Most of people start their loop in Quilotoa and then walk their way up to the north. I don´t get why. The beauty of the trek is to end up with the most grandiose part, the laguna itself. What a reward to discover it after a few hours (or a few days, depending) of hike! Trust me, start from the north.
One really good thing about this trek is its flexibility. There is no official route to follow, the appelation “Quilotoa loop” covers more than 200km around the Quilotoa Lake. So you can decide which parts you want to explore. Also, the distance to cover between each village is about around 15km, with 600m elevation during the day, which is reasonnable. And it´s always possible to find an alternative motorized way to get to the next village (or even to end it and go back to town) if you are too tired from the previous day´s effort.
You can spend from a day to 2 weeks hiking around the Quilotoa Loop, depending on your condition and your schedule. The segment between Chugchillan to Quilotoa -ending with the famous crater- is the most grandiose so make sure you don´t skip it (day 3 of the below itinerary)
Day 1: From Latacunga, – Insinlivi. Night in Insinlivi
Day 2: Hike Insinlivi – Chugchilan. Night in Chugchilan
Day 3: Hike Chugchillan – Quilotoa. Night in Quilotoa
Day 4: Hike down (and up!) the laguna in early morning, off the crowds. Have lunch and head off to Tigua trnasport to take a look at the paintings, before returning to Latacunga.
Have more time?
You can spend an extra night in Chugchilan or Insinlivi, both are good base for daily hikes. If you are around on Monday, don´t miss the Guantualo animal market (read more about it here).
The 16km between Quilotoa and Tigua offer fantastic views and you could fit it with an extra day. However, the path is tricky to find so I would highly recommend you hire a guide for that day if you wish to trek that part (ask at your hotel at least one night before how to arrange that). Mama Hilda Hostel in chugchilan.