Ecuador: Top 6 Things To Do in Quito
January 1, 1970
by Vibeke Johannessen
Top 6 Things To Do in Quito
Quito is the capital of Ecuador, located on the equator in South America. Imagine standing on the world’s highest point of the equato! Quito is 2,850 meters (9,350 ft) above sea level. This city has a lot to give, everything from UNESCO heritage sites to colorful textile markets.
After living here for almost two years I have put together the top 6 things to do in Quito:
Take the Teleferiqo
Enjoy the fresh air on an altitude of 4000 meters! If you take the cable cart “Teleferiqo” in the morning from 9 am you will most likely get an amazing view of the whole city, including several volcanoes.
You can also do the hike up to the volcano Ruco Pichincha with an altitude of almost 4700 meters. Make sure you walk with a guide so you don’t get lost! Don’t forget to dress for the hike, you need good shoes, warm clothes, sunglasses and don’t forget to you cover yourself with sunscreen. The sun is incredibly strong in the middle of the world. Entry is $8 to take the cable cart. You also need to bring a valid ID.
Quick tip: Hold on to your ticket while you are up there. You will need it to get on the cart back down.
If you are lucky you will be able to spot beautiful wildlife like the bird Curiquingue.
Visit the UNESCO Heritage listed Old Town
Experience outstanding Colonial churches, museums and monuments in the Old Town in Quito. Most of the places are within a walking distance. You can start with La Basílica del Voto Nacional, where you can climb to the top and enjoy the beautiful Basílica and the view of the rest of the old town. Entry for the churches in Old Town may vary from $0 to $5.
A short 10 minute walking distance from Basílica you can see Carondelet Palace (the Presidential Palace) and if you go there on a Monday morning 11am you can see the change of guards. Close to the Palace is the most magnificent church you will see in Quito; Iglesia la Compañia de Jesus. The Church has a very interesting history and is made out of volcanic stone. If you look south you will see the Virgen del Panecillo, it is up on a hill which you can even walk to or get by taxi. Later, the same day I recommend moving on to the very picturesque area in old town called La Ronda. La Ronda is safe and has many cozy cafes and restaurants. If you are lucky, you might see a traditional show while you eat.
Stand with one feet on each hemisphere
You simply haven’t been to Quito if you haven’t standed with one foot on the northern hemisphere and the other on the south hemisphere. About 45 minutes north of the city center is the Middle of the world monument (Mitad Del Mundo). Entry to the monument is $3. Around the monument you can find small souvenir shops, traditional food and also two lamas you can take selfies with! If you are there on a weekend it is traditional shows.
Do your souvenir shopping at Mercado Artesanal
Looking for colourful souvenirs? Mercado Artesanal is the place! If you don’t have extra time to visit the huge handcraft market in Otavalo, Mercado Artesanal is the best alternative. Mercado Artesanal is placed in La Mariscal area. It is a cheaper alternative than Otavalo, and you will find most of the same things. Here you get a chance use your haggling skills. You can get some really good and unique deals, everything from colourful shoes, bags, scarfs and jewelry.
Enjoy La Carolina park with locals on a Sunday
La Carolina is the most lively place you can be on a Sunday. Families, musicians and sport enthusiasts enjoy everything this park have to give for free. You can see lots of food stands, playgrounds and even an abandoned airplane! If you are not able to be there on a Sunday, any day is good as well. La Carolina was renovated in beginning of 2016 and is very safe to walk around even late at night.
Eat dinner at Café Mosaico
This beautiful café is placed in the Old Town and is known for its beautiful view of Panecillo. If you are travelling with your pet, feel free to bring it, they can also get their own meal.
Top tips travelling in Quito
- ALWAYS bring a warm rain jacket wherever you go. It is not four seasons in Quito, however the weather can change rapidly from 25 degrees clear sky to 10 degrees and pouring rain. Locals describe Quito’s weather as a moody woman.
- Always have toilet paper or tissues in your pocket. Many bathrooms doesn’t have toilet paper or you would have to pay for it.
- It’s better to have a lot of coins than only a credit card or notes. The smaller the better. Many places in Ecuador don’t accept higher notes than $20. Everything will be a lot easier. Museums, Teleferiqo, transport, taxis and tips are expected to be paid with coins. If you take a short distance taxi and pay with notes, don’t expect to get the change back.
- Be aware of your belongings. It’s nothing worse than ruining your holiday by losing your camera or mobile. Quito have gangs known to trick you and steal your valuables. Even locals get robbed. Don’t show your smart phone anywhere in public. If you need to send a text or call someone, you should walk in to a restaurant or to a place with no crowd. You should not have valuables visible at all, not even in your back pocket. Be extra careful on public transport and in the old town. If you have to bring your phone and camera, I recommend using a fanny pack or a flat purse to have under your clothes.
- Practice Spanish before you go and/or bring a small tourist guide with some sentences. Taxi and bus drivers will not speak any English. You can have a hard time if you don’t know the most used words related to travelling, ordering food and directions. If you use google translate on your mobile phone every time you need something translated, don’t be surprised if someone snap it from you as you hold it. This is not recommended.
- Be careful in the traffic. Even though Quito is not the biggest city in the world. The drivers are crazy. Not many tourists decide to drive in Quito and I completely understand why, many drivers change line unexpectedly and don’t follow rules. If you are a pedestrian be prepared to wait a while to cross the street. Driver has first priority in this city unfortunately.
More time? Visit surrounding areas
It’s recommended to stay at least three days in Quito. If you have more time you can visit surrounding areas such as one of the tallest volcanoes in the world Cotopaxi, and the incredible Laguna de Quilotoa, Otavalo market and the cloud forest Mindo.