But Really, Are There Things to Do in Quito, Ecuador?
Let me Guess:
Quito, Ecuador is not on the top of your bucket list and you have no idea if there are things to do in Quito, Ecuador. Am I right? Okay, I’m not a mind reader but if I was a betting woman, I would say that you are stopping over in Quito before you head to the Galapagos Islands.
Not to Worry Though:
Because even though this enchanting city may not be at the very top of your travel to-do list, it really should be. During my brief visit to this historic capital (added bonus they use the US Dollar), I was astonished to discover that this city was able to
both bewitch my heart and capture my soul.
Let’s take a look at all the not so badass things to do and see in Quito, Ecuador; a picturesque city that is situated along the stunning backdrop that is the Andes Mountains
Bring pants and sweatshirts because the altitude makes the city pretty cold at night, even though it’s on the Equator. Yup, I’ll never make that mistake again.
***Thinking of visiting Peru while you’re in Ecuador? Then make sure you avoid these Peru travel mistakes.
The List: How to Spend a Day in Quito, Ecuador
What Does This Even Mean?
This building is actually an art gallery that is dedicated to the peoples of Latin America. Throughout this gallery, you will find some of the finest works of painter, Oswaldo Guayasamin.
But What’s The Big Deal?
The importance of these paintings lies in their ability to capture the pain and hope of an entire generation of indigenous people. These feelings are embodied in a way that I have never seen before and in a way that words simply cannot express.
It Gets Better:
The building itself is located in the Bellavista and overlooks the entire city of Quito. Plus, this gallery is located just a few blocks away from the Museo Guayasamín and pays homage to the suffering of Latin America’s indigenous poor and to the eternal hope for a better future.
Bring a kleenex. The emotions this art evokes are unreal and unlock feelings you didn’t even know you had (Best and most moving part of my time spent in Quito, Ecuador).
One More Thing:
Tours of the gallery are offered in English, French, and Spanish. These tours are also included in the price of admission ($8 adult) and are an amazing way to enhance your understanding of the art displayed here (they leave upon request, while the museum is open, from 10 am – 5:00 pm, Tuesday – Sunday).
2. Take Pichincha Teleférico (Instagram Baller Status is a go)
Looking for Spectacular, jaw-dropping views of Quito, Ecuador?
Look no further than the Teleferiqo vantage point. Not only do you get insane views of the city, but you get the added bonus of the Andes Mountains in the background too.
While ascending the mountains here, you will feel as though you are entering an entirely different world/. In reality, though, you are only a short cab ride away from the center of Quito.
Truth Be Told:
It’s a truly transformative, worthwhile journey. Plus, all you have to do to get here is hop aboard the sky tram that takes passengers on a 2.5km ride (10 minutes) up the Volcán Pichincha to the top of Cruz Loma (You can also take a cab but that’s lame compared to the sky tram. And of course, that’s what I did).
The Best is Yet to Come:
Once at the top, you can hike to the summit of Rucu Pichincha (4680m). I’m not a hiker so I passed on that but for the fitter members of the audience, it’s about a three-hour hike.
The hike can be tricky so ask a park ranger about safety concerns before attempting this hike.
If you’re lazy like me, you can also hire horses ($10 per hour) that are about 500m or from the upper station. Do you get lost easily like me? No worries, just follow signs to ‘paseos a caballo’.
I only had twenty-four hours in Quito, That’s I beelined it here in the morning when the views are at their best. I went by taxi, which cost about $5 from the center of Quito.
If you’re looking for the national park, it is open between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm Monday through Friday (open until 8:00 pm on Saturday and Sunda) and entry costs $8.50 (I went a few years ago so the price may have gone up).
I didn’t get the experience that I wanted, but I was ecstatic that I took some time out to enjoy this scenic and insanely beautiful place. Yup, makes the views in New York look like total crap.
If you look around Quito, you’ll notice that there is a huge ass statue of a virgin atop Quito El Panecillo. This statue of a winged virgin is a symbol of the city and is one of the best places to get an epic view of the city.
I do NOT recommend walking there, especially if you are an avid solo traveler like me. Instead, stay say, man up, and take a taxi. Ain’t nobody got time for people stealing their belongings.
3. La Mitad del Mundo
AKA, the equator, or the invisible line that runs across the globe and separates the world into the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
While the line itself is imaginary, the El Reloj Solar Quitsato monument is located here and was designed to represent the equator and its impact on scientific advancement (Equator pride, woot).
What Sucks is That:
Because this area has become a popular tourist destination, everyone wants those dollar dollar bills y’all. Therefore, a series of shops, food stalls, and museums have all sprung up around the monument, like gross weeds that irritate the crap out of you.
This Means That:
Hawkers with various indigenous wares will get in your face and demand that you buy whatever they are selling.
My Tried and True Travel Policy:
I maintain a,” get in, get out” mentality where you basically stop, take your pictures, and bounce. But above all, do NOT look them in the eye. Keep your head down so that they don’t see you and immediately see dollar signs.
