things to do in quito

38 Best Things to Do in Quito: A Local’s Guide [2024]

Ecuador might be a bit overshadowed by its larger neighbors of Colombia and Peru – and best known for the Galapagos! – but mainland Ecuador and its capital of Quito have so much to offer visitors. From South America’s largest and best-preserved historic Old Town to a cool culinary scene and out-of-this-world mountain viewpoints, Quito truly has it all.

After living in Quito for two years, we’ve truly tried all the things to do in Quito – from the most well-known Quito attractions to the hidden gems we’ve discovered along the way. Read on for all the things to do in Quito that you just can’t miss, as well as our off-the-beaten-path Quito things to do and popular day trips from Quito.

quito ecuador travel

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Best Things To Do in Quito

Visitors could easily spend a week exploring Quito and still have so much left to see and do. Even after living in Quito for two years, we still have numerous things to do in Quito that we haven’t scratched off our list.

Looking for the absolute best things to do in Quito that you can’t leave off your Quito itinerary? Here are our top recommendations:

  • Explore Quito’s historic Old Town
  • Ride the TelefériQo cable car
  • Take in the view from Quito’s Basilica
  • Shop at the Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal
  • Visit Mitad del Mundo – the Equator!

Doing all these best things to do in Quito will take about two days in Quito, but there are so many more things to see and do that you won’t want to miss. We really recommend at least four days to explore Quito well – if you can fit it into your Ecuador itinerary! Read on for how to enjoy these top attractions, and much more in Quito, Ecuador.


Things to Do in Quito

1. Explore Quito’s Historic Center

Easily one of the best things to do in Quito is to visit the city’s beautiful historic center; in fact, it’s a must. Quito has the largest and most well-preserved historic center in Latin America, and there is plenty to see and do here.

You’ll want to spend a few hours exploring this neighborhood and all it has to offer, popping into museums, ornate churches, restaurants, and cultural centers along the way. Among the must-visit destinations in the area are churches like the Iglesia de San Francisco and Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, the historic La Ronda, the Presidential Palace, and the Centro Cultural Metropolitano.

Read More: Old Town Quito: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide

Best Hotels & Hostels in Quito

quito ecuador guide

2. Take in the View from the Basilica

Located on the edge of Quito’s historic center is the Basilica de Voto Nacional, one of the most recognizable buildings in the city. Visiting this dramatic church and climbing its spires is one of the best things to do in Quito: not only is the building impressive, but it also provides some of the best panoramic views of the city.

Visitors can choose from a ticket to visit the interior of the church (accessible from the side), a ticket to visit the clock towers and spire (accessible from the front), or a combined ticket to access both. I’d highly recommend just visiting the clock tower and spire, as this ticket will also give you a fantastic view of the church interior as well.

Views from the clock towers are unmissable, but make sure you head to the spire for the best views. To access the spire in the back of the church, you’ll need to navigate some very steep steps and a steel ladder that you’ll probably want to avoid if you’re afraid of heights. However, the view of the city with the church’s clock towers is truly one of the most beautiful you’ll ever see, so put your fear of heights aside if you can.

quito travel tips

3. Ride to the Top of a Volcano on the TelefériQo

Riding the TelefériQo cable car is the ultimate way to take in the city of Quito. This cable car whisks you up to the (almost) top of the Rucu Pichincha volcano for a breathtaking view of the city with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains.

Try to plan your visit for a sunny morning for the best chance of getting a great view. On the clearest and sunniest days, you can see up to five snow-capped mountains and volcanos all around the city from the viewpoint. Plus, lines to ride the TelefériQo tend to form later in the day, so coming early is the easiest way to ensure you don’t have to wait.

Be aware that the elevation is HIGH here – you will likely feel winded and out of breath just walking around on the even surface at the top. Make sure to bring both your photo ID (a passport or driver’s license will work) and a warm jacket – it gets incredibly windy and cold at such a high altitude!

Reviews and Bookings: Private Quito City Tour and TelefériQo Ride

quito historic center

4. Stroll on La Ronda

Located in the heart of Quito’s historic center, the street known as “La Ronda” is a great place to experience some of the best of Old Town Quito’s charm. Here you’ll find small artisan shops, restaurants selling traditional foods, and more, alongside charming colonial architecture.

