Hey travelers! Thanks for checking out my little travel guide on Quito. My name is Daniel Mann and I’m a content designer at Facebook by day and a travel content creator by night. I live in the Bay Area in California.
I received my first passport in 2018 and the rest was history. I’ve always had this subtle curiosity to travel, but it kicked into high gear when I realized my friends had all been to other countries and I hadn’t really been outside of the United States (with the exception of Mexico and Canada).
Growing up in Michigan, I traveled freely across the border to Canada without a passport and while in college I went on a cruise to Mexico and the Grand Cayman Islands. Ecuador was a country on my list for quite some time. I hadn’t been very far below our southern border – I ventured into Central America this year and wanted to make it further south.
From what I had seen on Instagram and YouTube, Ecuador piqued my interest because I found out they had these amazing llamas and alpacas. I had heard it was a great place to start exploring South America. My travel partner decided that she wanted to go over Labor Day and wanted me to come with her. I didn’t require too much convincing to be honest!
My Weekend Getaway to Ecuador
We only spent a weekend in Ecuador, so we wanted to set appropriate expectations for ourselves. We stayed in Quito, so we went on a city tour and food tour on Friday in Quito. On Saturday, we visited Cotopaxi and Quilotoa Lake. The next day we visited Banos where we chased waterfalls and got to swing on the Insta-famous “Swing at the End of the World”.
Quito was a beautiful city to base ourselves in. It definitely feels like a main city. The city is diverse and has much to offer if you are into digging into culture. You can see the Spanish influence in much of the architecture. The area with the iconic Basilica del Voto Nacional felt like I was in Europe.
There are many wonderful destinations to visit in Ecuador and Quito (the capital) and is one of them! Culture and history is prominent in the capital, and that is something you will want to experience on your visit. It’s also a pretty central city in terms of getting to other places in Ecuador – a great place to base yourself for a little South American getaway in my opinion.
One of the best places I visited in Ecuador was Quilotoa Lake because I was able to support the local businesses by purchasing a handmade poncho. I also loved experiencing the beautiful views at the Quilotoa Crater and the aqua blue inside of it. Some of my favorite photos were taken there.
8 Best Things To Do in Quito
Quito is a city perched high in the Andes, so the landscape and setting is naturally dramatic. Old colonial buildings go hand-in-hand with modern architecture to give the city a unique atmosphere. Markets abound and the culinary scene is phenomenal. As you can already imagine, there is a lot to see and do if you base yourself in Quito, and here are my suggestions.
1. Check out the Basilica del Voto Nacional
This massive neo-Gothic church is one of the centrepieces of Quito. It was commissioned to be built in 1883 by Father Julio Matovelle who eventually got financial support from the Ecuadorian president. But it took a further nine years before construction finally started. Today, the basilica is full of history, spirit and architectural beauty – making it a must-visit in Quito.
2. Head to the Equator Line (Mitad del Mundo)
Walk into the middle of the world (equator line) located 26km north of Quito. This makes for a great afternoon trip to take some photos and say to your fellow travelers, and friends and family back home, that you have visited the equator. Mitad del Mundo is a touristy place but it’s lots of fun!
3. Join a Culinary Food Tour in Quito
Join one of the many food tours offered in Quito to experience local cuisine and partake in a cooking class. Ecuadorian food is still under the radar on a global scale but there are some really delightful dishes on offer. Many of the tours will combine not only food but also local chocolates, beer & wine, market visits and cooking classes – making a Quito food tour a must-do.
4. Visit the Best Local Markets in Quito
The markets of Quito are where you can find things like souvenirs, the famous alpaca sweaters/ponchos, artisan goods and local food treats. Some of the best markets include: Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal, Tianguez in Old Town, Mercado del Parque El Ejido, Otavalo Market and Inaquito Market.
5. Tour the City on a Double-Decker Bus
Book your bus experience with Quito City Tour who have a double-decker bus that takes you to all the major attractions. The tour also includes a stop for 30 minutes at the Panecillo Viewpoint. Along the way, you will stop at historic old buildings, various markets, squares and parks, and more!
6. Go on a Day or Overnight Trip to Banos
Head to Banos for a couple of days and enjoy a variety of adventures. Banos is one of the coolest little backpacker towns in all of South America because there is just so much to see and do, including: the Swing at the End of the World, Cascada el Pailon del Diablo, thermal baths, white water rafting, zip-lining, and Ecuadorian street food, just to mention a few!
7. Take a Day Trip to Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca is a colonial gem home to around 400,000 people and nestled beautifully amidst the Andes Mountains. The history of this city is alive and well, and the adventures on offer surrounding the city are so much fun. You can do things like get your own Panama hat custom made, go on a bike ride around the city and along the river, and visit Mirador de Turi.
8. Have an Adventure in the Cotopaxi Province
Cotopaxi National Park is located 31 miles south of Quito and is home to Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest volcanoes. You can book a guide (like we did) who will provide you with some coca tea, which helps you adjust to the elevation. One of the best sights in the Cotopaxi province is Lake Quilotoa – Ecuador’s most beautiful lake, located 11,483 ft above sea level.
Food & Accommodation in Quito
In Quito, you can find a variety of food. You will be able to find everything from street food to classier high end restaurants. Quito has Ecuadorian restaurants, as well as other options like Italian and Sushi. The country is famous for a few local delicacies such as guinea pig and tripe, but I personally didn’t try them while I was there as I didn’t have the chance to.
For accommodation, it’s hard to give specific recommendations because we stayed in the same hotel during our stay and I wouldn’t necessarily suggest staying there. However, in terms of location, I would recommend staying downtown to be central to food, shopping and nightlife.
Need to Know Before you Go
Quito is one of the highest cities in the world so be prepared for elevation. Coco tea is helpful in adjusting your body to the change in elevation and I recommend buying some before heading to Cotopaxi or Quilotoa.
Use Uber instead of taxis in Quito. With Uber, the prices are set, so you don’t ever have to wonder if you are being charged a higher than normal price. Lastly, be open to new experiences generally, and don’t trust the weather forecast (bring shorts and short sleeves just in case).
Ecuador is such an underrated country. My favorite part of the trip was connecting with locals and meeting other travelers. There were several moments that stood out, but each person in our tour group had a different personality and many came from other countries. It was great to connect with other people and experience this destination together.