& Geobotanical Reserve
is a geobotanical reserve.
The huge, fertile volcanic
is home to small agricultural communities.
Volcano & Geobotanical Reserve -
Volcano is inactive but its past eruptions, the last around 2500 years
ago, have left a huge crater full of fertile soil. At 34
square kilometres, the volcanic crater is one of the largest in the
The lava dome in the middle rises around 500 metres above the
crater floor and is covered in lush cloudforest vegetation.
is one of only two inhabited volcanic caldera in the world and the only
one cultivated by its inhabitants. It is
believed that it was first settled by the Incas. The small
agricultural communities here grow various crops in the rich soil of
the fields around
the floor of the crater.
is Quichua for "Smoke of Water" or "Cloud of Water".
probably refers to the fog or "neblina" which rolls in around midday
every day and fills the crater. The fog is the only real
source of water for the crops cultivated here, because it virtually
never rains at Pululahua. The crops thrive in the fog but
tourists generally don't, so visit in the morning to see the
fantastic views and photograph the attractive scenery.
unique microclimate of Pululahua is caused by the form of the volcanic
crater and lava dome. It supports cloudforests and many
and other types of plants on the crater walls and the peaks of the
central lava dome, as well as the fertile farmland below. For
this reason, Pululahua was declared a Geobotanical Reserve in 1966 and
is regulated by Ecuador's Ministry of the Environment.
Pululahua Volcano for a quick overview is most easily and cheaply done
on a $2 tour
with Calima Tours from inside the Mitad
del Mundo Equator Complex.
Just turn up as early in the morning as possible at their
office and see at what time(s) they are going. The journey to
the volcano in a battered minibus takes around 5 minutes. The
informative guides speak various languages, you get a basic
introduction, and there's just time to walk a little
way down the path into the crater, struggle back up
(it's steep and at high altitude) and take some photos before
you head back to the Mitad del Mundo. The crater rim has
virtually no shade, and no facilities other than a somewhat random
souvenir stall, so take hat, water and sunscreen.
botanical information about the reserve and its vegetation is available
on the extended
tours that Calima Tours sometimes
also offer with a guided walk looking at medicinal
plants and orchids, though you may have to arrange this in advance.
Botanists or tourists with more time can stay the night in
the crater, camping, at basic cabins or in a hostal.
to Pululahua Geobotanic Reserve (usually only charged if you are
actually going into the reserve, not just taking a few photos from the
viewpoint) is $5 for non-resident non-latinos.
to Pululahua on public transport:
Buses from Quito to
Calacalí pass the turn off to the Ventanillas
Mirador (viewpoint) which is a 30 minute uphill walk from the main road
(unless you can hitch a lift, more likely at weekends). Or
take a taxi from the Mitad del Mundo for about $6 return.
From the Mirador the trail down to the crater floor takes
another half an hour, and about an hour back up. Remember
that you are at altitude here, uphill is a hard slog, especially in the
hot sun. The second entrance to the reserve is up the turnoff
kilometres further along the main road leading to the Moraspungo
guardpost, from where a track winds 8km down to the bottom of the
Spanish & other Vocabulary for visiting Pululahua
Pululahua: cloud of water, in the Quichua language
Neblina: fog or mist
Destinations: Pululahua Volcano Crater & Geobotanical Reserve
The vast crater of Volcano Pululahua, the only inhabitated &
caldera in the world,
contains cloudforest, orchids and fertile
farmland in a microclimate where it almost never rains.
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
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