10 Best Day Trips from Quito: A Local’s Guide [2024]

Quito, Ecuador is one of South America’s great cities, and with so many memorable things to do in Quito, you surely won’t have any trouble filling your Quito itinerary. However, Quito is also uniquely located in the country to make it within a day trip destination from some of the best places to visit in Ecuador.

As expats living in Quito for years, we’ve enjoyed some of the best things to do in Quito and all the best spots outside the city worthy of your consideration for a day trip. Read on for the most popular destinations and the hidden gem Quito day trips you won’t want to skip.

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Best Day Trips from Quito

Located in the heights of the Andes Mountains in the middle of the country, Quito is close to everything, making it a great destination if you’re looking to explore Ecuador. Within a few hours’ drive of Quito, you can find world-class bird watching and adventure sports, the mountainous highlands, multiple volcanoes and lakes, incredible viewpoints, hiking destinations, and more.

Looking for a few quick recommendations for the best Quito day trips for every traveler? Here are our top local recommendations:

  • Most Popular Day Trip from Quito: Otavalo
  • Easiest Day Trip from Quito: Mitad del Mundo
  • Best Day Trip from Quito for Adventure Travel: Cotopaxi
  • Best Day Trip from Quito for a View: Quilotoa
  • Best Day Trip from Quito for Families: Mindo

While Mitad del Mundo (the Equator!) and Pululahua are located just a quick drive outside of Quito and are easy half-day trips, destinations like Cotopaxi and Quilotoa – some of the most impressive spots in all of Ecuador – are a bit further out. Travel time can play a big factor as you plan your day trip experience. Read on for all these details and more.

otavalo market

Day Trips from Quito

1. Otavalo

Most Popular Day Trip from Quito

Known for having South America’s largest artisan handicrafts market, the small mountain town of Otavalo makes for one of the most popular day trips from Quito! Just two hours north of Quito, Saturday market days in Otavalo buzz with life, with market stalls spilling out into the streets. , but the market is open on a smaller scale in the Plaza de Ponchos every day.

At the market, you’ll find all kinds of textiles, especially made from alpaca, like blankets, ponchos, and sweaters, as well as home goods, jewelry, leather goods, clothing, and souvenirs. You’ll also find sections selling fresh fruits and vegetables, prepared foods, and live animals – definitely an interesting sight!

Beyond just visiting the market, Otavalo boasts the nearby Laguna Cuicocha – a stunning volcanic crater lake with epic hikes – Cascada de Peguche (Peguche Waterfall), Lago San Pablo (San Pablo Lake), and more that are all worth seeing!

Read More: Otavalo, Ecuador: Ultimate Travel Guide

How To Get to Otavalo From Quito

There are three main ways to take an Otavalo day trip from Quito:

  • Take public transport – a greyhound-style bus from Quito to Otavalo
  • Schedule a group tour
  • Schedule a private tour

If you want to take public transportation, you can catch a bus from Quito’s Carcelén bus terminal for around $2 USD. Buses leave every 15-30 minutes, so you’ll have plenty of options. The trip takes about 2 hours.

If you’re planning on visiting on Saturday for the market, taking a tour from Quito is your best option. Public transport can be quite busy to and from Otavalo on market day and often sells out on the weekends on the way back from Otavalo. Plus, you’ll want to arrive early, as the market is best in the morning, making a hassle-free small-group excursion from Quito your best bet on a Saturday.

Where To Stay in Otavalo

2. Mitad del Mundo

Easiest Day Trip from Quito

A visit to Mitad del Mundo – literally, “the middle of the world” and the Equator line – is one of the best things to do in Quito, and a must for visitors. Located about 20 – 40 minutes outside of central Quito, this is by far the easiest of the day trips from Ecuador.

At Mitad del Mundo, there are a variety of things to see and do, but primarily you’ll have two options – visiting the monument to the Equator or visiting the Intiñan Museum, which is home to the true equator line.

This large monument is on the site of what was believed to be the true Equator – until GPS proved scientists wrong in the 20th century.

Just a few minutes walk from the monument – on the site of the true equator line – the Intiñan Museum is where to go if you want to actually straddle the equator. You’ll also get to try some fun, campy “experiments” like balancing an egg on a nail, seeing how water flows differently on each side of the equator, and more.

How To Get to Mitad del Mundo From Quito

There are four ways to take a Mitad del Mundo day trip from Quito:

  • Travel independently using public transportation
  • Travel independently in a taxi
  • Schedule a group tour
  • Schedule a private tour

Because Mitad del Mundo is just outside of Quito, it’s quite easy to visit on your own using either a taxi or public transportation. Taxis will cost about $15 from central Quito in each direction.

