One Week in Quito, Ecuador: 23 Things in 7 Days!

Man posing at Pululahua Volcano
One of the coolest things to do in Quito: Pululahua Volcano (I hiked it in these clothes. I do not endorse this lack of preparation).

The reality; you have one week in Quito, Ecuador.

The challenge; to see and experience the very best of Quito and its surrounding areas.

In a country named after the fact that most of it straddles the Earth’s Equator, Quito is one of the highest elevated capital cities in the world. A gritty city with vibrance, history and culture, finding fun things to do in Quito isn’t hard if you have an open mind. 

Ecuador remains one of the least visited countries in South America, and even though its capital Quito may be a little rough around the edges, there’s more than enough to explore when we broaden the scope of travel in Ecuador. 

So let’s break down this list of 23 fun things to do during your week in Quito (in no particular order) to get you inspired about this fairly-uncharted Andean city that gets significantly less love than more popular cities in South America.

One Week in Quito: The Very Best Things To Do in Ecuador’s Capital

The Ecuadorian capital is a city full of culture, history, decent grub and a hell of a lot of hiking options. One week is more than enough to get involved in these busy Quito activities and also branch out for day trips.

It’s a little rough around the edges though so do exercise extra vigilance and caution while travelling there. I don’t want to put you off and I was fine but I did have a healthy dose of paranoia to keep me safe.

For now, I’ll break down the very best things to do for your one week in Quito based on my very own experience in this South American fun, gritty city. 

1. Take The TeleferiQo To Pichincha 

View of a gondola named the TeleferiQo climbing the Andes mountains outside of Quito, Ecuador

Pichincha volcano rises up on the western side of the capital, a dominating sight and a defining image of Quito. To catch the perfect glimpse of this towering giant, Quito has installed the Teleferico; a gondola lift running from the edge of the city centre up to the east side of the volcano. 

As you ride from the city up the volcano’s foothills, breathtaking views of the city below are fused with awesome views of the volcano above.

Around 4,000m above sea level (beating Japan’s tallest mountain by a couple of hundred metres), the climate of the city quickly changes to one of cool and cold surroundings once you reach the top. The jump in altitude can also cause some visitors to feel the effects of altitude sickness as they get to the top. So once you make it to the top of the cable car, take it steady and watch your step.

Aside from the great views of the volcano when you’ve made it to the top, the ten-minute ride shows you what you have in store for the next item on this list. With the countryside and cityscapes below, there is no beating this kind of view of Quito. It’s best to go during the morning, as you should get far clearer views of the landscape if you do.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Teleferico is located to the far west of the city, on the road of ​​Fulgencio Araujo.
  • Cost – $8.50 for adults and $6.50 for children for a ride to the top.
  • Opening hours – 9:30 am – 6 pm
  • Time needed – Around an hour or two to ride up to the top and see the sights while you’re there.
  • Getting there –  Pretty much the only way to get the start of the Teleferico is to hail a taxi or order one via Uber/Easy Taxi. This is one of the most popular things to do in Quito so most local taxi drivers won’t have a problem getting you there for less than $5.

2. Hike Pichincha 

Hiker in the green valley of Pichincha in Quito, Ecuador.

Now that you’ve taken the comfortable Teleferico to the foothills of the volcano, you can begin the fun, exhilarating and rewarding hike to the top of the Pichincha volcano. The entire hike takes around three to four hours and will lead you to the breathtaking height of 4,693 metres (15,400 feet) above sea level.

The hike to the top is around six miles altogether, and although the trail isn’t amazingly well marked out, the steady stream of hikers has threaded a well-worn route up to the peak. Hiking Pichincha is a fun experience and a wholesome, solid workout; very similar level to hiking Pacaya volcano in Guatemala.

Heading left from the Teleferico and down a hill, the trail winds its way up the right side of the volcano. With gradual increases in steepness, the route goes from a gentle amble to a relatively tricky vertical trek.

During the last 15 or 20 minutes of the hike, you’ll need to get a good hand and foothold on the rocky outcrops below you; it’s time to scramble. When the summit finally comes into view, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes, high above the clouds.

What really makes this hike stand out is its accessibility. For the price of a taxi and ticket up Teleferico, you can summit a volcano! Unlike the many Andean hikes throughout South America, hiking Pichincha can be done completely streamlined, right from the city streets of Quito.