Come in the evening and try an empanada de viento and canelazo – this combination of a sweet, flaky empanada with a warm (sometimes spiked) fruit beverage will warm you up on Quito’s cold nights. Don’t miss the view up the hill to El Panecillo from the corner of La Ronda and Calle Guayaquil – it’s particularly lovely illuminated at night but gorgeous any time of the day.

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.

5. Take a Free Walking Tour of Quito

If you’re looking for an excellent, budget-friendly way to explore the city and see the very best of the sites, consider joining on a free walking tour of Quito. Civitatis offers two different free walking tours of Quito. These free walking tours are quite extensive, and the local guides are engaging. While the tour is free, consider leaving a tip if you can.

Make sure to sign up online with Civitatis before the tour to secure a spot for the free walking tours:

where to stay in quito

6. Take in the View from El Panecillo

El Panecillo – Spanish for “the little bread roll” – is a large, rounded hill in the center of Quito that offers a great view over the city. El Panecillo is visible throughout the city thanks to the recognizable Virgen de Quito Virgin Mary statue that looks out over the city. Take a taxi or city bus to the top (do NOT walk – this can be dangerous!) of El Panecillo for the views; you’ll find a few food and handicraft vendors at the top, too.

You’ll find many lists of the best things to do in Quito that consider a trip to the top of El Panecillo as one of the best things to do in the city. Honestly, don’t think it’s that necessary of a stop – the view you’ll see from the spire of the Basilica del Voto Nacional is much, much more beautiful, as is the view from other Quito spots like Parque Itchimbia.

7. Shop at the Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal

If you’re looking for handicrafts or souvenirs of any kind in Quito, the Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal, in the La Mariscal neighborhood, is the place to find them. This covered market occupies an entire city block and has rows of stalls selling every artisan handicraft imaginable, including sweaters and ponchos, jewelry, hammocks, and so much more.

Come prepared to bargain, and look for at least a 30% discount off the initial asking price for most items!

If you don’t have the opportunity to head to the Otavalo market just two hours north of Quito – absolutely worth the journey! – this is where to buy your souvenirs during your time in Ecuador. If you are headed to Otavalo after your time in Quito, this is a destination you can skip.

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


8. Visit the Home of Ecuador’s Most Famous Artist

Ecuador’s most famous painter, Oswaldo Guayasamín, left behind an incredible home and museum to the care of the city of Quito, which is now one of the top attractions in Quito for art and history lovers.

A visit to what is now known as the Casa Museo Guayasamín includes a tour of his home with a guide, as well as a visit to the Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Man) next door, where his greatest large-scale works are on display; you’ll definitely want to see both! Visitors can book their tickets online with Civitatis in advance, though they are usually available at the door.

Even if you’re not a big art fan, Casa Guayasamín boasts easily some of the best views over the city. After your visit, head about half a block down the hill to get coffee and a pastry at Omama Coffee Shop – it’s the perfect way to finish the afternoon.

quito backpacking

9. Marvel at the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús

If you have time to see just one single historic building in Quito, make the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús in the heart of Quito’s historic center be it. This dramatic chapel is unlike any other church I’ve seen throughout all my travels in Latin America. It seems to be completely bathed in gold – it will take your breath away.

Tickets cost $5 per person; while visiting most other churches in Quito is free, this is absolutely worth the ticket price! You can book your ticket online with Civitatis.

10. Tour the Presidential Palace (for Free!)

A visit to Ecuador’s presidential palace – the most impressive building in the city’s Plaza Grande, is a fantastic look into Quito’s history, past, and present. You’ll see the formal salons and meeting rooms used for entertaining dignitaries and heads of state and even lavish gifts from famous past visitors.

You can take a free walking tour of the palace, offered every hour throughout the week (except when the Palace is closed on Mondays). You’ll just need to sign up in advance at a ticket booth to the left of the building, between the palace and the Centro Cultural Metropolitano; make sure you have a photo ID on you for the tour to get through security.

