How to deal with the altitude
The Quilotoa crater is at 3914m, the village of Chugchilan at 3200m, and Isinlivi at 2930m. When coming from low altitude areas, make sure you give yourself enough time to adjust to the altitude before you set off to the higher altitude areas of the Quilotoa Loop. Isinlivi is at similar altitude as Quito and is therefore a perfect spot to acclimatize for a couple of days before hiking the loop and visiting the highest point in Quilotoa.
Altitude sickness happens most often when people who are not used to high altitudes go too quickly from lower altitudes to altitudes of 2400m or higher. You may get a headache when you drive over a high mountain pass, hike to a high altitude or arrive at one of the trekking lodges on the Quilotoa Loop. Mild altitude sickness is quite common and fitness level doesn’t play a role. It can happen to anyone!
If your altitude sickness is just mild, it’s best to keep hydrated, eat only light meals and rest. It’s best to spend an extra night at same altitude, before travelling to higher altitude areas. The air is thinner high up in the mountains, and your body has to get used to that. You’ll need to breathe faster and rest more. As you get used to the altitude, the symptoms will go away.
A headache is common, and sometimes you can have more severe symptoms, such as not feeling like eating, feeling sick to your stomach (you may vomit), feeling weak and tired, not sleeping well, and feeling dizzy. Some people say it feels a bit like a hangover. The best treatment is to rest and spend another night at the same altitude. Your body has to get used to the altitude. Stay another night, and rest. Limit walking or heavy activity. Drink plenty of water, but do not drink alcohol. Do not continue to a higher altitude, until your symptoms go away – this may take from 12 hours up to 2 to 3 days. If your altitude sickness is severe, the only treatment is to go to a lower altitude and leave the mountains.
Altitude can affect your lungs and brain. When this happens, symptoms include being confused, not being able to walk straight, feeling faint, and having blue or gray lips or fingernails. On the Quilotoa Loop, this hardly ever happens with tourists, but if it does, it is important to inform staff at your accommodation and get to a doctor immediately, because it can be dangerous. If you see someone with severe altitude sickness symptoms such as being confused, ask help and never leave this person alone.
If you have a lung problem, heart problems, or other disease, seek medical advice before arriving.