Not far from the Mitad del Mundo is one of only two inhabited calderas in the world, the Pululahua Crater. Yes, you read that correctly. People live inside a volcanic crater. About 40 families in fact. They are mainly farmers who grow corn and quinoa and raise cattle. But don’t be concerned. The volcano was last active over 2000 years ago!
Land near the Pululahua Crater was declared a botanical reserve by the Ecuadorian government back in the 1970s in part to protect the wide variety of species that live on the mountain slopes in the bosque nublado or cloud forest. Mammals like squirrels (rare in South America), rabbits, and foxes and birds like the beautiful Green-tailed Trainbearer make this their home.
Most people visit the reserve via the visitor’s center just shy of the crater rim. There it is possible to take photos down below but cross your fingers for a clear day. The crater is often filled with clouds that provide the moisture that create the cloud forests that survive on the steep mountain slopes. A couple of restaurants can be found nearby. This is our experience with the crater – a short stop for photos and a lunch after visiting Mitad del Mundo.
But for additional adventure, there is a poorly maintained hiking trail down to the crater floor. Or you can arrive via car on a road a little north of the entrance to the visitor’s center. Once you have arrived, you can stay the night at one of the hospedajes like the Pululahua Hostel or have a simple meal in one of the small restaurants. Horseback riding, mountain biking, and bird watching seem to be the most popular pursuits. We highly recommend making reservations before showing up. Small communities in Ecuador are often not prepared to greet unexpected tourists without warning.
If you have experience with an overnight stay in the Pululahua Crater, please let us know in the comments below!