Prior to departing for our Galapagos Island trip last fall, we were able to spend a few days exploring the highest capital in the world, Quito, Ecuador!
This post may contain affiliate links. These links provide a means for sites like NattyGal.com to earn a small commission when a reader clicks through and makes a purchase at no additional cost to the reader. See full affiliate disclosure in Privacy & Disclosures.
Quito Fun Facts
- Quito is the highest constitutional capital in the world at 9,350 feet. La Paz, Bolivia sits a bit higher but it is not the constitional capital of the country.
- In 1978, Quito was the first city to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Galapagos were also designated by UNESCO in that same year.
- Quito is nearly the farthest point on earth from the earth’s center (due to the equitorial bulge).
- The capital sits between two active volcanos (Pichincha & Cotopaxi) and several other dormant ones.
- Quito has two season, Dry (June-September) and Wet (October-May). The wet season is slightly warmer/rainier and the dry season cooler/drier.
- Quito experiences 12 hours of daylight year round. Sunrise is typically between 6-6:30 AM and sunset between 6-6:30 PM all year.
- Quito uses the US dollar as their currency and our same type of electrical outlets.
Sightseeing In Quito
Sightseeing in Quito can be sorted into three main categories: old town, new town, and day trips.
On our first day in town, we took a free walking tour. One of the highlights was a stop at the local market! We visited many of the sites below and it’s a great way to get oriented to a new city. This company also offers a free walking tour.
We happened to be traveling in Quito near the Day of the Dead and were able to sample the traditional guaguas de pan (bread babies) and colada morada (a thick, hot dark purple beverage) that Ecuadorians consume during this time. Eaten at cemeteries when they go to visit their loved ones, this practice is a symbolic way to nourish their loved ones on this important holiday.
Old Town Quito is a colonial gem among South American cities! Make your way to Plaza Grande and from there it will be easy to visit any or all of the following sites. Regardless, the area is a lovely spot to walk around. Enjoy poking your head in whenever something strikes your fancy!
- Iglesia San Francisco
- Catedral Metropolitana de Quito
- Iglesia Compania de Jesus
- Iglesia Santa Domingo
- Museo de la Ciudad: Exhibits and artifacts pertaining to the city from pre-Colombian times to current day
- Museum of Colonial Art
- Calle de la Ronda: A charming, pedestrian-only, cobblestoned street
- El Panecillo: A hill/overlook area and home to the Virgin Mary, the world’s tallest aluminum statue
In the new town, main sights include the Basilica Voto Nacional, the Banco Central del Ecuador and a cluster of parks; Parque la Alameda, Parque de Arbolito, and the Parque de Ejido. There are several government buildings and a university in this area as well.
Lodging & Dining
We stayed at the Swissotel Quito and were delighted to be upgraded to a suite with some extra room! While the property was very well maintained, the decor and lobby felt a bit dated. The location was very convenient for our needs and the buffet breakfast each morning was incredible!
Other properties we considered were the nearby Marriott Quito and Casa Gangotena in the old town. Casa Gangotena also has an amazing restaurant on it’s property that is worth checking out. Zazu Quito offers a unqiue and beautifully presented Andean themed tasting menu. For casual dining, many eateries are sprinkled throughout the city.
The TeleferiQo cable car is one of the highest in the world and runs along the east face of Pichincha volcano. This site is only about 10-20 minutes from most of downtown but doesn’t fit into either the old or new town categories.
You will have incredible views over the city on a clear day as well as the chance to ride the Swing in the Clouds! This swing sits at 13,000+ feet and offers great photos of the city below. Hikers may want to explore the Rucu Pichincha, although go in a group and exercise caution as violent crime has increased along this route.
TIPS: Arrive EARLY on a clear day as the line forms quickly. Don’t bother if its cloudy, you won’t see a thing. Plan to spend about 2 hours.
A trip to the equator is probably the single most popular day trip from Quito. Did you know there are two locations that claim this important point? The Mitad del Mundo with its large monument was actually erected on the incorrect site.
The true equator sits at Museo Solar Inti-Nan, a few hundred feet to the north. Here you will find a small museum and get to try your hand at several equator-based experiments like balancing an egg on a nail. Both sites are silly fun but great for photo ops! The equator is about a 45-minute cab ride from town.
Known for its market where indigenous townspeople sell textiles and handicrafts, Otavalo is a scenic Andean town about 2 hours from Quito. If you decide to take a day trip here, consider a quick stop at the nearby Peguche waterfall as well.
If the visit to TeleferiQo/Pichincha failed to scratch your volcano itch, try climbing to the summit of Cotapaxi (15,960 ft.). The park is about 1.5 hours outside of Quito.
In the next travel post, we will cover the sights of Guayaquil! Thanks so much for your likes, shares and follows. Until next time,