Top 4 day trips from Quito
Nestled in the foothills of the Andes mountains, Quito’s got you covered for a diverse mix of day-trip options
The city of Quito in Ecuador is often an afterthought. But if you give Quito a chance you’ll discover there are myriad exciting things to do here, and it serves as the perfect launching spot for excursions to many of the country’s nearby gems. Here are just four of many trip ideas for when you find yourself in Ecuador’s little capital:
1. Explore old Quito
Quito is extremely modern, with large shopping malls, hotels, Western restaurants, and an active nightlife. But it also retains an old city area that has been carefully preserved and protected. It’s a peek into traditional Quito life, and is a must-see.
The old city itself has around 40 churches and countless other museums, plazas, art galleries, and theatres. The tourist hot-spots are the impressive Basílica del Voto Nacional — the largest church of its kind in the Americas — and the enormous Plaza de la Independencia, which serves as the old city’s central square.
Of course, the perfect way to end a day exploring the world’s second-highest capital is to head up to El Panecillo — one of the highest points in the city — to take in views of this sprawling city.
2. The Middle of the World
Quito is the closest capital to the equator in the world. The drive from central Quito to the equator is less than an hour, and the route is well travelled, so it’s not hard to get there.
The official site is known locally as Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), which has a thick yellow line painted through it that marks the equator.
The yellow line marking the equator was positioned during a French expedition way back in the 1700s, and technology was a little less polished back then. If the expeditioners had been travelling with iPhones, they would’ve realized the real equator is actually a couple hundred metres down the street.
There are also a series of experiments set out for tourists to try. First, a makeshift sink, to show that water drains counter-clockwise in one hemisphere and clockwise in the other (the same well-known theory that causes North Americans to watch closely while flushing the toilet on their trips to Australia). A second experiment aims to prove you can balance an egg on a nail on the equator because, well, you’re at the centre of the world.
Are they true? You’ll have to head to the middle of the world and decide for yourself.
3. Climb Cotopaxi (or at least some of it!)
Ready for the Andes? Two hours outside of central Quito sits Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest active volcanoes. If you’re the thrill-seeking type, you can hire a guide and climb to the summit, which is a relatively short but challenging climb (around eight hours). But even if you’re not interested in making the ascent, Cotopaxi is a great day trip.
The fact that Cotopaxi is still active makes for an interesting setting. It has shown signs of activity as recently as 2016, and you will see hints of this within the park — volcanic rock, dry lava, and ashen ground spread throughout. There are also various lagoons, rivers, and glaciers for you to explore, plus a small wildlife museum, and if you’re lucky you might even snap some photos of Andean foxes or deer running around.
Hungry after the hike? The nearby town of Latacunga is the perfect place to stop for lunch or dinner.
4. Spend a day in Mindo
Around two hours outside of Quito lies the tiny town of Mindo. The town has been famous in birdwatching circles for some time, but eventually it managed to find its way onto the backpacker radar, too. And why not? The place is filled with adventure.
Mindo lies within a thick cloud forest by the Tropical Andes — one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. The town offers visitors everything from mountain biking to horseback riding, tubing to canyoning, all within a lush surrounding of unique flora and wildlife. More relaxing activities, such as chocolate making and butterfly watching, are also on the menu. With its growing popularity, Mindo has slowly become more touristy each year, but if you’re a hiker, adventurer, nature lover, or all of the above, you surely will not be disappointed by this town.
One of the most popular things on the Mindo to-do list is the hike out to its famous waterfalls. There are several falls, the big mama of the lot being Cascada La Reina (The Queen Waterfall), which is also the farthest to reach. It will be several hard hours of hiking to reach them all, particularly La Reina, so make sure both your body and mind (and shoes) are in adventurous shape!
When the sun is finally ready to set and you’re too tired for the drive back to Quito, don’t fret. Many travellers choose to overnight here, and there are plenty of accommodation options in town. Once you’ve found a bed, simply hang up your wet shoes and let the Mindo frogs sing you to sleep.
G Adventures runs a number of departures in Ecuador encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.
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