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Things to do in Quito

Things to do in  Quito

Welcome to Quito

Tumbling from the slopes of smoldering volcanoes, the typically South American city of Quito entices travelers with a thriving culinary scene and a UNESCO-listed Old Town that begs be explored on a walking tour—day or night. Before flocking to Ecuador’s biodiverse rain forests and national parks, visitors should cover the highlights of Ecuador’s capital on a sightseeing tour. Take in the views from Panecillo Hill during a guided hike or horseback riding tour; ride the Teléferico, South America’s highest gondola; and jump between two hemispheres at the Middle of the World Monument (La Mitad del Mundo), otherwise known as the equator. Day trips from Quito include Otavalo Market, a sprawling indigenous market selling artisan treasures; Cotopaxi National Park, reigned over by the ash-capped Cotopaxi Volcano (where visitors can opt for horse or bike tours); Quilotoa Crater Lake, famed for its vivid emerald hue; and Mindo Nambillo cloud forest reserve, tours of which typically include a visit to a chocolate factory. Nature lovers should add a full-day excursion to the Ecuadorian highlands, where bears roam the forests freely and hot springs surrounding the Papallacta volcano beckon with healing properties. If you’re continuing your Ecuadorian adventure, Quito offers easy access to the Galapagos Islands; Baños (three hours away), renowned for adventure sports such as rafting, rappelling, and ziplining; and Cali and Salento in southern Colombia.

Top 15 attractions in Quito

Cotopaxi National Park

With sweeping plains, rocky mountain trails, and glassy lagoons, Ecuador’s largest and most-visited national park is a spectacular setting for an outdoor adventure. Located along the Pacific Ring of Fire, Cotopaxi National Park is most famous for the much-photographed Cotopaxi volcano, the highest active volcano in South America.More

Mindo Cloud Forest

Stretching over 48,000 acres (19,200 hectares) and reaching heights of 15,700 feet (4,778 meters), the Mindo Cloud Forest—part of the Mindo-Nambillo Ecological Reserve—is one of the most biologically diverse forests in the world.More

Middle of the World Monument (La Mitad del Mundo)

The Middle of the World Monument (La Mitad del Mundo) commemorates the site where the 18th-century French explorer Charles Marie de la Condamine once calculated the globe's equatorial line. A trapezoidal monument in the center of the park houses a viewing platform; a small museum on the equator pays tributes to local indigenous cultures.More

Quilotoa Lagoon

Quilotoa Lagoon was formed when a now-extinct volcano collapsed and the resulting crater was filled with a startling emerald-green lake, the color resulting from volcanic minerals. Just south of Quito, the village and lagoon of Quilotoa have become a popular day-trip destination, affording spectacular views and photo opportunities.More

Quito Old Town

The historical heart of Ecuador’s capital, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quito Old Town is the first port of call for most visitors to the city. Known for its cobblestone lanes, Spanish colonial architecture, and beautiful churches, it’s Quito’s most atmospheric district.More

Basilica of the National Vow (La Basílica del Voto Nacional)

One of the largest neo-Gothic churches in the Americas, La Basílica del Voto Nacional is an unmistakable feature of the skyline. Perched on a hill, the 19th-century beauty has three towers, which may be climbed to enjoy a fantastic city panorama. Technically unfinished, local legend opines that when the completion of the basilica arrives, so will the end of the world.More

Cotopaxi Volcano

The Cotopaxi Volcano, one of South America’s most famous peaks and Ecuador’s most active volcano, is perhaps the most recognizable landmark along Ecuador’s Avenue of the Volcanoes. On a clear day, you can see the snow-capped cone all the way from Quito, but a closer exploration requires a trip to Cotopaxi National Park.More

Telefériqo Quito

Telefériqo Quito’s cable car whisks passengers up the Pichincha volcano in glass gondolas. The 1.5-mile (2.5-kilometer) journey up the mountain offers what are perhaps the best panoramic views of the city and ends at the Cruz Loma plateau, where hiking trails lead to Rucu Pichincha, one of the volcano’s twin peaks.More

Independence Plaza (Plaza de la Independencia)