Related Post: Volcano in Boarding in Leon, Nicaragua

Know before you go:

  • Location – Located to the far west of the city and a Teleferico ride away 
  • Cost – Free, but you will have to pay the fee for the ride up to the top, which costs $8.50 for adults and $6.50 for children.
  • Opening hours – 9:30 am – 6 pm.
  • Time needed – Give yourself five hours to ensure you have enough time to get up there and complete the hike.
  • Getting there – Take a taxi to the base and ride up the Teleferico to reach the start of the trail.

3. Do the Swing Thing

A tourist sits on a giant swing facing a mountainous city centre.

If the high-altitude climb to the top of the Pichincha volcano sounds a little too exhausting, then why not take it easy, reconnect with your inner child and relax on a swing? As your ride up the Teleferico comes to a stop, and you’re taking in the stunning views of the Ecuadorian capital, there is one unique place where you can capture the perfect photo; of you on a swing… before tucking into the local delicacies on offer at the nearby restaurants. 

This wooden farmed play swing has two seats overlooking the vast open spaces and the city below. As you gently swing and take in the beautiful surroundings, you won’t be blamed for trying to capture that ultimate Instagramble shot with you swinging and the sprawl of mountainous Ecuador as your backdrop. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – Not far from the restaurant at the end of the Teleferico route. 
  • Cost – Free
  • Opening hours – The Teleferico runs between the hours of 9:30 am and 6 pm so you’ll need to head to the swing sometime then.
  • Time needed – Jumping on the swing for a few minutes should be enough to get the shot.
  • Getting there – Take the Teleferico to the top and make your way to swing close by.

4. Wander Up To El Panecillo

A statue of The Virgin Mary on top of a hill with coloured houses surrounding Quito, Ecuador.
Source: Wikimedia

In a city surrounded by the foothills of the Andean mountains, finding great viewpoints almost becomes too easy. And yet, coming across a perfect hillside view in the city centre is always a great find. The El Panecillo is a huge mound in the centre of the town that dominates the Quito skyline. Climbing is one of the most rewarding things for your one week in Quito.

Located south of Quito’s Old Town, the El Panecillo, meaning little loaf of bread, is adorned with a  41m-tall aluminium mosaic statue of La Virgen de Quito or Virgin of Quito, which was completed in 1976. Climbing the steps at the base of the hill and the dominating statue will take you up to the top. Once at the top, you are again rewarded with stunning 360 views of the whole city. 

Particularly during the rainy season, it’s best to make the climb earlier in the morning. This way, you can avoid the rolling clouds that flow in and obscure the views of the volcano and city. 

You can make your way to El Panecillo by foot via the stairs at the end of Calle García Moreno. However, with a slightly dodgy reputation for crime, it might be a better idea to call yourself an Uber/taxi.

This is up to you, I actually ran up at sunset.

Know before you go:

  • Location – El Panecillo is located in the centre of the city, within the Panecillo neighbourhood.
  • Cost – $1 entry fee
  • Opening hours – 9 am – 6 pm 
  • Time needed – Give yourself at least an hour to climb and enjoy the views.
  • Getting there – It’s much easier to catch a taxi from the Old Town, which won’t cost more than a few dollars. 

5. Wander La Ronda

A cobble-stoned street with yellow buildings in Quito, Ecuador.
La Ronda picturesque curve street in colonial Quito Ecuador South America

Capturing the real essence of Quito and Ecuador’s colonial past is the famous La Ronda street and neighbourhood. This notable street resides in the northeast section of the city and features quaint cobblestoned streets and stunning colonial architecture all mixed with a booming restaurant, bar and souvenir shop scene.

Most of the buildings in La Ronda date back to the 17th century and have been perfectly restored to showcase them in their former glory. Signs on various walls describe the street and area’s history, enabling you to jump back in time to its colonial heyday. 

Though it’s fantastic to celebrate and explore the region’s indigenous past that was suppressed for so long, it’s also interesting to explore the city’s troublesome past, something that has so strongly defined the region.

Aside from the copious amounts of historical spots, the modern transformation of La Ronda from a once forgotten side of the city, to one of the jewels of Quito has introduced numerous modern attractions. The lamp-lit streets give way to doorways and courtyards that lead to art galleries, museums, craft shops and elegant restaurants.

Know before you go:

  • Location – La Ronda is located in the northeast of the city, around the Calderon neighbourhood.
  • Cost – Free to wander around.
  • Opening hours – 24 hours
  • Time needed – To really soak up the atmosphere in La Ronda, give yourself a whole afternoon and evening to check out a few shops and bars. 
  • Getting there – Sitting far out to the northeast, it’s more efficient to grab a quick taxi from the centre to La Ronda. However, buses 21, 27, and 8 also run a route up to La Ronda. 