Read More: Old Town Quito: Ultimate Guide

mitad del mundo

11. Straddle Hemispheres at Mitad del Mundo

Mitad del Mundo, or “Center of the Earth,” is where the Equator line passes across the country just a few miles north of Quito. You can’t come all the way to Ecuador without visiting the Equator, so visiting Mitad del Mundo is one of the best things to do in Ecuador.

The true equator line can be found within the Intiñan Museum; the monument to the Equator was built on a site calculated in the 1700s before GPS correctly calculated the true equatorial line. Both sites are worth a visit – the monument is impressive and a great photo opportunity, but if you just have time to visit just one, visit the Intiñan Museum.

At the Intiñan Museum, you can try fun experiments that only work on the Equator, like balancing an egg on a nail, seeing water run through a sink in different directions north and south of the Equator, and more.

Booking a group tour of Mitad del Mundo (super affordable!) or even a tour of the Historic Center and Mitad del Mundo is one of the best ways to visit Mitad del Mundo. Slightly outside the city of Quito, public transportation takes a long time to get you here, and taxis can get more expensive, so a group tour here is definitely worth it.

If you book one excursion during your time in Quito, this one should be it! You’ll save time (and probably money on transportation, too!) and learn a lot more about these fascinating sites.

condor machay

12. Hike to Condor Machay Waterfall

If you’re looking for an escape from Quito, head outside of the city to the neighboring Valle de los Chillos for an unforgettable day trip to the soaring Condor Machay waterfall. This off-the-beaten-path excursion takes about an hour and a half drive to reach, but it’s well worth it.

You can find excursions from Quito or travel here on your own (though you’ll need a taxi to get to the entrance of the falls) – check out our guide to Valle de los Chillos for all the details about how to get here.

You’ll hike along rocky but mostly flat areas for about 45 minutes to reach the stunning waterfall, which has carved out a large canyon, the perfect place for a picnic at the bottom of the falls, or a swim if you come prepared with a towel. Just as stunning as the waterfall is the mountainous landscape you’ll drive through to get here – it’s a stunning corner of Ecuador.

Travel Essential

Don’t think about traveling without a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). Using a VPN while connecting to the internet is an easy way to keep your personal information safe from hackers and trackers. We’ve used NordVPN for years and couldn’t recommend it more – it’s a must for safety online, at home or abroad. 

sangolqui market

13. Explore Sangolquí Market

Sangolquí is a town just 45 minutes outside Quito, easily accessible by public buses from the city for just a few dollars. This is a lovely escape from bustling Quito and can easily accompany a visit to the waterfall hikes to Molinuco or Condor Machay close to Sangolquí.

Other than the exciting opportunities for hikes and excursions near Sangolquí, the Sunday morning market is the real reason to visit this hidden gem of a destination. While there is a covered indoor marketplace in town, come Sunday morning, the fresh and prepared food stalls flow out into the streets. You’ll find everything from live chickens and souvenirs to Ecuador’s best street food here, making the trip well worth it!

Read More: Guide to Sangolqui and the Valle de Los Chillos

14. Explore Quito’s Most Beautiful Park

Quito has many lovely parks, but Parque Itchimbia is a hidden gem among more famous neighbors like Parque Carolina or Parque El Ejido. It may not make it onto some lists of the top things to do in Quito, but I’m out to change that!

By far my favorite park in Quito, Parque Itchimbia covers the top of a hill near Quito’s historic center and has a ton of space to explore. It has plenty of running and cycling trails that stroll up and down the hill facing Quito and the opposite valley as well. There’s also a lovely mixed-use art and event space that looks like a glass-walled palace in the heart of the park.

Travel Essential

Don’t head out on your adventure without comprehensive travel insurance! Good travel insurance may cover lost or stolen gear, medical emergencies, delayed or canceled flights, and more. Check out the policies available from SafetyWing or compare plans using Visitors Coverage.

secret garden quito
Courtesy of Secret Garden Quito

15. Have a Beer With a View

Perched above the hillside overlooking Quito’s historic center, Secret Garden Hostel is more than just a hostel: it offers one of the city’s loveliest views from its rooftop bar, making it well worth a visit for a drink even if you’re not staying here.