But It Gets Better-ish:
The one place that you might want to visit here is the Equatorial museum. Yes, it is touristy, with “shrunken heads of the Amazon” on display (Like really? Come on. I feel like this would only appeal to Jeffrey Dommer).
In Fairness Though:
There were some cool scientific experiments that the tours guides demonstrated here, that will only occur along the Equator itself (Yup, my inner science nerd screamed with delight when I saw this).
My guide proved that there is resistance on the equator line by having me hold my thumb and forefinger together in the shape of an “O”. When I wasn’t on the equator, it was hard for him to pull them apart. But on the equator, he pulled my fingers apart with ease. See, magic!
Don’t Forget Your Souvenir:
You can also get an equatorial stamp, in your passport, to commemorate your visit, and I mean, come on, who doesn’t want more stamps in their passport? Exactly, the more stamps the better.
4. Old Town
Make sure you end your day by walking along la Ronda and through the Old Town of Quito. This area is basically the architectural and historical crown jewel of the entire city.
Everywhere you turn, the streets are lined with colonial monuments and architectural wonders that reflect the historic occupation of this city by the Spanish.
Look Forward to:
Locals steadily meandering through a series of restored, cobble stone blocks, that are lined with 17th-century facades, picturesque plazas, and magnificent art-filled churches.
After marveling at such historical beauty, wander towards the ‘gringolandia’ of the Mariscal.
An area in the Old Town that is packed with local eateries (Get the empanadas and canelazo, which is a traditional, warm cinnamon drink). Also stick around for some vivacious nightlife, and bands that play authentic, Ecuadorian music until the wee hours of the morning, or til you pass out at 10:00 pm like this old fart right here.
One More Thing:
Don’t miss La Plaza Grande or the Plaza de Independencia. Right smack dab in the center of Quito, this plaza is the epicenter of all activity in Old Town Quito. Yes, it’s gorgeous. Yes, you’ll find the presidential palace and a monument to Ecuadorian independence here (hence the name). And yes, it’s hella Instagram worthy. So yeah, don’t miss it.
***Naturally there are like thirty churches throughout the old town. So if you’re short on time, I would narrow it down and see La Basilica and La Compania de Jesus.
Historic Architecture Not Your Thing?
That’s cool. If you’re more into a neighborhood with a more hipster vibe them definitely head over to La Florista. This Quito neighborhood is packed with cool coffee shops, galleries, and enchanting graffiti that will make you feel like you’re worlds away from Old Town Quito.
Are You a Bohemian in Training?
If you like a great view, a well-kept/gorgeous church like the Church of Guapulo, then you’ll love this area. This quaint, historic neighborhood has an artistic, Bohemian vibe that is exemplified best by the Pizzeria Ananke gallery. It’s also one of the oldest districts in Quito so you’ll kind of feel like you’re in a quaint little Andes town.
5. Museo Nacional
Now, if you have done ALL that in one day then you are some sort of Harry Potter level sorcerer and I need to commend you because that’s a lot for a day.
If you need more things to do in Quito, Ecuador then I highly recommend the Museo Nacional.
The Truth Is:
I was SUPER bummed that I didn’t have time to visit, but I heard wonderful things about this museum from my friend Maria who lives in Quito
The Museo Nacional is actually located in the circular, glass-plated, landmark building known as Casa de la Cultura Ecuadorian.
What’s the Big Deal?
This museum houses one of the country’s largest collections of Ecuadorian art, with works that date as far back as pre-Hispanic times (yeah, that’s pretty damn old).
What Should You See?
Some highlights include a magnificent golden sun mask, ‘whistle bottles’ from the Chorrera culture, figures showing skull deformation practiced by the Machalilla culture, ceramic representations of tzantzas (shrunken heads), ceremonial stone chairs of the Manteños, and the Colonial Art Room.
Reading this list right now makes me want to book a flight so I can go back and check some of these things out. The Only problem is that sadly, my bank account won’t let me. Sigh, the problems of a travel blogger. LoL.
So There You Have It, Quito, Ecuador Points of Interest in the Tiniest of Nutshells
Okay, so obviously I’m not a local and even more obviously, I wasn’t in Quito, Ecuador for very long. So while this may not be the most mind-blowing and totally earth shattering post about Quito, Ecuador, a first-time visitor to Quito will definitely get a sense of what to see and do while he or she is there.
Just don’t write Quito off as a fun urban destination because this charming city and the friendly people who live there definitely defied my, admittedly low, expectations in every way possible.
No Seriously, even though I didn’t expect much from the city, it is still one of those places that I would love to return to and explore more.
Bonus Round and More Awesome Things to Do in Quito, Ecuador:
For anyone who stuck around to the end, serious kudos to you. You are the very definition of amazing. So as a reward to you, I wanna tell you about Cotopaxi National Park.
This park is located 31 miles outside of Quito and is totally worth a day trip if you have the time (on my future bucket list).
The park is home an active volcano, which feels enormous and is like 19,000 feet above sea level. Do yourself a favor though and book a tour. Yes you’ll have to pay a small fee to enter the park, but it’ll still be cheaper than going it alone.
Yup, You’re Welcome and Enjoy Ecuador!
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