6. Quito Ciclopaseo (Sunday Biking)

In an inspiring piece of legislation, the people of Quito have introduced the ‘Quito Ciclopaseo’. This is where, every Sunday, a 19-mile route from north to south of the city is closed to traffic from 8 am to 2 pm. 

This allows a steady stream of cyclists to enjoy a Sunday morning bicycle ride through the city, unperturbed by the city traffic.

Beginning in the early 2000s, this event has really taken off and has gone from a monthly to a weekly event. Not only does it promote healthy exercise and an awareness of the city but it’s one small gesture that reinforces your belief in humanity’s ability to step back and take a moment to appreciate the smaller and more helpful things in life.

It’s possible to hire a bicycle from the numerous rental shops throughout the city and once you have done this, all you need to do is decide whether you’ll start in the north or the south. If you’re after flatter terrain for an easier ride, then heading along the segment between El Ejido Park and Bicentenario Park – the northern section is your best choice.

Ensure you’re stocked up with water and sun cream and remember, this isn’t a race or extreme biking like you’ll see while cycling down The Death Road in Bolivia south of Ecuador (highly recommended!).

What it is, is a great excuse to get together with both locals and visitors and breathe in the fresh air of a city relieved of car fumes for just one morning – a great excuse to get on your bike and explore the city via your own method of transport, while getting a good workout in.      

Know before you go:

  • Location – The route starts from numerous places, including Galo Plaza Lasso Avenue and El Ejido Park.
  • Cost – Around $25 to rent a bicycle for half of the day.
  • Opening hours – 8 am to 2 pm
  • Time needed – Depending on how much you want to ride, you can cycle from anywhere between an hour and five.
  • Getting there – There are several bike hire shops along the main Pedro Vicente Maldonado Avenue, but it’s worth asking your accommodation to point you in the right direction.

7. Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Middle of The World City)

A man smiles under a signpost pointing to Peru, Cuba and Mexico in La Mitad del Mundo in Quito

In the very north of the city, is a monument known as the Ciudad Mitad Del Mundo – a simple line that marks the place where the equator runs directly through Quito. 

Proud of this phenomenon, the area has a war-memorial-type vibe to its architecture, but this is smothered by the overwhelming sense of fun and celebration that such a marker sparks in both locals and tourists. 

When you add to this the fact that Ecuador is the Spanish word for the equator, then you’ll understand their elation a little bit more. 

You might be thinking that this is just a line, there can’t be much to see or do here. But, you’d be wrong. Whether it’s someone trying to walk along the equator in a straight line or another taking a photo of themselves standing in both the north and south hemispheres, people go to great lengths to prove where they’ve been.

Other than the line itself, there are a number of other things to do in Quito’s top tourist spot:

  • Take the elevator to the top of the viewing platform and admire the views of the surrounding mountains. As you make your way down the stairs, you’ll also find rooms with museum-type exhibitions telling you more information about the site.
  • Take a ride in the planetarium, a virtual-reality type experience where you’ll see a visualisation of the night sky above Quito.
  • Balance an egg on the head of a nail… because why not? If you can do it, you’ll receive a certificate for your efforts. Get that in your trophy cabinet!
  • Explore the Ancestral Homes exhibit that showcases re-creations of traditional homes from the Andes and the Amazon.
  • Buy some local beer at Museo de la Cerveza and find out how they brew the stuff from start to finish.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Ciudad Mitad del Mundo is found in the north of Quito in the San Antonio area of the city. 
  • Cost – The entrance fee is $5 for adults and $2.50 for children, which will give you access to the monument, planetarium, a few outdoor areas, the old train station and a group of traditional homes. 
  • Opening hours – 9 am to 6 pm
  • Time needed – It really depends on what you want to see here, but a couple of hours should be plenty of time. 
  • Getting there – First, you’ll need to jump in a taxi to or walk to Ofelia station depending on where you’re staying in the city. From here, you’ll find plenty of buses marked Mitad del Mundo. Tickets cost a mere 25 cents and buses take around 40 minutes to get there. If you’d prefer, you can get a taxi from door to door, which might cost between $10 and $20. 

8. Plaza Grande

A busy park overlooking a white building in Quito, Ecuador.
Source: Wikimedia

Plaza Grande, or to give its official name, Plaza de la Independencia is the main square in the middle of Quito. Translated into English as Independence Square, the Plaza Grande was constructed at the height of colonial rule in the mid-16th century and is a testament to Spanish rule and the European influence it had over the city and wider Ecuador.

