Mojanda-Alpine Lagoon Wilderness
Mojanda is an alpine lagoon wilderness that is situated in the high Andes and surrounded by a high mountain ridge line. The pristine waters of the Mojanda could easily be the most beautiful of all the alpine lagoons in Ecuador. However, few people visit this sanctuary, unlike Laguna Quilotoa where the tourist industry is in full economic swing. For those with an adventurous spirit who would rather avoid the crowds (and the mules), then I would recommend a day exploring Mojanda. Here the only sounds that one will hear are those of the birds calling and the water lapping on the shoreline.
A bit of geography
Located in the eastern cordillera of Ecuador, Mojanda is actually an inactive stratovolcano that last erupted over 200 000 years ago. There are actually three lagoons in Mojanda, the biggest being Caricocha (commonly referred to as Mojanda), which fills the now extinct crater. In the early morning, cloud and mist often descend from the ridge line (once the rim of the crater) into the lagoons, creating a mystic ambiance.
A paradise for active people
The government proclaimed this alpine wilderness a reserve and it is rich in wildlife and alpine vegetation. Mojanda is therefore perfect for active people with many hiking trails to choose from. One can take a five hour hike around the biggest lake or even climb Cerro Fuya Fuya. From the summit (and on a clear day) one will have incredible vistas of the surrounding snowcapped volcanoes. Cycling is also allowed in certain parts of Mojanda. A track exists that leads to Cochasqui Archealogical Reserve 20km away in the South West and would make for good exercise in the hilly landscape.
Mojanda is only 50km (about an hour drive) from Quito. However, the roads leading up to it are rather rough and hence the little activity from tourists. The two most popular ways of getting to the lagoons are from either the towns of Tabacundo or Otavalo. Both routes have interesting scenery as they meander through countryside, filled with deep valleys and cloud forests. From Tabacundo, you will need a vehicle with a high clearance. The road is gravel with loose stones and deep ruts. One can hire a driver with a camionetta (or four wheel drive) in Tabacundo which can cost around $60-70 depending on who you ask. From Otavalo, the way is old and cobbled, but you can get a taxi for approximately US$30. Both routes are 18km and take between 40-50 minutes.
What to take?
Definitely take a picnic basket. Once you get there, you will want to spend time hiking or chilling in the peaceful atmosphere. Wear a good pair of hiking shoes, and pack some warm clothing, rain jacket and suntan lotion. You can never be sure of what weather to expect in Ecuador, especially in the Andes.
None that I know of yet and I hope it stays that way.
You won’t regret a day here. You feel rejuvenated from the beauty and tranquility of Mojanda.