Cotopaxi National Park
Just an hour away from the hustle of the capital, Cotopaxi National Park is a natural playground of green valleys, rugged mountains and riverside farms, set around a 5,900 meter volcano. If you don’t fancy scaling the volcanic peak – famously South America’s most active volcano – there are plenty of less challenging pastimes to take part in. Horse riding, mountain biking, hiking, rafting and bird watching are all popular activities, with numerous day and multi-day treks available.
With its close proximity to the mighty Amazon rainforest, Quito makes a strategic starting point for exploring South America’s rainforests and the Mindo Nambillo Cloud Forest Reserve is just 2 hours from the city center. Hike through the mist-shrouded forests, past rivers and natural waterfalls, while learning about the diverse ecosystems of the cloud forest. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife too - a myriad of rare birds, butterflies and orchids are native to the jungle, showcasing a startling array of colors.
Papallacta Thermal Springs
Ideal for a post-hike day of recuperation, the natural hot springs of Papallacta lie around 2 hours east of Quito and are renowned for the healing properties of their mineral-rich waters. The picturesque mountain valley resort lies at an altitude of 3,300 meters and is served by a number of luxury spas where weary travelers can indulge in everything from mud wraps and aromatherapy massages, to tailored health and rehabilitation treatments in the hydro-massage baths.
La Mitad del Mundo
Ecuador famously lies on the equator line and the chance to stand with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere has proven an irresistible tourist attraction. The monument of La Mitad del Mundo, or ‘the Middle of the World’, and a symbolic yellow ‘equator line’ marks the spot, but the site is also home to a planetarium, an ethnographic museum and a number of restaurants.