Known as the centre of Quito’s Old Town, it is here that many of the city’s modern identity was formed and, in many ways, it still remains here. Throughout history, the Plaza Grande has been a scene of vital political importance throughout history in Ecuador. 

Today, the square has become the meeting place for many of the city’s youth and is a central hub for social activity throughout Quito.

Found in the Plaza Grande are four important buildings and institutions including the Presidential Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito and the Municipal Palace – making a visit to the Plaza Grande a rewarding thing to do in Quito, no matter how long you are here for.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Plaza de la Independencia is located in the heart of the Old Town.
  • Cost – Free
  • Opening hours – 24 hours
  • Time needed – Give yourself a couple of hours to take in the square’s many sights and attractions.
  • Getting there – Take either the number 12 or 27 bus to the Benalcazar and Chile bus stop, which is a short walk from the square.

9. Climb Itchimbia and Grab The “Quito” Sign Photo

View of Quito from Itchimbia park located on a hill  on the east side of the city

In a city blessed with so many high vantage points and lookouts, it’s easy to become spoiled after a while. But, no visit to the capital would be complete without venturing up to the top of Itchimbía. This huge hill that overlooks the city is blessed with a well-taken-care parkland and provides the perfect place to relax after the climb.

With stunning views of the Old Town and Basilica just below, you will be blown away by the almost 360 views you can take in from the top. Reconnect with your inner tourist, and make sure you grab a photo with the ‘Quito’ sign at the top of the hill too. Although a smaller name than many, the huge letters spell out the name of the Ecuadorian capital and are just asking to be selfie material.

Reaching the top of Itchimbía during the early morning or evening is best; here, you can avoid the crowds, enjoy the sunrise and take a few hours to get away from the steady rush of the city.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Located at the top of Manuel Samaniego Road, in the San Blas suburbs.
  • Cost – Free. 
  • Opening hours – 5:30 am – 6 pm.
  • Time needed – You’ll need around two hours to climb and enjoy the views from Itchimbía. 
  • Getting there – Buses leave from El Centro marked for Itchimbía. You can either get out at the bottom of the hill, or the bus will take you to the top. Alternatively, if you’re looking to stretch your legs, walking from the centre of Quito to the top of the hill will take around 90 minutes. 

10. Chill at Crystal Palace

A large clear glass building lit up at night in Quito, Ecuador.
Impressive glass building in Itchimbia park, night shot long expusure, Quito,Ecuador

When you get to the top of Itchimbía, you’ll see a mysterious glass building.

This glasshouse sits above the hillside and gazes down at the Ecuador capital below. Built-in the same designs as the Palacio De Cristal in Madrid, the Crystal Palace of Quito is a huge glass building that dominates one end of the Itchimbía.

Often unmanned, the building is made of steel, glass and zinc, and was built in the German city of Hamburg. Stood here since 1889, the building’s official use is as the Cultural Exhibition Centre for Quito. On rare occasions, the Crystal Palace will also hold a series of exhibitions showcasing literary presentations or art and photography exhibitions.

For most of the time, the Crystal Palace has been left as simply a place to chill and relax while gazing at the views below or enjoying the impressive structure itself. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – The Crystal Palace is located at the top of Itchimbía, close to the Quito sign. 
  • Cost – Free to enter
  • Opening hours – 5 am – 6 pm
  • Time needed – Around ten or twenty minutes to check out the building and longer if there are exhibitions there when you visit.
  • Getting there –   Buses leave from El Centro marked for Itchimbía. You can either get out at the bottom of the hill, or the bus will take you to the top. Alternatively, if you’re looking to stretch your legs, walking from the centre of Quito to the top of the hill will take around 90 minutes. If you’re already at the top of the hill, you can’t miss this imposing structure.

11. Quito Craft Beer Tour

A pint of craft beer on a red and white table.
Source: Wikimedia

As the first city in all of South America to brew beer, a trend started by the Spanish in the 16th century, it makes perfect sense to indulge in a Quito Craft Beer Tour when you’re looking for things to do in Quito. 

These tours won’t only introduce you to new and exciting flavours from local breweries, but will also help you to understand how and why the city of Quito is so passionate about beer, and why it has been for so many centuries.

Wandering through the traditional Old Town neighbourhood on a tour, you will be guided by a master brewer specialist who will introduce you to the world of Ecuadorian craft beers. During the tour, you’ll visit a number of pubs and local microbreweries, of course, sampling a few of their best tipples along the way. 