Secret Garden’s rooftop bar and restaurant offers the perfect vantage point over the city’s most beautiful neighborhood, including Quito’s dramatic Basilica and El Panecillo. Come prepared to hike up a few flights of stairs to reach the terrace, however.

If you haven’t decided where to stay in Quito, Secret Garden is also my top recommendation for a fantastic place to stay in Quito on a budget. There’s nothing like starting the morning by eating breakfast on the rooftop or relaxing here after a long day of exploring the city. Rooms are comfortable, and dorm beds are inexpensive.

Read More: Where to Stay in Quito, Ecuador (On Any Budget)

16. Visit Skull Donuts

Located within walking distance of the La Mariscal neighborhood and Casa de la Cultura, Skull Donuts isn’t just any spot for a sweet treat. This fun donut shop and cafe sells delicious, handmade donuts.

Many of the unique donut flavors are special to Ecuador, including tart passionfruit (maracuyá) or blackberry (mora) flavors, along with a frequently-rotating menu of seasonal specialties. There are a few tables in the back, plus other cafe staples like sweet and savory breads, treats, and of course, coffee.

quito view

17. Enjoy Dinner With a View at Vista Hermosa

Clinging to the edge of the hillside overlooking Quito, Vista Hermosa offers one of the most incredible views at any time of day. However, evening views from this magical cliffside spot of the illuminated city and El Panecillo as the sun sets over the mountains are truly impressive. While it is a bit pricier than most standard restaurants in Quito, the food is excellent, and the experience is memorable.

If you’re planning to spend an afternoon enjoying Parque Itchimbia, dining at Vista Hermosa is the perfect way to end the day. Call ahead for a reservation on the terrace to enjoy the view – it’s the most requested area of the restaurant to enjoy, for obvious reasons.

18. Explore Casa de la Cultura

Located next to Parque El Ejido, Quito’s Casa de la Cultura offers one of the best permanent exhibits of Ecuador’s archeological and colonial history that visitors could imagine. Only have time for one museum while visiting Quito? This is the one you should add to your Quito itinerary.

Beyond just the permanent collection of treasures, Casa de la Cultura has much more to offer curious visitors. Regular events, including workshops, music and dance performances, and movie festivals held here are usually low-cost or free to visitors and are well worth looking into (check out the events listings for more details).

When we lived in Quito, we loved taking advantage of movie festivals to see brand-new Latin American movies and even were able to meet some of the directors in person. While they sometimes host English-language movies with subtitles, most movies are in Spanish. However, dance performances and concerts by Ecuadorian and Latin American groups don’t need to be translated to be enjoyed!

19. Relax With Locals at Parque La Carolina

Located in the heart of Quito and surrounded by highrises and shopping centers, Parque La Carolina is easily one of the most popular parks in Quito for locals. On weekends, the park is filled with families strolling, street food vendors, pick-up sports teams, and everything in between.

Inside this sprawling park, you’ll also find Quito’s lovely Botanical Garden, numerous sports courts, activities like horseback riding for kids, and more. It’s a great place for a picnic or people-watching, and the surrounding neighborhoods have plenty of great restaurants and cafes worth checking out.

colonial quito ecuador

20. Marvel at the Iglesia de San Francisco

Another one of the Old Town’s most beautiful churches, Iglesia de San Francisco has a dramatic and beautiful façade in one of the city’s largest plazas. You can visit the inside for free or take a tour, including a visit to the convent and courtyards, as well as the balcony, for a small ticket price.

Make sure not to miss the fresco on the wall near the entrance on the right side of the church – you’ll see a gruesome yet fascinating portrayal of the supposed punishments for different types of sinners.

21. Enjoy Rooftop Views and Art Exhibits at Centro Cultural Metropolitano

Located adjacent to Carondelet Palace – Ecuador’s Presidential Palace – the Centro Cultural Metropolitano is an excellent place to explore as you’re wandering through the Historic Center. This mixed-used building houses everything from an academic library and offices to restaurants and art exhibits. The free exhibits located in the salons closest to the Presidential Palace are always worth exploring and are free to visit.

For a favorite – secret! – thing to do in Quito, take in a memorable rooftop view over Old Quito and El Panecillo from the roof of the building.

