The area around Lagunas de Mojanda is one of the most popular spots for hiking in the Northern Andes. The lakes are located 17 kilometers (10.5 mi) from Otavalo and are set in high pĂˇramo grassland at an altitude of about 3,500 meters (11,482 ft). A taxi up to the lake from Otavalo costs about $15. Expect to pay another $7-10 per hour if you want the taxi to wait. If you come hiking up here, make sure you take some warm clothes and a windproof jacketâ€“the altitude and the exposure make it a lot colder than sheltered Otavalo.
The cobbled road between the lake and the town is itself a pleasant walkâ€“it has great views of the valley and passes through several little villages. Thereâ€™s no transportation up there, so if you walk, you should order a taxi to pick you up at the top (the walk takes five to seven hours with breaks), or be prepared to walk back as well. Alternatively, take a taxi to the top and walk back down. It's best to go in a group; some parts are isolated and there have been reports of robberies on the route.
There are two main places to stay along this road. On the right hand side, 3 kilometers (1.86 mi) from Otavalo, is the top-end hotel Casa Mojanda. About 1 kilometer (0.6 mi) further on, on the left, is La Luna, which is more geared to backpackers. Both hotels have great views into the valley. See Lodging Around Otavalo for more information.
Once you reach the lake, there are numerous possibilities for hiking. A good hike (well, half hike, half scramble) is from the lakeside (close to where the road stops) up to the top of Fuya Fuya, an extinct volcanoâ€“at 4260 meters (13,976 ft), itâ€™s the highest point around the lake, and, on a clear day, the views from the top are stunning.
A shorter walk is to the top of the first hill on the left, as you face the lake from the parking area. Youâ€™ll see the trail leading upwards from the lakeside. The climb is steep and takes between 20 to 30 minutes to reach the highest point. From the top, you can make your way along the ridge. Take one of the paths down the hill to the lakeside, from where you can walk back to the parking area.
Although there is a trail around the lake, hiking it in a single day is almost impossibleâ€“unless you run. Most people simply walk along the trail for a couple of hours then backtrack. There are also several circular routes that start off on the lakeside trail then bend into the mountainsâ€“these can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a full day. Both of the hotels mentioned above can suggest good walking routes and arrange tours, or enquire at one of the tour agencies in Otavalo.