Not only will you sample great beers, but your guide will also furnish you with a vast knowledge of the city, its social history and Ecuadorian relationships toward food and drink.

Know before you go:

  • Location – The tours usually take place around the city’s Old Town, but your tour will tell you exactly where to meet them.
  • Cost – Tours start from $49 per person.
  • Opening hours – Tours usually take place during the early evening.
  • Time needed – Tours last around three hours.
  • Getting there – Most tour operators will collect you from a predetermined spot in Quito’s Old Town.

12. Watch The Changing of The Guard 

Every Monday the Plaza Grande comes alive with the official changing of the guard. This protocol has been taking place here for decades, with all the pomp and ceremony of centuries gone by. 

The whole ceremony concludes with the handing over of the sword from the old to the new guard, yet it is the build-up to this act that really makes watching the changing of the guard; a very quintessential thing to do in Quito.

At around 11 am, the event starts with vibrantly dressed parade soldiers opening the doors of the palace, and a full-scale marching band strikes up. Then, the Presidential Escort Group, known as the Granaderos de Tarqui, are joined by drummers and cavalry; the horses’ manes are adorned with coloured pom-poms.

Although a republic, the changing of the guard has all the elevated ceremonial imagery that you would come to expect from a royal procession. One of the most fascinating things to do in Quito, the changing of the guard, is not to be missed if you just so happen to be in the city on Monday morning.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Outside the Presidential Palace in the Plaza Grande.
  • Cost – Free to watch
  • Opening hours – The ceremony starts on Monday at 11 am sharp, but it’s worth getting there a little earlier to get a good vantage point.
  • Time needed – Allow yourself at least an hour to get in position and watch the changing of the guard.
  • Getting there – Take the number 12 or 27 bus to the Benalcazar & Chile bus stop which is just a short walk away from Plaza Grande and the Presidential Palace.

13. Climb the Basilica del Voto Nacional

A gothic building lit up at night in Quito, Ecuador.

The monumental 19th-century church of Basilica del Voto Nacional is a remarkable sight all by itself. The ornate neo-gothic style that adorns the church really makes it stand out against the modern and colonial buildings that surround it. 

One of the largest churches in the entire capital, the Basilica del Voto Nacional’s most incredible feature is its two tall towers, which if you have the nerve to climb, offer amazing views of the city and surrounding foothills below.

The heart-racing climb to the top of the Basilica del Voto Nacional is one that is sure to set your nerves for heights on edge. Although the precarious climb up the steps and ladders is a little terrifying, the reward of amazing views across the city makes it all the more worth it. 

As someone who is no stranger to hilly challenges (I climbed Mont Blanc a year after this and I also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in the space of a week), and Ifound this a tough gig. Not for the height, but for the claustrophobic feeling; it’s a very tight space for those that way inclined (no pun intended).

Combining stunning neo-gothic architecture with an adrenaline rush climb and stunning views makes this one of the best things to do in Quito and is something that you are not going to forget in a hurry.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Basílica del Voto Nacional is located in the historical centre of the city. 
  • Cost – $2 for entry and a climb to the top.
  • Opening hours – 9 am – 5 pm
  • Time needed – Give yourself a couple of hours to comfortably do the climb and then enjoy the views from above.
  • Getting there – You can catch numerous buses to the Vargas Y Caldas bus stop, just around the corner from the church.

14. Cup of Canelazo

Whether you’re looking for something to warm you up on a colder day in Ecuador, or you’re simply after one of those quintessential things to do in Quito, then a steaming hot cup of Canelazo is sure to do the trick.

A traditional hot alcoholic drink, Canelazo is made from Aguardienta, alcohol fermented from sugar cane and cinnamon, which is then mixed with a type of fruit juice. The most common mixer is naranjilla, a fruit native to South America that tastes like a mix between lime and rhubarb. Other options include orange, blackberry or passion fruit juice.

You can get a cup of Canelazo almost anywhere around Quito, you’ll find street stalls scattered around the streets in the Old Town, and most cafes and restaurants serve up their own version too, with a side of traditional Peruvian food. 

However, the place that comes highly recommended is a small stall on top of El Panecillo. As I mentioned earlier, this huge mound that sits in the centre of Quito is the ideal spot to soak in the city’s view, and how better to do it than with a cup of traditional Canelazo.

