The Ecuadorian people are proud to say that their country has four worlds in one: the region of the Amazon rainforest, the Andes, the coast and Galapagos. And the capital, Quito, in the middle of the Andes, is the starting point for exploring this incredible country. And here, I’ll show you 10 best things to do in Quito, Ecuador.
Quito was a nice surprise for me, I was delighted with the richly preserved historic center, beautiful churches and cathedrals, the emerald-colored lagoons and plenty of volcanoes. But something that made me passionate was the kindness of the Ecuadorian people, which is reflected in his treatment with foreigners.
10 Best things to do in Quito, Ecuador
1) Historic center of Quito
It’s the best-preserved Historic Centers in the Americas. More than 5,000 buildings preserved including, houses, mansions, palaces and churches. And more than a hundred of these buildings are listed as a World Heritage Site. The colorful and well-preserved houses are a beautiful contrast to the nature of the Andes and its volcanoes.
I took a afternoon to get around the historic center of Quito and was a short time, I have to confess. It was a little frustrated because you need almost one full day to explore this beautiful area of the city. And I certainly would like to come back soon.
2) Basílica del Voto Nacional
The Basílica del Voto Nacional is the most incredible building in Quito. A huge neo-Gothic church – some people compare it to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris – is the largest in the Americas in neo-Gothic style.
The church began to be built in 1892 and was finished in 1979, a long 87-year process that ended with the donation from the Ecuadorian people, which included everything, from money to stones blocks.
The Basílica del Voto Nacional is beautiful and there is no doubt about it – but most incredible is the view from the top of the central tower. The entrance costs just 2 dollars. The first stage is by elevator, at this floor there is a viewpoint, it’s nice, but the best view is also the most difficult to get.
We walk through a small door and then cross the length of the basilica on a wooden walkway between the ceiling of the nave and the roof and ends with a near-vertical ladder.
Do you think it’s over? Not! The worst part is ahead!. A narrow ladder on the outside of the basilica, more than 80 meters high and finally we arrived at Torre del Condor. From this point we have an amazing view from the city.
It’s dangerous, I have no doubts, if you are afraid of heights, stay at the first viewpoint. Never take children and be very careful. But in the end of the day, it’s worth it!
3) Churches and more churches
Walking through the historic center of Quito you’ll find practically one church on every corner. It’s not an exaggeration, this area of the city has more than 60 churches, chapels, monasteries and convents. All these heritage comes from the colonial period and reflect a culture and the architecture of that time.
For me, the highlight is the Basílica del Voto Nacional, which I already mentioned above, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito, the Convento del San Agustín, Convento del Santo Domingo de Guzmán and Convento de San Francisco.
The Cotopaxi Volcano is the most visited in Ecuador and it’s the third largest active volcano in the world. That’s right, an active volcano!
Cotopaxi is located in the Cotopaxi National Park, approximately 60 km from Quito and its summit is 5,897 meters above sea level. I climbed Cotopaxi and reached 4,870 meters and it was a once in a lifetime experience.
But if you want a more radical adventure, it is possible to stay overnight at Refúgio Jose Rivas in the middle of the mountain, before venturing to the summit early morning and get the most extraordinary experience in a lifetime.
The Quilotoa Volcano is 3,914 meters high and is 180 kilometers away from Quito. It’s considered inactive, last explosion was more than 800 years ago, that was when the famous emerald lake came out. This lake is the highlight of the visit, it is possible to visit the caldera from different points and go down there, of course.
The Pululahua volcano is another active volcano around Quito. But what makes this volcano even more special, is because the place is home to a hundred people. Yes, it is an active volcano and people lives there.
These people lives in the small community of San Isidro, created before the crater was declared active and the place became a protected area. Even though the volcano was active, the last eruption took place some 2,300 years ago.
The Pululahua volcano is next to Ciudad de la mitad del Mundo and you can combine the visit in both places.
7) Ciudad de la mitad del mundo y el Ecuador
The history of the Equator and the half of the world monument begins in 1736 when Ecuador – which at that time was part of the Spanish Empire – received a group of French researchers with one mission: to prove the shape of the planet. And that point in South America, represent latitude 0 ° 0’0 ″. And the research took 8 years, until finally they proved that half the world was in that territory.
