per person.

When in Mitad del Mundo you can get off the bus to see the monument and the tourist village (5 USD per person). At the ground floor in the monument they have free luggage storage, and it seemed to be no problem that we left our luggage there while visiting both the museum in the monument and the surrounding tourist village.

When ready to continue you have a few different options to get to Pululahua. You can catch a bus, take a taxi, or if you do not want to see Mitad del Mundo you may be able to stay on the bus you came with from Quito:

Catch a bus (option 1)

From the place where the bus from Quito dropped you off you will be able to catch a bus marked “Calacali” (we guess the price is about 0.20 to 0.30 USD per person). Ask the conductor to get off at the “road to the mirador” or “at Petroecuador” (about 4 km from Mitad del Mundo).

From here you will have to walk 1.5 km uphill to the mirador (paved road). If you want to go down into the crater it is another 1 km steep downhill on a narrow path.

Going back you just reverse it. Some buses have their last stop at “Petroecuador”, so they will be parked waiting to go back to wherever they come from. Read the signs on the buses and/or ask the drivers — they are friendly 🙂. If you want to go back to La Ofelia in Quito you will have to go to the marked bus stop a few hundred meters away on the road towards Mitad del Mundo (we paid 0.50 USD per person).

Take a taxi (option 2)

From in front of Mitad del Mundo or on the street where the bus dropped you off, hire a taxi to take you to the mirador. The going rate seems to be about 2.5 USD per person. You can take both the white and green pickup trucks or a regular yellow taxi. The price seems to be the same. Again, if you want to go down into the crater follow the steep 1 km path.

Depending on your plans you may want to ask the driver to wait for you, or come back for you at an agreed time. Early October when we were there we did not see many others. However, you can also just walk the 1.5 km downhill to “Petroecuador” on the main road and catch a bus as described above (option 1).

Stay on the bus you came with from Quito

This will only work if the bus is marked with “Calacali”. When you are sure you are in such a bus you can just follow option 1.

We did also hear about the option of taking a taxi all the way into the crater. However, it will have to drive around the crater to the northern side, which is the only road in. Online we found prices around 15 USD.

No matter your way of going, please notice that if you walk down into the crater (for a day trip or camping), you need to register with the ranger at the mirador. There is no fee, he just notes your name and passport number (and tells you to only camp in the designated camping area 🙂).

Also, notice that to get out of the crater you use the same steep path as when you came down. It is a very tough uphill walk, so make sure you have enough time to complete it before your taxi arrangement/last bus/whatever plans you have. It cannot be rushed 😉. Set aside 1-1.5 hours, unless you are really fast.

Where to sleep and eat

You can choose between camping or staying with one of the guest houses either in their accommodation or camping at their property.

Tent

As mentioned we slept in our tent in the camping area. We did not pay a fee to camp, but in high season you may have to pay.

There is a toilet and shower (cold), a small outdoor kitchen shelter with a sink, fire places, and a barbecue. You will need to bring your own firewood and toilet paper as well as a tent and equipment for purifying water. There are plenty of space, so you would be very unlucky to find it fully occupied. We camped all alone.

In high season there seems to be a small shop, a comedor-like restaurant, and even more facilities at the site. It was hard to judge, though, as we hardly met any other people in the crater. We brought our own food and cooked it on our camping stove.

Guesthouses

Right next to the campsite you find Pululahua Ecolodge. On the way down into the crater you will also find signs to another hostel. Both located inside the crater. According to their signs they both serve meals.

Near the mirador there are also some guesthouses and hotels — however, they are at the rim of the crater, not inside it.

What to do when there

In the crater there are a few signposted hiking trails. We hiked Pondoña following the signs. If you are well acclimatised it will only take you a few hours to complete the loop. The hike is relatively steep, but offers great views of the crater — and you will be able to look down into the crater of Pondoña as well. 😛

The other signposted trail is El Chivo. In general you find a great overview of the different trails and hikes on Wikitravel.

We very much liked this little two-day adventure, and hope this guide will help you enjoy it as well! Let us know how you found this guide, if you liked the crater, and of course if you have any questions about how we did. 🙂

October 2018

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