Know before you go:

  • Location – El Panecillo is located in the centre of the city, within the Panecillo neighbourhood.
  • Cost – $1 entry fee to Panecillo, and a cup of canelazo should cost no more than $0.50.
  • Opening hours – The hill opens from 9 am – 6 pm, but you won’t find the Canelazo stall open until after lunchtime.
  • Time needed – Give yourself at least an hour to climb and enjoy the views with your new favourite beverage. 
  • Getting there – It’s easiest to catch a taxi from the Old Town, which shouldn’t cost more than a few dollars. 

15. Street Art Tour

Street art of a brown lady with fire and growing plants in her hands in Quito, Ecuador.

There is a saying that ‘no wall is white in Ecuador’, and walking around Quito, it’s easy to see why that is.

While many crackdowns on graffiti artists have been attempted by the national government, it seems that the street art in Quito doesn’t shy away in the back streets, but rather displays this art of colour and pattern onto some of the most central buildings and wall canvas in the city centre.

When you join a street art tour of Quito, you’ll discover the plethora of graffiti, murals and fantastic art strewn across the city walls. Home to a sprawling 2-kilometre wall that has been divided up into over 150 different 20-foot mural sections; Quito does street art on a gigantic scale.

From humble graffiti to dedicated works of huge art, the city has it all. Joining an organised tour will allow you to get around the many street art sights with ease, and take them in at your own pace.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Much of the street art can be found around the La Floresta neighbourhood, which is also where most tours begin too.
  • Cost – Free as part of a walking tour, but you are encouraged to leave a tip for your guide.
  • Opening hours – Tours tend to take place between the hours of 10:30 am to 1:30 pm 
  • Time needed – Set aside around 3 hours to enjoy the street art tour.
  • Getting there – Most tours have a prearranged location for you to meet. If the tour begins in La Floresta, this neighbourhood is walkable from most places in Quito.

16. Find Your Empanada 

When it comes to iconic delicacies in Ecuador, there has to be one that really takes the first prize in Quito; the Empanada. Empanada is a type of baked or fried bread consisting of pastry and filling, which is a common food throughout Latina and South America. 

See it as a South American Cornish pasty if you will. You can find many different variations of this popular snack, and finding the perfect one for you can be an enjoyable task to get stuck into.

One of the most celebrated places to try this delicacy is Empanadas de Morocho Ulloa, an Ecuadorian restaurant in Quito that specializes in a huge range of flavours and fillings. Its signature empanada comes stuffed with meat, chicken or vegetables and accompanied by peanut sauce and chilli pepper to taste. 

Serving these parcels of hearty goodness since the mid-1980s, you’ll struggle to find better anywhere else during your week in Quito.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Empanadas de Morocho Ulloa is located in the Munive neighbourhood in the centre of Quito.
  • Cost – Prices depend on the size of empanada that you choose; from small to colossal, prices sit between $1 and $2.50
  • Opening hours – 10 am – 7 pm.
  • Time needed – Around 30 minutes to eat and relax in the restaurant.
  • Getting there – The restaurant is just across from the Francisco Javier Lizarazu Y Nunez de Bonilla bus stop.

17. Party at Plaza Foch 

Plaza Foch has long been the epicentre for nightlife and party-goers in the Ecuador capital.  Once a rundown intersection in the Mariscal district, Foch Square or Plaza Foch, as it is known locally, has developed into a bustling and booming centre, not only for foreign visitors but for good-time-seeking locals also.

A square full of bars, restaurants and even live music keeps you going into the early hours. Although many consider it to be the more tourist-centric part of the city, there is no denying the fun night out that you can have here.

Whether you simply want a great sit-down meal in one of the restaurants or you want to relax and knock a few back – Plaza Foch is the place to go. (I just want to reiterate that you should not relax too much, especially when booze is concerned and your guard is down).

Know before you go:

  • Location – Located in the eastern Simon Bolivar district of the city.
  • Cost – Various prices depending on how you wish to spend your evening.
  • Opening hours – Most bars open early afternoon and will be open until the early hours of the morning.
  • Time needed – From a quick glimpse of half an hour to a full-blown night on the town, it’s too easy to spend hours here.
  • Getting there – The Manuela Cañizares bus stop provides the closest transport link to the plaza.

18. Escape The City in La Carolina Park

A lake runs through a green park in Quito, Ecuador.

If you’re looking for a bit of green space to get out and about in the fresh air and take a breather from the busy streets of Quito, Parque La Carolina is a terrific option. With the picturesque hills towering over the park, and 670,000 m² of open space to explore, it’s easy to forget that you’re still in the Ecuadorian capital.

