When you visit Ecuador, you can’t do without a visit to at least one of its many volcanoes. Ecuador has dozens of them, most of them still active. This post gives you tips for a visit to the Fuya Fuya volcano in the northern province of Imbabura.
Well, you don’t have to climb one, to get to know one. But you certainly can’t do without visiting one. Most visitors to Ecuador visit the Parque Cotopaxi (5897m/ 19347ft), or the Chimborazo (6310m/ 20702ft). These are the highest mountains of the country. To get to their summits is only for professionals. Well, maybe semi-professionals, but therefore always with a certified guide.
Most visitors end up at the refuges and around. Although you might not end up at the Top of the World – the summit of Chimborazo is the farthest point out from Earth’s center! – a visit to the area around is always a beautiful experience.
If you want to conquer a volcano, there are many alternatives. One of them is the Fuya Fuya mountain (4263m/ 13986ft), part of the Mojanda lake area in Imbabura. It is actually located on the border of two northern provinces: Imbabura and Pichincha.
Mojanda lake area
The Mojanda Lake area is an ideal place for hiking, climbing, walking, wandering around or for a picnic. It houses three large lakes and many smaller ones.
The biggest lake, Laguna Grande, is called Karicocha en Quichua. Loosely translated this means “the Lake of Man”. The smaller one is Warmicocha, “the Lake of Woman” and the smallest one is the Yanacocha, “the Black Lake”.
One of the most popular activities in the Mojando Lake area is to climb the Fuya Fuya on the outer rim of its crater.
Depending on the weather, from the top of the Fuya Fuya you can see the whole northern part of the country. The towns of Otavalo, Cotacachi, Ibarra and even parts of Quito. As well as, Mt. Imbabura, Mt. Cotacachi & Mt. Cayambe (5790m/ 18996ft, third highest of Ecuador).
On a really clear day, to the north you can spot the mountains of neighbouring Colombia. To the south the Cotopaxi, Ilinizas, Rumiñahui and others.
Once, I could even vaguely distinguish the contours of the Chimborazo in the center of Ecuador, hundreds of kilometers/miles away. On that same day I could spot the two islands that were formed millions of years ago in the Cuicocha lake, just below the Cotacachi.
And talking about animal life. I’ve been up the mountain at least 20 times and besides all kinds of birds like hawks & eagles, I spotted many rabbits, and once even a young fox. If you’re lucky, you can even eye the mighty Condor.
The climb to the summit of the Fuya Fuya
You can easily conquer the Fuya Fuya during one morning & without a guide. If you want though, guides are available.
You start the climb at the level of the lakes, about 3700m/ 12139ft – and have to climb up to just under 4300m/ 14108ft. Depending on your condition and goals, a real pro can maybe beat the hour. Generally it takes between 1,5 – 2,0 hours to get to the top. Be aware though, that the climb gets steeper and steeper until you end up in the rocky part. Also note that the higher you go, the lower the level of oxygen.
This means, when you notice it’s getting too difficult, just break off the climb. There are so many alternative paths to travel and enjoy the Mojanda Lake area.
Yep, that’s me up there, … Better call me Art, the writer of the blog!
Are you in for a … SURPRISE?
If you make it to the top, congratulations! Well, that is to say, … BIG SURPRISE, there are two summits on the Fuya Fuya. That’s also the main reason the volcano is named in quichua Fuya Fuya – cloud cloud. That makes two… two clouds, two peaks. So no wonder, that according to some old Indian tales the clouds are born on this mountain.
Most people climb up to the first summit they see from below. The second one is a little higher (about 15m/ 50ft). If you have the wish and energy it’s rather easy to do both. Although I have to admit, the second peak needs a little bit of real climbing. Not too much, though. And, another secret… there is a way around it (heading to the right of the rocks).
Anyway, … it’s beautiful up there. With nice views all around and more plant & animal life than you would expect at an altitude of around 4300m/ 14108ft. And although with this climb you don’t conquer the highest peaks of Ecuador, with this visit you can feel at the Top of the World. I felt that way every time I brought a visit to the summit of the Fuya Fuya.
Tips & Recommendations for you visit to the Fuya Fuya volcano in Ecuador
- Start early, as around noon generally the clouds come rolling in. From then on, it can get cloudy, cold, windy & rainy.
- Stay on the paths. First of all because it’s easier to go up & come down, but also to avoid getting lost when it gets cloudy.
- Bring your own food, snacks & drink. There’s nothing for sale up there.
- There aren’t any guards, but the area is safe. No official entrance either, and no entrance fee.
- There are currently no road or path signs, so you have to orientate yourself. The paths to the top are clear though. You don’t need a guide, but if you prefer one, we can arrange one for you at our hotel.
- Be prepared for every type of weather: cold, warm, sun, rain. Sometimes it can even snow. Once it was hailing so bad at the top, we had to escape the summit as soon as we got there. Bring something warm!
- Protect yourself from the sun (at least Protector 50). Always…even when the day starts cloudy.
How to get there
By taxi or pick-up
The best way to get to the Mojanda lake area is by taxi or pick-up. You can find them all over Otavalo.
- I would recommend you to negotiate a price beforehand & pay at the end of the tour.
- And secondly, be sure he – or sometimes she – knows how to drive. (Hard to know beforehand, but I’d say hire a somewhat older driver – not the young guys – and if you don’t like the way he/she drives soon enough, look for another one).
Alternatively we – at Hotel Doña Esther/Restaurante Árbol de Montalvo – can arrange a taxi for you. For a good price & driven by a friendly, trustworthy & professional driver.
- IMPORTANT: We can only provide this service to guests of our hotel.
- The driver will leave you at the Laguna Grande and can show you the way up to the Fuya Fuya.
- The drive up from Otavalo – only 17 km/ 10 miles – takes between 30 and 40 minutes. However it’s an old cobblestone road up, and almost always damaged in certain sections.
- It take at least 3 hours to get to the top of the Fuya Fuya & down again. This is an indication for your driver to come back at a certain hour.
* As there’s nothing for sale in the Mojanda-area, we can prepare a take-away box lunch ($6.00 each) for you at the hotel.
If you like, we can arrange horses for you (beforehand), including a guide to bring you up to the Mojanda lake area.
Another possibility is to rent a bike or go on an organised tour around the three Mojanda lakes.
Something we can also arrange for you at the hotel. However – as with a taxi/pick-up or horses – please ask us to do that at least a few days in advance of your planned visit to Mojanda.
- For your information: you can’t to the top of Fuya Fuya on horse-back, nor on a bike. Only hiking up.
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