Head up the main staircase to the rooftop and head to the southwest corner of the building. The building is usually quiet, and you’ll pass by offices to get there, but don’t worry – it’s fine to visit! You’ll have a lovely view over an interior patio, the domes of colonial churches, and the mountainside around Quito.

quito market

22. Take a Street Food Tour

While the culinary delights of Ecuador aren’t nearly as famous as those of neighboring Colombia or Peru, they’re nothing to be scoffed at. Rich food from the Andes Mountain region includes dishes with hundreds of varieties of potatoes and meat, while coastal cuisine highlights coconuts, plantains, and seafood.

The best way to try it all is by taking a street food tour in Quito with a local who can show you the best spots for all the Ecuadorian dishes you won’t want to miss. Looking for an even more hands-on introduction? Take a cooking class and a chef-led market tour!

23. Try Ecuadorian Food at Quito’s Markets

Mercado Central, located in the heart of Quito’s historic center, tends to be the spot most visitors head to when looking for local eats in Quito. However, Mercado Santa Clara in La Mariscal is my favorite of Quito’s markets, with everything you could be looking for and more.

It’s a bit smaller and more relaxed than Mercado Central but even more authentic. At the entrance, you’ll find vendors with some of the most colorful and artfully displayed fruit you’ll ever see.

24. Try Ecuadorian Coffee at Traviesa

While Ecuadorian coffee is often overshadowed by the beans produced by its northern neighbor of Colombia, Ecuador has some of the best ecosystems on the planet for coffee production. Quito’s burgeoning cafe scene has increased ten times in the past several years, and more local places than ever are starting to show off the richness of Ecuadorian coffee.

Cafe Traviesa is faithful to only using Ecuadorian coffee roasted and prepared in-house and highlighting its incredible diversity of flavors. It’s very modern yet still inviting, and if you’re looking for a place to get some work done, you’ll find people set up with their laptops here. Come back in the evening for local craft beer options, too.

bandido brewing

25. Try Ecuadorian Craft Beer at Bandido

It’s no longer a secret in Quito that the craft brewery scene is growing rapidly. Craft beer-making and breweries have become so popular that they’ve begun to take hold even in smaller cities in Ecuador as a result.

By far my favorite brewery in Quito, Bandido Brewing is a small and friendly spot founded several years ago by expats from the United States. Located near the historic center, Bandido has several types of beer on rotation at all times and has great deals on flights.

Bandido also has delicious pizza and other small plates to accompany your beers and will entice you to stay with board games like Cards Against Humanity. They occasionally have live music as well!

26. Ride a Chiva to Celebrate Fiestas de Quito

If your travel coincides with the Fiestas de Quito, held each year in early December to celebrate the city’s founding, you’re in for an incredible celebration and tons of cultural events to enjoy. The city celebrates its history by hosting bullfighting events, parades, and cultural events around the city.

A popular way to celebrate includes getting on one of the city’s party buses – called chivas – which have live music and dancing as they travel through the city. Even if a party bus doesn’t sound like your style, making the most of these cultural events is one of the best ways to enjoy the city.

carnaval ecuador

27. Celebrate Carnival in Amaguaña

Carnival is an important holiday around the world, but it is celebrated in many special and unique ways in Ecuador – check out our complete guide to celebrating Carnival in Ecuador for more details! Carnival usually falls in mid to late February or March and falls the day before Ash Wednesday. However, Ecuadorians usually celebrate Carnival for about a week or more leading up to Carnival.

Head just outside of Quito to Amaguaña for traditional Carnival “games” like throwing water, foam, and colored powder during parades and performances. It’s a dirty game but fantastic fun and a great way to get involved.

Quito also has several parades in the historic center on the weekend before Carnival, which are well worth a visit for the chance to traditional Ecuadorian dances, dress, and concerts.

28. Explore La Floresta

Often overlooked by its more touristed neighbor, La Mariscal, the La Floresta neighborhood could easily make its own appearance on this list itself for the countless things to discover here, like cozy cafes, street art, galleries, and more.

