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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 10 attractions in Quito


Cotopaxi National Park

Cotopaxi National Park (also known as Cotopaxi Volcano National Park) lies 53 kilometers (31 miles) southeast of Quito and is the second most visited (and second biggest) National Park in Ecuador. Cotopaxi National Park's main attraction is its still active volcano, which stands at a towering 19,000 feet (5,900 meters) above sea level, dwarfing the surrounding valleys, rivers and lagoons. Referred to by the Incas as the 'Neck of the Moon,' the volcano has had over a dozen recorded eruptions, making it the most volatile volcano in South America. That doesn't deter the many climbers who attempt to climb it each year, however. It last exploded in 1877.More

Santo Domingo Plaza (Plaza de Santa Domingo)

Santa Domingo Plaza graces the southern edge of Quito’s Old Town and is easily missed by visitors. It’s an airy plaza, dominated by the imposing Santo Domingo Cathedral on its southeastern side. In the center of the square a statue of hero Antonio José de Sucre points towards Pichincha Volcano where he won the battle for Ecuador’s independence in 1822. The Santo Domingo Cathedral dates back to 1581 and houses an impressive statue of the Virgen del Rosario in an ornately carved baroque-style chapel. If you visit the plaza at night, the cathedral’s domes look beautiful floodlit. The Plaza comes alive on weekends when neighboring Quiteños converge on the square to watch the various acrobats, jugglers and magicians go through their routines.More

Middle of the World Monument (La Mitad del Mundo)

Who could resist the opportunity to visit the Middle of the World (Mitad del Mundo) and have your picture taken as you straddle the equator! This complex, built to commemorate the site where a French explorer calculated the world’s equatorial line, may be a shameless tourist mecca, but it makes for a fun day trip from Quito. Take the elevator to the top of the enormous, trapezoidal monument for great views of the surrounding countryside. You’ll also find a scale model of colonial-era Quito here too, which really helps you get a sense of the old town’s layout. You’ll also find an Ethnography Museum and a Planetarium at Mitad del Mundo, as well as several tourist shops, bars and restaurants. On weekends, locals hang out in the Middle of the World, which comes alive with folk music and dance shows.More

Quilotoa Lagoon


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

The Church of the Society of Jesus, (in Spanish, Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús), often called la Compañía, is a Jesuit church in Quito and is one of the most significant works of Spanish Baroque architecture in South America. The company in question is the Jesuit order, a powerful religious group that exercised authority in Ecuador. The first Jesuit priests arrived in Quito in 1586 with the mission to establish a church, school and monastery. Construction of this church began in 1605, though the building was not completed until 1765. It is considered Quito's most-ornate church is and often called the country's most-beautiful church. During the colonial period, the church’s bell tower was the tallest structure in Quito, but it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1859. Rebuilt within six years, it was again destroyed shortly after by another earthquake and was never rebuilt.More

San Francisco Church (Iglesia de San Francisco)

Nestled in the historic downtown area of Quito, visitors find the first Catholic Church built in the city, the San Francisco Church (Iglesia de San Francisco). The amazing architecture of this Baroque church blends different styles that were incorporated over the more than 100 years of construction.More

Independence Plaza (Plaza de la Independencia)

Plaza de la Independencia, known as Plaza Grande to the locals, was Quito’s main square in the 16th century, serving as central market and bullfighting area. The plaza contains several important buildings: the Archbishop’s Palace to the north, City Hall to the east, the cathedral to the south, and the white, neoclassical Palacio del Gobierno (Government Palace) to the west. The Government Palace (re-built in 1920 after its original 1650 building was destroyed by fire) is not open to the public, but you can take a peek inside the main entrance, which is a beautiful example of Moorish architecture. There is a tourist information booth just behind the entrance gate. You’ll find more Moorish-inspired work in the courtyard of the Archbishop’s Palace (built in 1852) where there is also a small craft market and a few shops.More

Quito Old Town

Quito’s unmissable historic center, or ‘Old Town,' extends over 320 hectares (790 acres) and is the largest historic center in the Americas. Made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, Quito has taken great pride in restoring its colonial buildings and sprucing up its public spaces to ensure that both locals and visitors continue to breath life into the old town. Life is certainly not lacking in Quito Old Town. The streets and plazas constantly buzz with colorful locals and vendors selling everything from roasted peanuts to giant roasted pigs,. Tourists drink it all in as they shuffle between the overwhelming number of restored churches and chapels, convents and monasteries, mansions and museums. And of course, there are plenty of bars and restaurants and shady plazas to rest in when sightseeing fatigue kicks in.More

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

The Basilica of the National Vow (La Basílica del Voto Nacional), often called La Basilica, is one of the most beautiful Roman Catholic churches in Quito. Set up on a hill and visible from almost anywhere in the city, it’s particularly striking after dark, when it is illuminated.More

