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Ecuador Travel – Top Things To Do in Quito

Quito is the capital city of Ecuador and stands 2,800 m (9,186 ft) above sea level, making Quito the second-highest capital city in the world behind La Paz in Bolivia.  Its official, less popular name is San Francisco de Quito.

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Ecuador Travel - Quito, Ecuador Old City or Centro

Quito is most often visited for it’s proximity to the celebrated middle of the world, equator line (La Mitad del Mundo).  In addition, Quito’s old city (Centro Histórico), also boasts the most exquisite Spanish colonial architecture that attracts photographers from around the world.  Cathedrals dot the landscape and the Andes mountains wrap the city valley.  Looking off into the distance at the 45 m (148 ft) tall aluminum monument of a madonna that stands overlooking the city from a hilltop, I felt I was in a special place.

What To Do In Quito

La Mitad del Mundo

A 30 meter (100 ft) tall monument and museum marking the equator.  Ride an elevator to the base of the monument for spectacular views of the park marking the 4 direction points.

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Ecuador Travel - La Mitad del Mundo

Museo de Sitio Intiñan

The real equator line lies only 240 meters (10 minute walk) from the celebrated monument of La Mitad del Mundo.  The landscape still represents a small indigenous village, whom discovered the point over a hundred years ago, before GPS.  Participate in fun experiments which can only be done on the real equator line.

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Ecuador Travel - Museo de Sitio Intiñan

Plaza de La Independencia

Plaza Grande is the city’s central square, surrounded by administrative buildings, museums, tourist offices and one of the oldest cathedrals in South America.

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Ecuador Travel - Plaza de La Independencia

Basilica del Voto National

Located in the historic center of Quito, this basilica is a must see attraction.   It is the largest Neogothic Basilica in the Americas, but still remains unfinished today.  The highlight is climbing to the highest point of the church’s tower, if you dare to climb steep ladders inside and spiral ladders outside.  You will be rewarded with some incredible views.

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Ecuador Travel - Jason at the Basilica del Voto National

Volcano Pichincha

Quito is surrounded by volcanoes, some of them snow-capped and visible from the city on a clear day.  The closest volcano to the city is Pichincha, located to the west.  Access the volcano via Teleferico (cable car) for cityscape views.   Looking for a day hike?  Continue on foot for 3 hours climbing to the top of Rucu Pichincha summit at 4680 m (15,354 ft).  Hike at your own risk and bring warm clothes.

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Ecuador Travel - Volcano Rucu Pichincha

La Mariscal

Also known as Gringolandia, this trendy neighborhood of bars and posh restaurants caters to both Quiteños and western tourists.  You can party 24 hours near Plaza Foch, where tables and chairs spill into the streets busy with taxis trying to catch a fare. There are also an unlimited number of travel agencies located here.

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Ecuador Travel - La Mariscal, Also Known as Gringolandia

La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús

The Church of the Society of Jesus, known as La Compañía is also just a few blocks from the main plaza in the historic center.  The church has a Latin Cross design and south nave.  The gold leaf interior is what blows your mind.  Pay an entrance fee to see the most artistic skilled work in all of Quito’s churches.

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Ecuador Travel - La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús

Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco

Church and Monastery of St. Francis known as El San Francisco, is a colonial styled church and monastery located in the garment district of the historic center.  A beautiful open plaza rests in front of the church.  Dine at the touristy outside restaurant and watch the pigeons circle the plaza.

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Ecuador Travel - Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco

Parque Metropolitano

The Metropolitano Guanguiltagua Park is the largest city park in all of South America.  Away from the city center, enjoy long walks, jogging and biking.

Parque El Ejido

Dividing the old and new city is El Ejido Park.  On the weekends the park is crowded with visitors shopping for art, jewelry and crafts.  Children pedal gokarts while adults enjoy the sun and entertainment of the bustling park.  On Sundays, Avenida Amazonas is open only to pedestrians.  Rent a bike and ride down the street leading to El Ejido Park.

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Ecuador Travel - Parque El Ejido

Museo del Banco Central

The Central Bank Museum is the best museum in Quito, displaying artifacts from all of Ecuador’s regions and cultures, including pre-Inca.  Enjoy classic and modern art from Ecuador for a small entrance fee.

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Ecuador Travel - Museo del Banco Central

Parque Itchimbia

The Itchimbia Park overlooks the city on the Itchimbia hill and is home to a glass museum with varying exhibits.

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Ecuador Travel - Parque Itchimbia Museum

Before heading up to the top of Itchimbia, enjoy eating at Café Mosaico with the most incredible dinning view in all of Quito.

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Ecuador Travel - En el Itchimbia, Café Mosaico

View the entire Quito, Ecuador photo gallery.

Ecuador Travel – Things To Know

Transportation in a cab, if it doesn’t have a meter, involves negotiating for all your rides.  Ask the hotel or hostel you are staying at what it should costs to visit certain areas in order to obtain a fair price.  The trolley is the cheapest fare in town, but protect your belongings during the crowded rush hour.

