Resting against a backdrop of the dramatic Andes, Quito makes an ideal base from which to explore the Ecuadorian countryside. Towering mountains, lush rainforest, and lively market towns are all within easy reach of the city. To help you choose, here are our top day tours from Quito.
Ciudad Mitad del Mundo – 25 miles (40 km) north
Ecuador famously lies on the equator, 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 Middle of the World monument (Ciudad Mitad del Mundo) and a symbolic yellow “equator line” mark the spot, but the site is also home to a planetarium, an ethnographic museum, and a number of restaurants.
Antisana National Park – 37 miles (60 km) southeast
The less-visited neighbor to Cotopaxi, Antisana National Park is another wildlife haven set in the shadows of a mighty volcano, and is often combined with a visit to the Quilotoa Lagoon. As well as the Antisana Volcano, the park’s natural wonders include include jagged canyons, winding ravines, and wildflower-blanketed paramo, while caracara and hummingbirds are common sightings.
Papallacta Thermal Springs – 43 miles (70 km) southeast
Ideal for a post-hike day of recuperation, the natural hot springs of Papallacta lie around two hours southeast of Quito and are renowned for the healing properties of their mineral-rich waters. The picturesque mountain valley resort lies at an altitude of 10,827 feet (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 hydromassage baths.
Mindo Rainforest – 47 miles (75 km) northwest
With its close proximity to the mighty Amazon rain forest, Quito is a strategic starting point for exploring South America’s tropical woodlands, and the Mindo Cloud Forest Reserve is just two 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—myriad rare birds, butterflies, and orchids, native to the jungle, showcase a startling array of colors.
Cotopaxi National Park – 51 miles (84 km) south
Just an hour’s drive from the capital, Cotopaxi National Park is a natural playground of green valleys, rugged mountains, and riverside farms set around the 19,360-foot (5,900-meter) Cotopaxi Volcano. If you don’t fancy scaling the volcanic peak—notorious as South America’s most active volcano—there are plenty of less challenging pastimes to take part in, including horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, rafting, and bird watching.