Otavalo Market

Nestled in a valley at the foot of a volcano, Otavalo is a highland community of indigenous locals famed for their weaving skills and colorful textiles. The local people (Otavaleños) who sell their wares at the daily market, wear traditional clothing and have maintained their culture, costume and identity. Saturday is the main market day in Otavalo but a weekday visit will be less hectic and provide more opportunity for some serious browsing. Within the market you’ll find traditional crafts, brightly-colored textiles and traditional weaving designs plus some musical instruments and carvings. Even if souvenir shopping isn't your thing, Otavalo market is a popular day trip from Quito, and a visit to Otavalo and the surrounding area is a window into the world of some of the more traditional indigenous peoples of Ecuador.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 1 Day in Quito

How to Spend 1 Day in Quito

How to Spend 2 Days in Quito

How to Spend 2 Days in Quito

Recent reviews from experiences in Quito

Great private tour in Banos with Pedro!
Jean_C, Dec 2020
Baños Tour from Quito - 1 Day- Private Tour
We had a comfortable ride from our hotel in Quito to Banos with amazing stops of the waterfalls, Casa del arbol, and Pailon del Diablo.
Great tour guide
Paul, Sep 2020
Private Day Trip to Papallacta Hot Springs from Quito
Diego speaks excellent English, showed up on time, and is very knowledgeable.
Personal approach
deborah_g, Feb 2020
Mindo Cloud Forest -Full day- From Quito
Great to get to see a bit of Equador other than Quito.
Neck of the Moon
Stephen_M, Feb 2020
Cotopaxi full day tour from Quito, small groups
Although we were not able to see the glacier cap from the base camp due to cloud cover, this was still super fun.
Quito in a day
Diane_T, Feb 2020
Quito Old Town Tour with Gondola Ride and Visit to the Equator
This is a great way to see Quito in one day.
Cotoplaxi Volcano 2 day tour worth it
Steve H, Nov 2019
Cotopaxi & Quilotoa 2Day/1Night - All included with accommodation
the small trek up the active Cotoplaxi volcano to snow and altitude and tour of the surrounding national park and the Quilotoa crater tour just show the many great places to see from Quito.
Knowledgeable guide led us on a super fun excursion
Songburst8, Nov 2019
Mindo Shared Day Trip from Quito
This day included a lovely butterfly/orchid/hummingbird museum, an 800m jungle hike to a waterfall, ziplining, lunch, an unexpected children's parade, and a chocolate tasting experience.
Great full day tour
Peter P, Sep 2019
Full-Day Quito City Tour & Mitad del Mundo
Great way to see Quito highlights and the Equator.
Just what I needed.
Kelly1335, Sep 2019
Termas de Papallacta Hot Springs full day tour from Quito
After a very busy week of travel and tours I decided to spend my last day in quito going to the hot springs.
Quito Tour
Beth W, Aug 2019
Private Quito City Tour
Excellent Tour - Recommended the best to see in Quito in a half day.
Great Tour
Basanth S, Jun 2019
Private Tour: Middle of the World Monument and Quito City Tour
He was also knowledgeable of the many attractions in his country.
Con P, Apr 2019
Full Day Quito City Tour Including Teleférico and Mitad del Mundo
This tour covered some of Quito's best attractions, perfect if you don't have much time.
Fun way to see Quito.
Lonewolf228, Jul 2018
Quito City Tour Double Decker Bus
Great way to see important parts of Quito.
Just a 2 hour drive from Quito, this...
Samantha C, Apr 2018
Full-Day Tour Cotopaxi National Park - All included from Quito
Great views and a real thrill to see one of the world's most active volcanoes.
Gabriel spoke excellent English and...
Cindy B, Feb 2018
Full Day Quito City Tour Including Teleférico and Mitad del Mundo
Gabriel spoke excellent English and provided a thorough historical tour of Quito.
This well worth every penny! We saw...
Dee M, Nov 2017
Quito City Tour Double Decker Bus
The weather was great and we had many opportunities to see amazing views during the rest of the tour.
This tour was amazing! We got to see...
Phyllis W, Sep 2017
Full-Day Quito City Tour & Mitad del Mundo
We got to see many exciting sights and my tour guide personalized part of the tour for us so everyone got to visit the areas of Quito that they wanted to see.
Javier was an AWESOME guide and good...
Mary E, Jan 2018
The Original Quito City Tour in Trolley with Hotel Pick-up - "Small Group"
Excellent history an overview of Old Town Quito in both English and Spanish.
This ended up being a solo tour. I...
CT, Jan 2017
Private Tour: Middle of the World Monument and Quito City Tour
He was smart and spoke perfect English.
Great experience. Nice to get out of...
Alison W, Apr 2017
Full-Day Tour Cotopaxi National Park - All included from Quito
Nice to get out of busy Quito to see the countryside.

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