To travel using public transportation, take a public bus to La Ofelia bus station in the north of Quito – many buses travel here, so ask in your accommodation which is most convenient for you to take. In total, it should take 45 minutes – 1 hour, but it will only cost a few dollars.

Mitad del Mundo is even easier to visit as part of a day tour, whether you choose a private excursion or a small group excursion. Many tours of Quito offer a quick stop here, or you can choose a tour just of Mitad del Mundo.

If you’re looking for a tour of Mitad del Mundo and some of Quito’s other best sites, this is one of the best private tours which I always recommend to visitors. It offers great flexibility and fantastic guides and will make your visit to Quito a special one.

Best Hotels & Hostels in Quito

3. Cotopaxi

Best Day Trip from Quito for Adventure Travel

Easily one of the most stunning natural features in Ecuador, Cotopaxi Volcano is a snow-capped beauty rising out of the Andes just outside of the city of Quito. Its proximity to Quito makes it a perfect day trip from Quito and, by far, one of the most popular day trips for travelers.

Visits to Cotopaxi National Park usually include touring around the best parts of the park, like Lago Limpiopungo, and taking in the beautiful scenery and wildlife here. Plus, you can hike up to the Jose Rivas Refuge, just below the volcano’s glacier line, for incredible views.

Summiting Cotopaxi is much more challenging, involving full winter gear and crampons, plus an overnight at the refuge. If you’re interested, it is a truly unforgettable experience!

If you love adventure and want to take your trip to Cotopaxi to the next level, consider the Cotopaxi Hiking and Mountain Biking excursion, an incredibly popular activity that involves biking down the volcano! Looking to combine two distinct day trips in one? This Cotopaxi and Quilotoa tour takes you to both Cotopaxi and Quilotoa, arguably two of Ecuador’s most impressive natural destinations.

How To Get to Cotopaxi From Quito

There are three main ways to take a Cotopaxi day trip from Quito:

  • Take public transport – a greyhound-style bus from Quito to Latacunga, getting off at the Cotopaxi National Park entrance. Read more about public transportation to Cotopaxi in our Quito to Cotopaxi Guide.
  • Schedule a group tour
  • Schedule a private tour

While you might save a little money taking public transportation, I generally recommend against it if you have just one day to visit. You can’t walk around the park – just walking from the bus stop to the entrance to the park takes over an hour! – so you’ll have to hire one of the local guides that wait at the bus stop anyway.

With plenty of small group day trip excursions and private day trip excursions from Quito to Cotopaxi – they’re available from almost all the city’s tour companies, you’ll have no trouble finding the experience that is right for you.

Where To Stay in Cotopaxi National Park

quilotoa ecuador

4. Quilotoa

Best Day Trip from Quito for a View

Quilotoa is one of the most beautiful destinations in Ecuador, and truly an unforgettable trip. After living in Ecuador for two years and visiting Quilotoa at least five times, I still can’t wait until I have the chance to return.

Quilotoa Crater Lake is actually a volcano – the volcano rim collapsed in on itself centuries ago, leaving behind the stunning blue-green lake you see today. High in the mountains, Quilotoa and the surrounding mountains make up some of the most beautiful scenery in all of the Andes, and the 3-day Quilotoa Loop trek is one of South America’s best hikes.

Quilotoa is in an extremely isolated location high in the Andes, about 3 hours from Quito by car or 4+ hours by bus. It is certainly a drive, but still well worth the visit, even as a day trip from Quito.

Read More: Quilotoa and the Quilotoa Loop Trek: Ultimate Guide

How To Get to Quilotoa From Quito

There are two ways to take a Quilotoa day trip from Quito:

It is practically impossible to visit Quilotoa from Quito and return to Quito in just one day using public transportation. Getting to Quilotoa by bus involves taking a bus from Quito to Latacunga and then another bus from Latacunga to Quilotoa. Buses infrequently leave Quilotoa headed back to Latacunga, so it is practically impossible to make it in one day.

If you’re looking for a Quilotoa day trip from Quito, choose a small group excursion or a private excursion if you’re looking for more flexibility. This is a great Quito day trip to choose from – you’ll never forget this truly breathtakingly beautiful destination.

Looking to combine the best day trips from Quito in one? The Quilotoa and Cotopaxi tour takes you to both of these incredible destinations. These are two of Ecuador’s most stunning natural wonders, so this is a perfect excursion if you’re on a tight itinerary.

Where To Stay in Quilotoa

What To Pack for Ecuador

Check out our Ultimate Ecuador Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Ecuador and what we never travel without.

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5. Mindo

Best Day Trip From Quito for Families

Located about an hour and a half northwest of Quito, the small town of Mindo is located in the heart of Ecuador’s subtropical Cloud Forest. This unique mix of mountains and jungle located between the Andes and the coast is the perfect place for a day trip from Quito – and a destination families will love.