Here are some of the things to discover in Quito’s cool La Floresta neighborhood:

  • Bahn Mi, a mid-range Vietnamese restaurant with delicious options;
  • Ocho y Medio cafe and movie theater, which plays Ecuadorian and Latin American indie movies;
  • Botanica is one of my favorite little cafes in Quito – this lovely spot has tons of delicious pastry and coffee options, as well as small plates of more substantial food. They put a real emphasis on their coffee here and showcase it well.
  • Jervis Cafe is my other favorite La Floresta spot for coffee and treats.
cotopaxi volcano

29. Take a Day Trip to Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi Volcano is an unforgettable sight to behold. As one of South America’s most impressive volcanoes and one of the most beautiful destinations Ecuador has to offer, it’s a must on your Ecuador itinerary and makes for an easy day trip from Quito.

Reliable tour companies (click through this link for the one I’ve used!) offer day trips to Cotopaxi from Quito, including private transportation and guides. Booking a tour with these components included is the only way to easily get to and from Cotopaxi and navigate the national park in just one day.

If you’re looking to spend a bit more time enjoying Cotopaxi, the best way to visit is by booking a stay at The Secret Garden Cotopaxi. This retreat-like hotel (also with hostel rooms!) is situated in the heart of Cotopaxi National Park and offers visits to the volcano’s refuge and glacier line, fun excursions like horseback riding and biking down the side of the volcano, and hikes at other nearby volcanoes.

You can also book a day trip to Cotopaxi and Quilotoa for a whirlwind day at some of Ecuador’s most beautiful natural sites.

Read More: Cotopaxi Day Trip From Quito: A Local’s Guide

Travel Essential

Don’t head out on your adventure without comprehensive travel insurance! Good travel insurance may cover lost or stolen gear, medical emergencies, delayed or canceled flights, and more. Check out the policies available from SafetyWing or compare plans using Visitors Coverage.

mindo ecuador bird

30. Visit the Cloud Forest

Located in the cloud forest of Ecuador, the small town of Mindo is a beautiful, warm escape from Quito, nestled in Ecuador’s Cloud Forest just about 2 hours north of the city.

In Mindo, you’ll get the chance to try adventure sports like ziplining and repelling down waterfalls, tubing, and much more. It’s one of my personal favorite day trips from Quito!

Mindo is also renowned as one of the best birdwatching spots in the world. Excellent guides like the renowned Richard Hernandez and Marcelo Arias are the best options for experts, though you’ll find excellent excursions even for beginners.

You can catch a bus in the morning from La Ofelia bus station in the north of Quito, but for a day trip, I recommend booking private transport or a day trip excursion to Mindo. You’ll save time navigating public transport and have a much more relaxing day in this beautiful spot!

31. Party in Plaza Foch

The heart of the La Mariscal neighborhood in the center of Quito, Plaza Foch is a buzzy plaza filled with bars and restaurants, quiet in the mornings but alive at night. While I’d advise looking elsewhere for restaurants – the ones you’ll find in Plaza Foch are overpriced and not that great – this is a great place to start bar hopping and see where the night takes you.

The vibe here has long been more geared towards college students studying abroad and backpackers – head elsewhere for a more upscale party – but fun clubs, bars, and restaurants with international staples still make it a popular destination that most travelers won’t want to skip.

Read More: A Backpacker’s Guide to Quito, Ecuador

otavalo ecuador

32. Visit the Market in Otavalo

A must-visit destination in Ecuador, Otavalo is a small town in the north of Ecuador best known for its market; at just two hours north of Quito, it is a perfect day trip destination. Otavalo has the largest market in all of South America and easily tops the list of best markets in Latin America as a whole.

Market day is Saturday, so try to plan a visit on Saturday morning if you can! On Saturdays, you’ll find what seems like the whole town filled with market stalls. However, if your itinerary won’t allow it, the market is open in a smaller capacity throughout the week.

You can catch a bus to Otavalo at the Carcelén bus station in the north of Quito, as buses leave for Otavalo frequently on the two-hour route. Or if you’re on a tighter itinerary (or want to skip the bus!) there are very affordable day trips to Otavalo and its beautiful market.