Flanked by several important buildings—the Archbishop’s Palace, City Hall, Government Palace, and the cathedral—Plaza de la Independencia (Plaza Grande to the locals) has been part of Quito’s streetscape since 16th century. What was once a central market and bullfighting arena is today a shady square.More

Church of the Society of Jesus (Iglesia La Compañía de Jesús)

Quito’s Jesuit Church of the Society of Jesus (Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús), often called La Compañía, is one of the most significant works of Spanish baroque architecture in South America. The incredibly ornate and beautiful church boasts gold leaf ornamentation, gilded ceilings, and religious paintings by artists of the Quito School.More

San Francisco Church (Iglesia de San Francisco)

As Quito’s first church, construction of the Baroque-style San Francisco Church started in the 1530s, shortly after the Spaniards arrived, and lasted for over 100 years. Having sustained epic earthquakes, it’s in remarkably good shape and remains the largest, and arguably the loveliest, of the city’s original colonial structures. Franciscan fathers still live here and work on premises.More

Otavalo Market

Nestled in a valley at the foot of a volcano 57 miles (92 kilometers) north of Quito, Otavalo is a highland community of indigenous locals famous for their weaving skills and colorful textiles. The local Otavaleños who sell their wares at the daily market wear traditional clothing and have maintained their culture, way of dress, and identity.More

Termas de Papallacta Spa

For a day of pampering, drive from Quito through the Amazon rainforest to this privately-owned hotel spa and resort. Set on 625 acres (253 hectares) between the Cayambe and Antiisana volcanoes, Termas de Papallacta Spa features several natural thermal baths and nature trails along the banks of the Papallacta, a gentle river that flows across the property.More

Intiñan Solar Museum

Located nearly at the precise Equatorial line, the family-friendly Intiñan Museum is an entertaining and educational stop on the outskirts of Quito. Meander through the interactive exhibits that demonstrate the physical phenomena unique to this special geographical position, using scientific methods developed by the Inca and their modern counterparts and presented in a fun and interactive way.More

Limpiopungo Lagoon

Tucked in a valley within the Cotopaxi National Park along Ecuador’s famed Avenue of the Volcanoes, Limpiopungo Lagoon is 12,400 feet (3,800 meters) above sea level. With the right light, this stunning body of water is a turquoise-colored mirror reflecting the beauty of the surrounding peaks.More
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Top activities in Quito

Mindo Cloud Forest Private Day Tour
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Cable Car and Quito Private City Tour
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Street Food Essentials

Street Food Essentials

Baños and Upper Amazon Day Trip
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All about Quito

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People Also Ask

What is Quito popular for?

Ecuador’s capital city is best known for Quito Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to Basilica of the National Vow, one of the largest neo-Gothic churches in the Americas, and Independence Plaza. Quito is the gateway to the equator's Middle of the World monument and Cotopaxi National Park.

How many days do you need in Quito?

Three days in Quito gives you time to soak up the culture and take a day trip further afield. Dedicate one day to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Quito Old Town; one to the capital’s museums and food markets; and another to either Otavalo Market or Cotopaxi National Park.

What activities do people do in Quito?

Eating, shopping, hiking, and admiring colonial architecture are some of Quito’s top activities. Go trekking in Cotopaxi National Park or Quilotoa Lagoon; browse hundreds of stalls selling artisan crafts at Otavalo Market; explore the UNESCO-listed Quito Old Town; or stand on the equator at the Middle of the World monument.

Is it safe to walk around Quito?

Yes. Ecuador’s capital city has become much safer to walk around in the past decade or so—plenty of police keep watch around Quito Old Town, and reports of theft and scams have plummeted recently. However, avoid walking around alone late at night, especially outside of the historical center.

Is Quito worth visiting?

Yes. Though most often used as a launchpad for Cotopaxi National Park, the Galapagos Islands, and the Mindo Cloud Forest, Quito is a city that warrants a visit. Highlights include the UNESCO-listed Quito Old Town; the Middle of the World monument, which marks the equator; and El Panecillo Hill.

Is Quito dangerous for tourists?

No, it's not dangerous in tourist areas. In the past decade, Quito has become much safer to visit. There’s a large police presence around the city—especially in visitor hot spots such as the Old Town—and reports of crime have gone down significantly. Still take the usual caution with your belongings.


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