Pululahua Volcano
& Geobotanical Reserve
Tourists visiting the crater of Pululahua Volcano in Ecuador
View inside the huge crater of Pululahua Volcano
Tourist souvenirs at Pululahua Volcano, Ecuador
Pululahua´s huge crater containing fields, houses and roads
Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve entrance sign
Mitad del Mundo Equator Complex in Ecuador

Pululahua Volcano
is a geobotanical reserve.
The huge, fertile volcanic
crater is home to small agricultural communities.

Pululahua Volcano & Geobotanical Reserve -  Ecuador Destinations

Pululahua 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 world.  The lava dome in the middle rises around 500 metres above the crater floor and is covered in lush cloudforest vegetation.
Pululahua is one of only 2 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.
Pululahua is Quichua for "Smoke of Water" or "Cloud of Water".  This 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. 
The unique microclimate of Pululahua is caused by the form of the volcanic crater and lava dome.  It supports cloudforests and many orchids 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.
Visiting 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.
More 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.  
Entrance 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.  
Getting 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 a few kilometres further along the main road leading to the Moraspungo guardpost, from where a track winds 8km down to the bottom of the crater of Pululahua Volcano.
Useful Spanish & other Vocabulary for visiting Pululahua Volcano, Ecuador:
Volcán: volcano
Pululahua: cloud of water, in the Quichua language
Neblina: fog or mist
Ecuador Destinations: Pululahua Volcano Crater & Geobotanical Reserve
The vast crater of Volcano Pululahua, the only inhabitated & cultivated volcanic 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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