Other than the usual relaxing activities you can enjoy in the great outdoors, like exploring the park via its many walkways and grabbing a bit of “me” time, this park is home to plenty more activities to be enjoyed, a good reason why this has become one of the top things to do in Quito.

One of the top attractions is the park’s botanical gardens, which showcase some of the country’s most prized and unusual species of flora. Even better, Ecuador is considered to be one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet, so there’s a guarantee you’ll find something here that you’ve never seen or heard of before. 

Inside its gates, you can explore different landscapes and the flora that they hold, including the Andean grasslands, cloud forests and wetlands, along with the ethnobotanical garden which takes a look at the medicinal plants that indigenous populations have used for years. 

If plants simply aren’t your thing, the park’s lake, auditorium, many playgrounds, skateparks, tennis courts and local markets might just tempt you to take a visit. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – La Carolina Park sits just north of Mariscal Sucre International Airport. 
  • Cost – The park is free to enter, but you’ll need to pay $3.50 for entry into the botanical garden and similar prices for other attractions inside the park.
  • Opening hours – The park is open 24 hours a day, while most of its attractions and buildings are open to the public from around 10 am to 3 pm. 
  • Time needed – Give yourself half a day or more to enjoy the great outdoors. 
  • Getting there – Jump on the bus, which leaves from Benalcázar to Marín Central every hour. Look out for signs stating Parque La Carolina.

19. Day Trip To Otavalo

indigenous quechua people selling artisan gifts on stands set up on the street in the Saturday market
A market seller bartering with a tourist in an artisan market in Otavalo, Ecuador.

Just under sixty miles north of the capital is the market town of Otavalo, set inside the numerous roaring peaks of mountains and surrounded by the indigenous peoples of northern Ecuador. Less than a two-hour drive from the capital, Otavalo provides an ideal day trip away from Quito and has its own unique day trip opportunities.

One of the standout attractions of the town of Otavalo is its market. The largest indigenous market in all of South America, it is this that brings in thousands of visitors every year, both Ecuadorians and foreigners alike. The market sells a huge range of goods, including a selection of handicrafts, arts, ponchos, shawls, sweaters and other products – so hone your best bartering skills to get the items of your choice.

Aside from the market, Otavalo is also home to a range of stunning colonial architecture, including the San Francisco Church, Catholic Church El Jordan, Plaza de Ponchos and a little run-down train station that has its own undeniable charm.

If you’re looking for a spot of adventure, a brisk 45-minute walk out of the town centre will bring you to the stunning waterfall of Cascada de Peguche. This waterfall offers the greatest photo and exploration opportunities and is surrounded by an exciting cave system that demands to be explored.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Otavalo is located sixty miles northeast of Quito.
  • Cost – $2.50 for the bus ride to Otavalo. 
  • Opening hours – N/A
  • Time needed – The journey takes around two hours, so it’s best to set aside the whole day to explore.
  • Getting there – Take the bus from Terminal Carcelen in the north of Quito and disembark at a small bus terminal in Otavalo along Calle Atahualpa & Jacinto Collahuazo.

20. Day Trip To Quilotoa Crater

A large crater of turquoise water in Quito, Ecuador.

Only 55 miles south of the capital of Ecuador is the famous Quilotoa Crater. This water-filled crater lake, which is also the most western volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes, is one of the most stunning natural phenomena you will find in the region and is well worth taking a day trip to go and see.

Nestled among the remote mountains, the crater is filled with blissfully colourful turquoise water and is an oasis of beauty amongst the stone and hard exterior of the Andes. Nothing quite prepares you for the view you’re about to see, and there is no shame in quickly reaching for your camera or smartphone to secure that (local pub) award-winning photograph.

The beautiful crater we see today was formed from an extinct volcano created during a massive volcanic explosion many centuries ago. Found just under two hours away from the capital city, this is more than proof enough of Ecuador and South America’s stunning landscapes and natural attractions so close to one of its major cities.

Know before you go:

  • Location –  Quilotoa Crater is located 55 miles south of Quito.
  • Cost – Around $2.50 for the bus journey south.
  • Opening hours –  24 hours
  • Time needed –  Set aside the whole day to get there and back while also being able to see all the sights.
  • Getting there – Take a public bus from the Quitumbe bus terminal, located south of Quito. Buses to Latacunga are frequent, tickets cost approximately $2.50 USD, and the journey takes about 90 minutes.

21. Day Trip To Cotopaxi National Park

A dusted glacier on a brown mountain, Cotopaxi in Quito, Ecuador.

