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Trip List by AndesRuby

Quito and Surrounding Highlands

Mar 26, 2007  After nearly three years since having returned from a semester in Quito, these are some of the experiences I remember best.
4.5 of 5 stars based on 10 votes

Places to see, eat, people-watch, and/or relax in the Quito area.

  • Category: Perfect week or more
  • Traveler type: Culture, Sightseeing, Shopping, Active/Outdoors, Never been before, Repeat visitors
  • Appeals to: Couples/romantics, Honeymooners, Families with small children, Families with teenagers, Large groups, Students, Budget travelers, Tourists
  • Seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
  • 1. Plaza de San Francisco (Quito - Old Town)

    An enormous church and monastery complex, supposedly boasting the only perfectly circular staircase in the Americas (not to be confused with a spiral staircase). Tour the church, see its museum, and don't forget to try the empanadas de verde at Tianguez restaurant (to the right side of the circular stairs). Great place for people-watching!

  • 2. Virgen de Quito (Quito - El Panecillo)

    Enormous statue of the Virgin Mary. Take a cab to the top of El Panecillo, and head to the top of the statue. The climb is well worth the effort!

  • 3. Crepes & Waffles (Quito - Quicentro shopping mall)

    Absolutely amazing food; the entrees are just as savory as the dessert and breakfast crepes and waffles. Take advantage of the outdoor seating overlooking the Avenida Naciones Unidas.

  • 4. Inti-Ñan Museum (Equator)

    Supposedly, the REAL location of the equator lies at the latitude of the Inti-Ñan museum, and the guides perform science experiments right in front of you to prove it. Inti-Ñan is the indigenous term for the equator, literally meaning "Sun's Path." The more famous "equator" lies a few yards away, also with interesting exhibits (and the recognizable monument). Interestingly though, they don't do experiments there.

  • 5. Café Sutra (Quito - La Mariscal)

    Very fun, mellow atmosphere for drinks (hot and non-alcoholic drinks also available). A cool experience in the bar district. Especially great if you're looking for a quiet (but still lively) place to wind down with friends.

  • 6. La Compañía (Quito - Old Town)

    A church in Old Town with breathtaking ornamentation; sources report that the interior is covered in anywhere from one to seven tons of gold. If you see it, you'll see that there's no reason to doubt that claim.

  • 7. Papallacta

    Hot springs located between one and two hours from Quito. Ask around to find tour bus schedules to the destination. There is lodging there, but it works as a day trip also. Absolutely beautiful! (Even the scenery from Quito to Papallacta is incredible.)

  • 8. Otavalo

    ENORMOUS artisan market (An animal market also goes on nearby.). Make sure you head there on the right day; the markets occur on the same day every week. You never know what you'll find, and you can find some amazing...well, anything! Perfect for souvenirs and an absolutely unforgettable cultural experience. If you can, stop at Cayambe on your way; the town is (appropriately) famous for its bizcochos.

  • 9. Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa (Quito - intersection of Naciones Unidas and 6 de Diciembre)

    Take in a soccer game against the backdrop of the majestic Pichincha. DEFINITELY don't pass up the empanadas de morocho that they're passing out. (This is right across the street, by the way, from Quicentro, where Attraction #3 is located.)

  • 10. Plaza de Toros (Quito - New Town)

    Try to catch a concert here if you're not interested in watching a bullfight. It's a unique experience to watch a concert in a bull ring, while the planes landing in Quito's airport look almost close enough to touch. (Especially amazing at night time, but not for the faint of heart!)

  • 11. Baños

    This is about five hours from Quito and, last I heard, technically not supposed to have been inhabited since around five years ago (because of geologic instability), but it's a stunning place, and it still generates a lot of tourist traffic. Tucked into the mountains, Baños is famous for its waterfalls and hot springs--a very picturesque town. Many travelers also like to take advantage of the nearby hiking opportunities and trips up the Tungurahua Volcano (the latter, to watch the pyrotechnics). Again, this is a very geologically volatile area, so pay attention to current warnings. If you go, it's worth at least an overnight stay.

  • 12. Cumbayá (Valley Suburb of Quito)

    (San Juan de) Cumbayá is gorgeous. It's about half an hour from Quito by bus, somewhat warmer because of the drop in altitude, and absolutely worth visiting, even if only for the scenery on the way down (and, if you head back to up Quito through Guápulo, especially for the views on the way back up). The Universidad San Francisco de Quito is in this wealthy valley suburb, and Cumbayá is quickly growing. Find a restaurant here, or check a guidebook for more ideas on how to take advantage of the short excursion.

  • 13. Parque la Carolina (Quito - New Town)

    Head here for the Saturday morning aerobics! Even if you're not athletic, don't pass this up. It's a reasonably short walk if you're heading there from Quicentro (on Naciones Unidas). And if you want to gain back all the calories you burned, there are more than enough food vendors around to help you in your endeavor!

  • 14. Casa de la Cultura (Quito - New Town)

    Also known as the Museo del Banco, if I'm not mistaken. There's a great market right across the street that occupies the ENTIRE park on weekends. The paintings, usually on the periphery of the park, set up to face the street, are especially interesting.

  • 15. ROSES (Absolutely anywhere!)

    Ecuador has the perfect climate for growing roses. Some streets have stall upon stall of rose vendors (commonly sold in bouquets of 25--and for usually between one and three dollars). Still worth looking for even if you don't plan to buy; it's an absolutely amazing photo op. Of course, you should thank the vendors for their time (and their permission to take a picture) with a tip!