From Colombia we went directly to Quito, taking a direct bus from Tulcan, a little town 15min away from the Colombian Border. The trip takes about 5 hours and cost 6 dollars. This is the fastest way to reach Quito from Colombia, if you cross the border via Ipiales.
Quito, capital of Ecuador, counts more than 2 230 000 inhabitants, is 60km long and 8km large. This city has a lot to offer and we will let you know why.
What to visit?
The best way to get to know the city and his history is to do a Walking Tour. Quito offer lots of Free Walking Tour mostly in the historical centre where you will be able to see all the colonial architectural beauties left by the Spanish colons. We did a great one with FREE WALKING TOUR ECUADOR. Meeting Point at Community Hostel, next to the central market, you will walk for about 2/3h and get some nice facts about the city. Little advice, try to do this tour on a Monday morning at 10:30AM and you will get to see the change of the guards on the Plaza de la Independencia, where the government palace is. Really nice ceremony to see and you may be able to see the Ecuadorian President Lenin on the balcony.
If you decide to go on your own, here is a list of beautiful places to visit in the historical centre:
Government Palace and Plaza de la Independencia: Visits starts at 9AM except on Mondays, 2PM, Free
Basilica del Voto Nacional: Costs 2$, you can reach the very top of the Basilica and have a great 360º view of Quito. If you are Ecuadorian this will cost you just a dollar.
Iglesia de la Campañia de Jesus: This church is probably the most breathtaking church from Quito. The reason is that walls and decoration inside the church have been done with 53,5kg of gold! You can imagine the feeling you will have entering the golden church. It costs a crazy 5$ to enter but on Sundays, this is free if you tell the person watching out the entrance that you are here to assist the mass (8AM 9AM 10:30AM)!
El Panecillo: This Virgen Mary on top of a hill looking like an Angel watching out for Quito’s people, is a lovely view point that you can reach by taking a taxi (2-4$). Not that you cannot reach it walking, but this is much safer that way. Many thieves are watching out tourists going up walking and all locals recommend taking a taxi. At the top you’ll have few artisanal shops, and typical food as well as the beautiful view.
La Ronda: This area is in fact a Street, full of bars, restaurant and workshops. This place will be empty during the day since only the workshops are open and full during the evening. Worth to go for a walk in the evening, there are always live music and lots of life.
The old city centre has lots of beautiful churches where you can enter for free such as San Francisco Church, and few nice museums like the Museum de Cera where you will be able to learn more about the history of the whole country (open at 2PM).
While we will just be telling you about the old city centre, keep in mind that Quito has as well a more modern neighbourhood right around the Avenue Amazonas with lots of shops, banks, shopping centres, and a lovely Botanic Garden. It has as well the Foch Area where party is the main purpose. If this is what you like to do, then you will find lots of disco, bars, youngsters, alcohol, and drugs.
Where to stay?
Accommodation in Quito is not cheap for travellers but you can find hotels, hostels or Private rooms at a good price. In the Foch Area there are many hostels, we thought this would be crazy at night and decided to stay in the old city centre. It´s quieter and we were at walking distance from everything. There are Airbnbs starting at around 12$ a night if you prefer staying at a local´s place. Otherwise the Community Hostel is great option. Starting 10$/pp in a dormitory, this place has a perfect location, awesome rooftop, it is really clean and the staff is amazingly helpful. We did not know this place until we did the Walking Tour since it was the starting point. We stayed at Hostal Latitud Ecuem, for 15$ a night for 2 people. We thought it was a good option and did not know at first that it was as well a hotel for…”short times”. But we have not been disturbed, it was descent and the staff was really helpful and nice. Average cost for accommodation is 25$ in Quito which is a huge amount for budget travellers…so try to have a look before going to Quito and do not go to creepy places.
What to eat?
Quito has a lot of options for food! You will find lots of good restaurants and some nice economical places if you are on a budget like we were. The best place to eat? The markets! The old city centre has a big closed market with a Food Patio called Mercado Central. You will eat local food, with locals, and at a local price. A nice dish with chorizo, meat, eggs, beetroots, lettuce, and mashed potato would be costing you 2,50$ while a typical Locro (potato soup with cheese, peppers and avocado) would cost you 2$. On top of that you can have a full jar of fresh juice (coconut, blackberry, orange, carrots etc.) for just 2$50 to share. In town you have as well lots of small places that offers menu, with a soup, a glass of juice and a main plate such as Chicken with Fries, Rice and Salad for 3$50/4$.
All over the old city centre you will find lots of ladies selling “cueros”, fried pork skin, corn, and lots of sweets such as candied peanuts (garrapiñadas), corn which is delicious! Treat yourself with the candied peanuts, it usually cost between 0,50$ and 1$ and it’s to die for.
We tried as well boiled eggs that a nice lady was selling with Aji (spicy chilli sauce) and lemon. You can find anything on your way if you are hungry. Do not forget to try one of the specialities of Ecuador, the Cuy (Guinea Pig) that you can taste in La Ronda Area.
How to move around?
Quito has a great transportation system so you can do anything taking buses and their “metro”. You can cross the city for only 0,25$. It is pretty safe, but obviously, be careful with your belongings. They have lots of taxis if you need to reach faster your destination or you have lots of suitcases.
What else to do around Quito?
From Quito, you can reach the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, the exact half of the world point. It will take at least 1h30 from the old city centre by bus, costing you about 1$. The bus will leave you in front of the entrance of the Mitad del Mundo Monument.
Different but interesting for nature lovers, Ecuador has some amazing flowers, more specifically roses. In the North and South of Quito you will be able to visit rose’s plantations and farms. Most of them are in Otavalo but you will find plenty in the region of Cotopatxi just an hour and a half away from Quito.
From Quito you can easily go to the second highest Volcano of the World, the famous Cotopaxi, where beautiful landscapes, birds, and wild horses will be awaiting. There´s a famous road called the Avenue of the 14 volcanos since going towards Cotopaxi you will see lots of them. Take the train for an authentic experience. If you don´t have your own car, you will have to hire a guide which costs in low season 20$ per person including the entrance of the Cotopaxi Park. Once you reach the lower part of the Volcano, you are invited for a hike of an hour to reach the 1st Refuge at 4850m. Depending on when you go hiking, you could climb and reach the top. In June 2017, this part is closed due to tourists going out of the recommended way and creating an avalanche. Highly recommended, keep in mind if you are not used of high altitude that you may be a little tired. No worries, at the Refuge you can get Coca Tea to get energy, Warm Chocolate, Snacks and soups.
Another beauty reachable from Quito would be The Quilotoa Lagoon. The recommendation is to leave Quito very early since you’ll have at least 3 to 4h of bus to reach the town of Quilotoa. From there you have various treks, but if you are going for the day, you can reach the lagoon taking the way down. It takes about 30min. At the lagoon, you can get a canoe to enjoy the water, go for a walk along the lagoon, or just enjoy for a minute the amazing scenery. Going back up will take you an hour at least, since it is really ascending a LOT, and that the height can make you feel a little tired. In the village of Quilotoa, you’ll be able to spend the night as well of you don’t want to return to Quito. The Lagoon Area is open from 7AM to 5PM. You can definitely contract a tour from Quito, but this is always cheaper to discover by yourself the area. If you need more info, send us a message and we can give you tips depending on where you are spending the night (Latacunga, Quito, etc).
Quito is a lovely city, which can be easily visited in a short time, so if you need more tips or contacts, get in touch with us!