The question of things to do in Quito is one that many travelers find themselves asking as they arrive in the capital city of Ecuador. A city that is bustling with life and people who welcome you as an old friend on your first meeting, Quito is the crown of Ecuador. Ensuring that you make the most of the city streets is a must for every traveler. Find below a definitive list of the best of things to do in Quito.
Remember: Quito is very high in altitude, take it easy the first few days that you are there: drink lots of water and get plenty of rest.
What better way is there to adjust to the altitude in Quito- while taking in all of the sights- is there except kicking back and relaxing on a Quito tour bus. Take a day tour for the sights through the day, or a night tour for a panoramic view of the whole city. During the night tour you will stop off to visit the wonderful ‘La Ronda’, a street of colonial houses, transformed into art workshops, cafés, and shops for you to enjoy. Through the day you can cover more ground, whether you choose day, night or both, this is the best way to see Quito and an excellent introduction to the city.
Buckle into one of the highest and longest cable cars on the planet. The teleferico (or Teleferiqo- so named for Quito) will take you all the way up to the base of the clouds. From here, you can wander about and enjoy the view, make use of the cafés that sit atop the mountain, or you can take on the 10km walk to the top of Pichincha. Pichincha is a volcano that guards the city of Quito, and is very historically important for the city. It is a truly magical spot that many hikers take on. Find out more about Pichincha and the hike to the top.
Tip: The earlier you visit, the better. Clouds form around 2pm and while atmospheric, it’s never nice to get stuck in a storm!
Museums in general can be a little hit and miss. Quito has many hit museums, however one in particular stands out: the National Museum of Ecuador which holds art, history and sculptures. All of these features are laid out in a comprehensive manner that allows the viewer to amble through the history of Ecuador, before observing art through the ages on the second floor. Definitely one for a rainy day.
You would be doing yourself a disservice if you were to visit Ecuador and not spend time at the country’s namesake; the equatorial line that runs through the country. There is a monument here, and two seperate museums which give you an informative and interactive insight into the center of the world. You can also get your passport stamped while you’re there, so don’t forget it!
Tip: a taxi will take around 20 minutes from the old town, whereas a bus will take around 2 hours with a change in Carcelen Norte. The bus is around 50c, the taxi $15. The choice is yours.
To credit it with it’s full name, the Basilica del voto Nacional. Truly, this is one of the most beautiful structures in the whole of Quito. It’s looming imposition crowns the old town of Quito as a tribute to the colonial architecture that surrounds you. It is possible to climb all the way to the top of the bell tower, from where you can take in Quito from the center of the spread of buildings, with mountains climbing either side of the banana shaped city. It’s one of the tallest buildings around, the view is spectacular, and it is the perfect challenge for those who are love to see a city from above. Of all the things to do in Quito, this is one that you should not miss.
Quilotoa is another great day trip in the reaches of Quito. A truly unforgettable lagoon located in the crater of a volcano. It has only exploded once in the past 1000 years, in 1280, and was one of the most explosive eruptions in that time. Take your time to wander the village, and then head down to the water. From here, you can rent a canoe or some of the bravest take a swim. If you do this though, make sure that you take a change of clothes down to the water edge with you. There’s also an abundance of traditional food in the village surrounding the lake (it’s the perfect spot to sample cuy), and a market as well. Find out how to get there!
Hot Tip: Take an Ecuador Hop tour to visit the barely known Toachi Canyon on the way, it’s beautiful and almost completely forgotten about by travelers. Perfect for those looking to get off the beaten track in Ecuador.
In echo of the Christ the Redeemer statue that stands tall over Río, so does Quito have El Panecillo (meaning little bread). El Panecillo is actually the name of the hill, and was previously the home of an Inca temple of the Sun God Inti. These days you can take a taxi up to the top of this hill and see this impressive statue of Madonna in all of its grandeur (note- Madonna the religious figure, not Madonna the pop icon of the 80s). It is possible to walk to the top, there are police stationed at various points along the walk, but robberies are still reported occasionally. Our advice is to take a cab, it should only cost around $2-$3.
About two hours out of Quito, there is a cloud forest. Step into the woods and enjoy the beautiful scenery, shrouded in mist. Whether you prefer to hike, bike, or canopy your way around, there is no shortage of things to keep you occupied. Just go for the day, or spend a few getting to know this beautiful spot. It’s possible to take a tour, but easy enough to do it yourself. Don’t miss out on this hidden gem.
Remember your bug spray! Mindo is basically a forest in a cloud, you will get bitten without it!
Quito boasts one of the best preserved sites of colonial architecture in all of South America; most of the buildings here have been standing since colonial times. While Quito was the Ecuadorian head of Inca power as the Spanish advanced an Inca high priest burned the city and its entire contents to the ground. The old town of Quito is now a UNESCO world heritage site, and a beautiful step back in time- having survived earthquakes, rain and shine, the colonial buildings and cobbled streets invite you back in history.
Take a day out of the capital and explore the one of the largest active volcanoes in the world. There are extraordinary views to be appreciated from almost anywhere in the national park, which has the same name as the volcano. In fact, on a clear day the enormous peak can be seen from as far as the capital. Hike up to where the rock turns to ice, and enjoy the immensely powerful feeling of being 5,000 meters above sea level. There is no public transport directly to Cotopaxi. The best, and safest, way is to take a tour from Quito.
There are some truly magical things to do in Quito, and just outside of the city. Get to know the capital of Ecuador on your trip around the country, it’s people, it’s food and its history will never disappoint you. A great way to get around the unmissable parts of Ecuador is by using the Ecuador Hop bus, which offers travelers exclusive discounts and advice on not only things to do in Quito, but the rest of Ecuador as well. If you’re looking for even more inspiration, then check out Find Local Trips, an independent tour comparison site.