Read More: Otavalo, Ecuador: Ultimate Travel Guide

33. Hike and Bike in Parque Metropolitano

Located on a hillside away from the hustle and bustle of central Quito, Parque Metropolitano feels like it’s a world away from the rest of the city. With meandering trails for hiking, biking, and easy walks through forests of eucalyptus trees, it’s an excellent escape from the city.

As you plan your visit, make sure to explore the east side of the park, where you’ll get stunning views overlooking the neighboring valleys below.

quilotoa volcano

34. Take a Day Trip (or Overnight!) to Quilotoa

Truly a sight to behold, the Quilotoa Crater Lake will take your breath away. This volcanic crater is wedged among stunning landscapes in a remote corner of the Andes, a popular destination for visitors and trekkers who make the journey here to start the 3-day or 4-day Quilotoa Loop trek.

Located about 4 hours away from Quito, Quilotoa can be challenging to get to. Most visitors have to take at least (!) two buses to get here, meaning that the best way to visit as a day trip from Quito is by booking an excursion with private transportation. You’ll get to travel comfortably and have plenty of time to hike around Quilotoa during your visit.

Alternatively, you can book a day trip to Quilotoa and Cotopaxi from Quito for double the incredible scenery.

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

Travel Essential

Don’t think about traveling without a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). Using a VPN while connecting to the internet is an easy way to keep your personal information safe from hackers and trackers. We’ve used NordVPN for years and couldn’t recommend it more – it’s a must for safety online, at home or abroad. 

35. Try Authentic Shwarma at El Árabe

Quito has a strange love for shwarma, and you’ll find plenty of places selling these cheap, filling sandwiches all around the city. The love is particularly strong in the La Mariscal neighborhood, where the massive, sizzling rotating meats draw in drunk partygoers and backpackers on a budget. However, if you’re looking for authentic Middle Eastern food in Quito, a visit to El Árabe is a must.

Founded decades ago by a refugee from Syria (he’s the nicest man in Quito, I can personally attest to that!) El Árabe sells juicy, flavorful, and authentic shwarmas fresh all day, plus delicious Middle Eastern food.

The food here is so good that the president of Ecuador has even eaten here. Plus, it’s quite affordable. You won’t find a better spot to eat in La Mariscal at this price range.


36. Horseback Ride in a Volcanic Crater at Pululahua

Just past Mitad del Mundo heading north of Quito, Pululahua is a long-extinct volcanic crater, now a beautiful, lust valley surrounded by the soaring sides of the volcano. This is a great excursion and a beautiful place to enjoy nature near Quito, with places to hike in the crater and plenty of viewpoints from above.

Many take an excursion to Pululahua as an add-on to a visit to the Equator which is the easiest way to visit, though visiting the park for a longer hike and visit is great if you have time – horseback riding through Pululahua is a popular activity!

37. Climb Rucu Pichincha Volcano

Ride the TelefériQo and you’ve already made it halfway up the Pichincha Volcano! Since the TelefériQo was built, hiking Rucu Pichincha – one of the volcano’s three peaks – has become one of the most popular hikes near Quito, and a perfect activity for the adventurous.

Considered a moderately difficulty trek, Rucu Pichincha has some sections with loose rock, but it is mostly a doable hike, even for beginners. The high altitude is the most challenging aspect for most – its summit is 15,696 feet (4,784 meters).

For more details about how to get to Rucu Pichincha and details of the hike, plus guide recommendations, check out our guide to day trips from Quito. The hike takes a few hours, so while it’s technically in Quito, it’s a popular choice for a “day trip.”


38. Explore Guápulo

The tiny yet charming neighborhood of Guápulo is one of the must-see parts of Quito that few visitors actually make it to. Tucked just down the hillside from the rest of the city, it boasts a gorgeous colonial church and sprawling park with gorgeous lagoons and waterfalls.

Even if you don’t want to head down the hillside to Guápulo itself, make sure to check out the Mirador de Guápulo (the Guápulo Lookout), which offers sweeping views of the valley below – it’s quite impressive. Located just behind the Hotel Quito in La Mariscal, it’s an impressive (and free!) thing to do in Quito that you’ll love.

The walk down the hillside from the neighborhoods of La Floresta and La Mariscal is quite lovely, but you’ll certainly want to grab a taxi when you’re headed back up!

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.