Just over forty miles south of Quito is Cotopaxi National Park, home to some of the world’s tallest ever volcanos. Surprisingly so close to the bustling city of Quito, Cotopaxi National Park offers the ideal chance to explore the interior of wild Ecuador and all the sensibilities of South American wild travel.

The centrepiece of the national park is ​​Cotopaxi, a 5,897-metre tall volcano and one of the highest active volcanoes in the world – it is also the second tallest mountain in Ecuador. 

Aside from the stunningly beautiful and huge active volcano, Cotopaxi National Park is also home to an array of wildlife, a collection that would make even the most experienced David Attenborough documentary team reach for the camera.

The wildlife that can be seen here ranges from curious deer, rabbits and foxes to the famous and elusive Andean puma. This combination of wildlife and dwarfing volcanos makes Cotopaxi National Park an emotionally-charged experience for anyone with a love of the great outdoors.   

Know before you go:

  • Location – Cotopaxi National Park is forty miles south of Quito.
  • Cost – Various bus fares, depending on the company you use. $10 for entrance into the park itself.
  • Opening hours – The park opens at 9 am, and shuts at different times throughout the year, depending on the season.
  • Time needed – Take the entire day to make your way to the national park and then explore all that it has to offer.
  • Getting there – Take one of the many buses to Cotopaxi from Quitumbe Terminal, which takes around one hour and thirty minutes.

22. Day Trip To Antisana Volcano

A frosted mountain in the distance of a large green plain in Ecuador.

In a land dominated by volcanoes, you may begin to get a little volcano fatigue. And yet, Antisana Volcano is just one of those sites that can’t be overlooked if you do happen to suffer that temporary condition. 

Only thirty-one miles southeast of the capital of Quito, Antisana Volcano provides the perfect day trip experience for those who love to escape the city and chance one of nature’s giants.

Before you even set your sights on the peak of Antisana Volcano, you will no doubt notice its long-dormant destruction. The lava flows of its former eruptions line the pathways and landscapes right up to Antisana Volcano’s feet. 

Banking on having good weather on your side, the slopes and peaks of Antisana Volcano will reveal themselves over the horizon, and you will remember why Ecuador was so high on your list of must-visit places.

Aside from Antisana Volcano itself, the area is home to a range of South American wildlife that will set your eyes darting and your camera trigger finger itching. From the common to the rare, the surrounding landscape is home to animals such as condors, hummingbirds and spectacled bears – a solid entry for any wildlife lover.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Antisana Volcano is 31 miles southeast of the capital of Quito.
  • Cost – Tours start from $130 for a day trip with transportation included. You can visit the volcano on your own steam, but you’ll need to rent a car as no public transport heads this way. Rentals start from around $120/day, depending on the model and insurance coverage that you choose. 
  • Opening hours – 24 hours
  • Time needed – Around nine hours in total are needed for the transport and the exploration of the volcano.
  • Getting there – Numerous tour operators offer this as part of their tours of Ecuador which can be easily organised from Quito. As I mentioned above, you can also rent your own car and drive here as there are no public buses heading this way.

23. Day Trip To Pululahua Volcano & Geobotanical Reserve

Misty clouds overlook large green mountains and fields in Quito, Ecuador.

That’s right… yet another volcano. But I think they’re pretty cool, as being from the UK, you don’t see too much of them and they almost seemed like a mythical phenomenon.

In terms of worldwide volcanoes, this is pretty gentle. It’s dormant and if you’re an outdoorsy kind of traveller, there is an option to hike the volcano, or simply admire it from afar. Pululahua resides in a national park and is also right by the Mitad del Mundo (previously mentioned as number 8 on this list of things to do during your week in Quito.

I paid $30 USD for one of the most challenging hikes I’ve had for a while, worth every penny for the views from all angles.

One Week in Quito, Ecuador: A Summary

I hope I didn’t put anyone off with my several times of playing Dad in this post, with the constant reminders of staying safe in this city. At the same time, it’s important not to water down the facts, even though I thoroughly enjoyed visiting there.

Feel free to pick out anything from above if you are planning to visit the capital of Ecuador, There are plenty of things to do during your one week in Quito to supersede concerns.

Anthony Middleton

A former loser who took a risk. I now live in Chiang Mai, Thailand after visiting over 100 countries. Stay tuned for the next challenge against that clock!
Ultra runner walking in desert

Hi, I'm Anthony!

In November of 2010, I took on a mammoth challenge against the clock in a quest to upgrade my miserable life. I went out of my comfort zone and turned it all around. Ten years later, I’m completely location independent…

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