In Mindo, you can enjoy relaxing and taking in this warm jungle paradise or take part in any of the area’s countless adventure activities. Here you’ll find beautiful and secluded waterfall hikes, incredible ziplining (the best in Ecuador!), river tubing, waterfall repelling (called canyoning), and more.

You can even tour the local artisanal chocolate makers’ factory and shop, enjoy world-class birdwatching (some of South America’s best!), or visit a butterfly sanctuary with countless species of butterflies. This and more, if you’re looking for a letter less “adventure” but just as much fun.

Read More: Mindo, Ecuador: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide

How To Get to Mindo From Quito

There are three ways to take a Mindo day trip from Quito:

If you want to travel to Mindo independently, take a bus from Quito La Ofelia bus station in the north of the city – the bus company Flor del Valle has buses directly to Mindo about every hour starting at 8:00 am on weekdays and 7:40 am on weekends. The trip takes about 2 hours and costs $3.10 USD.

If you only have one day to spend in Mindo, I recommend considering a shared group excursion to Mindo or a private excursion if you’re looking for a more personalized experience. There is simply so much to do in Mindo that saving time by choosing an excursion will let you enjoy the town so much more.

If you’re a birdwatcher, consider booking a private, specialized birdwatching excursion from Quito. Even in just one day, you’ll have a fantastic experience in the Cloud Forest.

Where To Stay in Mindo

Here are the best places to stay in Mindo:

6. Pululahua

Pululahua is a stunning natural destination, and just a few miles outside of Quito, it also makes for a great day trip or half-day trip from the city. A dormant volcano, Pululahua is now considered a nature reserve and protected environment within Ecuador.

It is one of only two inhabited volcanic craters in the world and is home to a unique cloud forest ecosystem similar to that found in Mindo. Popular activities here include horseback riding and discovering the unique flora and fauna of this cloud forest ecosystem, as well as taking in stunning views over the crater’s rim.

You can visit Pululahua independently or as part of a day trip to Mitad del Mundo. Located just a few miles from Mitad del Mundo, it’s an easy addition to your itinerary, and many small group excursions include a visit here.

How To Get to Pululahua From Quito

There are four ways to take a Pululahua day trip from Quito:

To reach Pululahua by bus, travel as you would to Mitad del Mundo. Take one of the many bus lines in Quito that reaches La Ofelia bus terminal, then take the bus that travels to Mitad del Mundo from there. From the Pululahua bus stop, you’ll need to walk about 20 minutes to reach the entrance to the park, which is why most visitors negotiate a taxi to the entrance of the park from Mitad del Mundo.

Just a few miles from Mitad del Mundo, many small group excursions and private excursions of Mitad del Mundo include a stop-off at the overlook into Pululahua’s crater. Alternatively, book a private excursion to spend more time exploring the crater itself, which is a fantastic and fascinating escape from Quito.

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7. Pasochoa

Located in Quito’s Valle de los Chillos and just across Cotopaxi National Park from Cotopaxi Volcano, Pasochoa is a long-extinct volcano that is a favorite hiking destination outside of Quito.

While many hikers use Pasochoa as a climb to acclimate to Ecuador’s altitude and practice for harder summits, like Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, don’t let that stop you from visiting Pasochoa if you’re more of a beginner. The hike is doable as long as you’re reasonably physically fit, and though long, it’s totally achievable for beginners.

Hiking the Pasochoa summit is a moderate hike of about 7 hours and 12km in length, with a clearly marked path. Even if you don’t want to make the push all the way to the summit, there are several trails along the mountain you can choose, marked well and identified at the trailhead.

You’ll see the gorgeous mountainous landscape on your hike, including Cotopaxi herself, and feel like you’re exploring Ecuador’s countryside as you pass near small farms and pastures. If you’re looking for the perfect hiking or trekking excursion outside of Quito, Pasochoa is a great option!

Read More: Sangolqui and the Valle de los Chillos: A Traveler’s Guide

Best Day Trips From Quito to Pasochoa

How To Get to Pasochoa From Quito

There are three ways to take a Pasochoa day trip from Quito:

If you want to hike on your own, take a bus from the Playón de la Marin bus station near the Historic Center of Quito to the town of Amaguaña (about an hour to an hour and a half drive).

Get off in the main plaza and get one of the white and green pick-up trucks for hire to bring you to the start of the hike. You can coordinate with the driver to pick you up once you’re done, too.

While it is possible to get to Pasochoa and hike in one day without a guide, it would be a lot of bus travel, and I doubt you’d have time to return to Quito before nightfall. If you only have one day set aside in your itinerary, I recommend scheduling a private trek with a guide from Quito.