Pickpocketing and robbery stories are often heard when in Quito.  Be aware of your surroundings, save your photos often, strap cameras across your chest and don’t carry much money.  If you plan on staying out late enjoying the bars and clubs around Plaza Fosch, find a partner when walking home and avoid dark side streets.

The bus pollution can be overwhelming considering the city lies in a valley, trapped by the Andes mountain range.

Quito is also a great place for settling down and taking some Spanish lessons.  I took classes for a month at the Cristóbal Colón Spanish School.

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Jack says:

Going to Quito July 31st with my grandson (20 yrs). Looking forward to it based on posts here. Are mountain biking tours (opportunities) in close proximity to Quito? Any other suggestions? Will be there 5 days,

Thanks – – Jack

Jack, consider Banos, Ecuador for some adventure fun!

Liliana Sanchez says:

Going to Quito next week!!! I already wrote down all your suggestions. Amazing pics, thanks!

Court says:

great list of things to do and fantastic pics of !uito…- but I would recommend to anyone visiting to skip the taxis and the buses and rent a scooter for $25 you can ride all day all over the city and even to the Equator -plus at night its safer to be riding than walking at night.

Tony Payne says:

I would love to go there. I have been to a number of countries in South America, but unfortunately all for work and not enough time to enjoy what they have to offer.

Andrea says:

We didn’t actually make it to Quito so it’s interesting to see what we missed!

Amanda says:

Bah, this post makes me miss Ecuador. Beautiful pictures! (Especially the one from the cafe – stunning. I wish I had made it there- next time!)

We spent 7 weeks in Quito and really enjoyed our time their. I even had my wedding jacket made by a local tailor. It was perfect and added a cool memory to our wedding.

Dena Haines says:

This is a really good post.

We will be in Quito again in Aug/Sept, and hope to visit some of the places on this post that we didn’t get to see the last time.

Thanks 🙂

anca a says:

I would have definitely liked to climb in the Basilica, the Compañía de Jesús Church looks very beautiful (at list from your picture) and it must be very nice to stay in Cafe Mosaico. I loved your potos and your tips which are short and to the point.

Thanks Anca, glad you enjoyed the article. Climbing the Basilica is a crazy adventure!

Leigh says:

Loved Cafe Mosaico – great at night too. Also had fun mountain biking for a day – where we ended up at hot springs and biked along a river through BLACK tunnels – El Chaquinan I think is what it was called.

We loved it too! We didn’t even know about it, until my Spanish teacher was kind enough to take us. What a great view. That bike ride sounds very exciting.

We spent a couple months volunteering in Los Roldos, a shanty town outside of Quito and had a wonderful time. We lived by Stadio Olymipco and had a blast exploring the city and all that it has to offer.

There are certainly elements of Quito that we don’t miss – we kinda had to go back in the closet, which sucks. We are avid runners and would go jogging through Parque Metropolitano before bussing out to our volunteer gig. There is nothing enjoyable about feeling like your lungs are going to explode on your morning jog. Yikes.

On the other hand, you have Pisco Sours, LLapengachos and some of the most amazing views in the world. Oh, and locros – potato, cheese and avocado soup.

Great post!

Kristy says:

Quito has been on my places to visit list since the mid 90’s. My travels took me to Asia instead, but one of these days I really need to get there. Amazing shots!

Zuri says:

Ecuador is one of the most beautiful countries in South America. Nothing compares to the landscapes of its highlands.

mario says:

Thank you for all the info. I will be in ecuador september 3 i will b staying for two months.

Kristin says:

Awesome article – I am headed to Quito in October so this was super helpful!!

Jason says:

Glad we could help Kristin.

Cam says:

Great pics guys! Sadly, we didn’t spend much time in Quito. It was more of a stop over on our way to the Galapagos. We spent a day hiking up to the refuge at Cotopoaxi, which was also very cool.

Jason says:

We visited the refuge too, but by vehicle. It was the strongest wind I have ever felt in my life. The weather was pretty bad. We froze from the wind. Someday, we are determined to go back and summit that baby!

Marlene Schroeder says:

Just when I think your photos can’t get any better…..THEY DO!

Jason says:

Thanks Marlene, you are too kind!

Ali says:

Great list, I’m definitely going to do as many of these as possible while I’m in Quito!

Jason says:

Excellent Ali! Let us know if you have any questions.

Anil says:

Loved Quito, especially the climb up the Basilica, not for the faint of heart! I had to keep telling myself, “just don’t look down!”

Jason says:

We were shocked that they allow people to climb that high up. It was a blast, but not for everyone. Lol. We loved it.

Aaron says:

This is a great post! I used to live there when I was really little and I don’t remember too many of these places all that well! It’s definitely next up on my list of places to visit (or re-visit in this case).

I’m glad to see that the real equator has gotten more than an easily missed monument on the side of the road like it was 17 years ago!

Jason says:

The real equator line is a fun place to learn about the effects of the equator line and polar forces. Unfortunately, it is still not as popular or promoted like the big monument.

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