Ok, but this is not the end. Years later with new technologies they discovered that the middle of the world is not exactly where the famous yellow line was painted, but 200 meters away, where the Intiñán Museum is located.
But you can pretend that the yellow line is correct place and taking a traditional photo with one foot in each hemisphere. Nobody will judge you.
8) Mirador de la Virgen del Panecillo
El Mirador de la Virgen del Panecillo is a lookout at the top of Cerro del Panecillo, where is the statue of the Virgin who blesses Quito. From up there, you can have a panoramic view of the entire city in 360 degrees.
Do not try to climb by walk, the viewpoint is 3,000 meters above sea level and in Quito we suffer a lot from the effects of altitude. Take a taxi or Uber, it is very cheap in Quito.
9) Take the cable car to the Rucu Pichincha volcano
Take a ride on the Quito’s Cable Car and climb up to 4,000 meters above sea to the viewpoint of the Rucu Pichincha volcano in the middle of the Andes. The trip is fast, it’s just around 10 minutes, open your eyes to see snowy peaks and active volcanoes around Quito.
If you enjoy the city view is not enough for you, take one of the tracks towards the Rucu Pichincha volcano, another active volcano around Quito. Yes, there are plenty of active volcanoes around Quito.
The last eruption took place in 1999 and left Quito completely covered by ash and dusty for weeks. The top of the volcano is 4,696 meters away and if you are prepared for the effects of altitude, you can get there!
The Chimborazo Volcano is the highest volcano in Ecuador, it reaches 6,310 meters above sea level. Because of its height, climbing the Chimborazo is a task that requires a lot of physical preparation and adequate equipment. But it is possible to have an experience on the volcano without being a professional climber.
Chimborazo is on the way to Riobamba, a city 180 km south of Quito. Even though not the highest mountain in the world compared to sea level, that’s the point on the surface furthest from the center of the Earth, which is where the Ciudad de la mitad del mundo y el ecuador. Does it make sense to you?
Where to stay in Quito
There are 3 most recommended zones to stay in Quito: Historic Center, La Mariscal and Naciones Unidas.
The offer of hotels is very good, I love the Hotel Patio Andaluz. It’s a beautiful old mansion in one of the best areas of the historic center.
Other options in this zone is the Hotel El Relicario Del Carmen and the fantastic Plaza Grande Hotel. Quito has great accommodation for all budgets, like the Hotel Colonial San Agustin, which was recommended by several people.
La Mariscal is the busiest neighborhood in Quito with coolest bars and restaurants. The hotels here are newer and more modern, but you can find friendly hostels or boutique hotels in historic mansions.
I stayed in this zone, at the Hotel Rio Amazonas and loved. The room was huge and comfortable, a nice bed and a great view of the city. I traveled with a friend and we got a room with two huge beds and a lounge with a sofa and TV. The room cost US$ 45 per day. An excellent deal. The hotel staff were also very attentive and helpful.
Other recommended hotels in the same zone is the Nu House Boutique Hotel, right on Plaza Foch. Take a look at Park Inn by Radisson Quito, the Boutique Hotel Casa Foch they have a great value for money. Do you need one more option? I recommend Casa Joaquin Boutique Hotel, which follows the same style as Casa Foch.
United Nations and La Carolina:
The area around Avenida Naciones Unidas and Parque La Carolina is another place with many good options. That’s the modern neighborhood of Quito and has brand new hotels like the Best Western CPlaza Hotel and the Sheraton Quito.
Some important tips from Ecuador
Best time to visit Ecuador
At any time of the year. But the rainy season runs from December to May and the driest season runs from June to September. The higher cities, like Quito, are very cold, while on the coast it is tropical heat. Bring your coats and swimsuits, as well.
Ecuador’s official currency is American Dollar. It is important to say that Ecuador is a cheap country with great value for money for all travelers.
Getting around Quito
The best way to get around Quito is by taxi or Uber, which has a great price. For example, a trip from La Mariscal to the Historic Center will cost just US$ 3.