If your itinerary allows for an overnight, I definitely recommend a stay at The Secret Garden Cotopaxi – they organize the best group treks up to Pasochoa!

Where To Stay Near Pasochoa

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rucu pichincha

8. Rucu Pichincha Volcano

Towering over the city of Quito, the Pichincha Volcano is one of the city’s most important landmarks and geographical features. The volcano has several peaks, including the Guagua Pichincha (which means baby Pichincha) peak and Rucu Pichincha (meaning old Pichincha – the older of the volcano’s peaks) peak.

While it is possible to hike both peaks, the Rucu Pichincha hike has gotten much more popular in recent years after the TelefériQo cable car was opened, as the top of the TelefériQo is the best place to start the hike.

Overall this hike is considered moderate to challenging. Both the extreme altitude – 15,413 ft (4,698 meters) at the summit of the peak – and sections of scrambling with a lot of exposure add to the difficulty.

Make sure to check out the All Trails: Rucu Pichincha Volcano hiking guide for the details of the hike if you’re interested! However, be aware that the website maps the distance from the bottom of the mountain, not the top of the TelefériQo.

How To Get to Rucu Pichincha From Quito

There are three ways to take a Rucu Pichincha day trip from Quito:

Because the hike starts at the top of the TelefériQo, it’s easy for hikers to get here independently and complete the trek on their own, making this the perfect hike for you if you would like to go without a guide.

However, it is probably a good idea to secure a guide if you can. There are some challenging sections with scrambling required, and the guide can show you the best route for your level of preparation. A small group guided trek is a great, inexpensive option though a flexible, private guided trek of Rucu Pichincha Volcano is another option worth considering if you want to go at your own pace.

Best Hotels & Hostels in Quito


9. Papallacta Hot Springs

If you’re looking to relax and rest during the perfect escape from the city, a Papallacta day trip from Quito may be exactly what you need. Located about 1.5 hours east of Quito, Papallacta is home to natural thermal springs, heated by Ecuador’s Route of the Volcanoes.

Visitors can enjoy access to these lovely hot springs for just $9, which includes a variety of hot springs and pools, plus a recreation complex and restaurants serving delicious food. While the waters from the hot springs here have been channeled into pools – they’re not among the natural rocks of the mountains as they once were – the experience and mountain views are impressive.

If you’re looking to truly unwind and pamper yourself, you can spend a little more ($23 USD) and enjoy the more exclusive thermal pools and spa services within the Termas de Papallacta Hotel & Spa.

No matter what you choose, Papallacta is a fantastic getaway from Quito, too overlooked by most travelers! Consider this your perfect Quito day trip.

How To Get to Papallacta From Quito

There are three ways to take a Papallacta day trip from Quito:

If you want to travel to Papallacta independently, you’ll start by taking a bus from Quitumbe bus station in the south of Quito. You can choose a bus that goes directly to Papallacta on the Baños Cooperativa bus line or any bus headed to Baeza or Tena – you’ll just need to let the bus driver know to drop you off at Papallacta.

Tickets cost about $2 USD, and the trip is about 2 hours. From the entrance to Papallacta, you can take a five- to ten-minute cab ride up the hill to the entrance of the thermal springs.

Affordable small group day trips to Papallacta and private day trips to Papallacta, as well as overnight stays, are the most comfortable ways to travel to this beloved cloud forest destination from Quito. You can select whether you want to visit the public thermal springs or the fancier thermal springs and spa once you arrive.

Where To Stay at Papallacta

antisana volcano

10. Antisana Ecological Reserve

Snowcapped Antisana Volcano – by far one of the most impressive volcanoes in Ecuador – is the centerpiece of Antisana Ecological Reserve, hidden among dramatic Andean landscapes on the outskirts of Quito.

With nearby Cotopaxi stealing much of the thunder of Antisana Ecological Reserve, this stunningly beautiful destination feels totally off the beaten path, perfect for travelers looking for something a little different from their Quito day trips. Known for its beautiful and untouched flora and impressive fauna – including the Andean Condor – there are plenty of reasons to choose Antisana as an ideal escape from Quito.

Hiking along the shores of the high-altitude Laguna Micacocha, spotting the rare, awe-inspiring Andean Condor, and enjoying local eats at the reserve’s refuge are all highlights of a trip.

How To Get to Antisana From Quito

There are three ways to take an Antisana day trip from Quito:

The size of Antisana Ecological Reserve and the lack of a bus route that takes visitors directly into and within the park means that you’ll likely need to take a taxi from Quito or a nearby town like Sangolquí in order to access the park if you don’t have transportation of your own.

With this in mind, it’s much easier to book a relatively affordable small group excursion or private excursion to Antisana should you want to visit. Not only is transportation to and throughout the park included, but you’ll be able to travel with guides who know the park like the back of their hand.

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.