Quito is the capital of Ecuador and its cultural and economic center. Located high up in the Andes, the city sits at an elevation of over nine-thousand feet. Quito’s historic Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest historic center in South America. What makes Quito unusual is the fact that the city has been built exactly on the equator and so lies within two distinct hemispheres. Visit the Monument of the Equator in the suburbs of the city and you’ll be able to stand with one foot either side of the equatorial line. Around the monument, there’s the Ciudad Mitad Del Mundo – Middle World City – where there are cafes, restaurants, a planetarium and a museum.
Things To Do In Quito
To explore Quito, head to the pedestrianized Calle La Rambla. It’s a traffic-free street that winds through the historic center, several plazas and is lined with cafes, bars and restaurants. You’ll come across the Plaza San Francisco with its ornate, 15th century, twin-towered church, San Francisco Church which is full of religious sculpture and paintings. In the Plaza Grande is the Carondelet Palace, a stunning building that houses the country’s government. Take a stroll through Parque La Carolina the city’s central park and an enormous green space amid the bustle of Quito’s urbanity.
To catch some great views of the city, board the TeleferiQo an aerial tramway that rises above Quito to over three-thousand feet. It will literally take your breath away. If you have enough vacation time, plan visits to some of the fifty-plus museums in Quito and you’ll be able to find out more about the Ecuadorian people and their fascinating history.
Where To Eat & Drink In Quito
If you’re passing through Quito’s historic district, try the Octava de Corpus. It’s one of the city’s best fine dining spots. The restaurant offers high quality fusion cuisine and has a wine cellar with over two-hundred different types of wines. For some traditional, no frills, Ecuadorian food go to the Cafe Dios No Muere where you can fill up on tasty fried yucca, typical sudados and great estofado.
For a buzzing night out, go to the Plaza Foch. It’s an iconic district in Quito where you’ll find all types of bars, clubs, and micro-breweries.
Where To Stay In Quito
Accommodation is relatively economical in Quito and if you’re traveling on a budget, you won’t go far wrong with either of these two great hostels. The Hostel Revolution is a laid back and very affordable hostel in Quito that’s close to the La Mariscal area commonly called the gringo area where there are plenty of restaurants and bars. The hostel looks after their guests really well and provides free WIFI, a free breakfast, city maps, and a free city tour if you want one. The Hostel Selina is an ultra-comfortable hostel with an up-to-date artsy design with all the amenities you could ask for. It’s ideal for backpackers or adventurous explorers who want somewhere comfortable but don’t want to pay a fortune.
Other Places To Visit Around Quito
Otavalo Market is South America’s largest open market and a must do if you want to grab some Instagram-worthy photos of an amazingly colorful location while you’re in Ecuador. Stroll through the humdrum of the stalls and you’ll find handmade ponchos, blankets woven from Alpaca wool, hats, bags, jewelry, and all sorts of handcrafted goods that make perfect gifts or souvenirs.
Otavalo is around sixty kilometers from Quito and while the market is held every day, Saturdays are when the most local craftsmen are there. The market is open from seven in the morning until six in the evening and as there’s so much to see, it’s well worth making a day of it.
2. Laguna Quilotoa
Laguna Quilotoa or Lake Quilotoa is an accumulation of water inside an extinct volcanic crater four thousand meters up in the Andes mountains. The lake, which is almost three kilometers wide, has stunning turquoise-blue water and is surrounded by the dark and jagged edges of the caldera. It is incredibly scenic and quite probably one of the most spectacular places on Earth. That’s a fact that makes it one of the most visited places in Ecuador. Take the three hour trip from Quito to Quilotoa, hike up the side of the volcano and you’ll begin to understand why. It’s an incredible sight. Go on an organised tour and you’ll have a guide to show you the way and be able to kayak across the lake when you reach the top.
3. Cotopaxi Volcano
If volcano tourism is your thing, you won’t want to miss visiting Cotopaxi when you’re in Ecuador. Cotopaxi is an active volcano fifty kilometers from Quito. There are plenty of tour agencies in Quito that will offer you a three day- two night hiking adventure to go up Cotopaxi, but you’ll need to be prepared to cope with the high altitude. It can induce altitude sickness which is not pleasant. Hiking this mountain is a mind-blowing experience that you will never forget and if you want, on the way back, you will have the opportunity to cycle down the volcano. That’s wild.