Impossible for us to visit Ecuador without stopping a few days in Quito! We went in May 2019; it was our base for the Amazon, the Galapagos and other activities around.
Quito is the capital of Ecuador. It rises to an altitude of 2,850 m and is built on the foundations of an ancient Inca city.
There is a beautiful, well-preserved colonial center with many 16th and 17th century churches and other structures combining European, Moorish and indigenous styles. In particular, there is the cathedral on Plaza Grande and the Church of the Company, a richly decorated Jesuit religious building.
- Quito - Otavalo
- Cuenca - Quito
- Quito - Mindo
- Quito - Coca
- Quito - Galapagos
- Quito Airport to the city center
From the Carcelen terminal, north of Quito.
Duration: About 2h.
There are some frequently. You can leave the terminal of Quitumbe but it will not be direct.
To get to the Carcelen terminal you can take a bus from Avenue 10 de Agosto in Quito. This bus will bring you to Carcelen city for 0.25USD. After you can take a taxi to the Carcelen bus terminal for less than 2USD. If not, find out more to see if where are buses going directly to the terminal (I was wrongly informed unfortunately).
From the bus terminal of Cuenca there are many agencies that offer transportation to Quito. There are buses leaving in the morning, one in the afternoon and three in the evening.
Duration: minimum 7h
Price: 12 USD
To make the opposite way it will be at the terminal of Quitumbe. You should not have any trouble getting a bus, there are regular ones.
From the Ofelia terminal, north of Quito. To get there it takes about 45min from the city center.
Duration: About 2h.
Price: 3.10 USD
Timetable: There are not many, beware!
In 2019 it was:
*Monday to Friday
-Quito-Mindo: 8h, 9h,11h,13h,16h
-Mindo-Quito: 6h30, 11h, 13h45, 15h30, 17h
-Quito-Mindo: 7h40, 8h20, 9h20, 11h, 13h, 14h, 16h
-Mindo-Quito: 6h30, 11h, 13h, 14, 15h, 16h, 17h
-Quito-Mindo: 7h40, 8h20, 9h20, 11h, 13h, 14h, 17h (pas à 16h!)
-Mindo-Quito: 6h30, 11h, 13h, 14, 15h, 16h, 17h
On nous a conseillé d’acheter notre biller retour la veille de notre départ, au cas où.
From the Quitumbe bus terminal.
There are several times, and there are two choices: one that is much longer than the other so make sure you next where you want to go if it is in Coca itself or in a destination on the road to Coca.
Price: Count between 12-15USD one way.
Duration: There is about 7h bus.
* Quito-Baltra: LATAM, 3h30, 179.7 euros
* Baltra-Santa Cruz: Taxi boat, 2h, 25-30USD
* Santa-Cruz-Isabela: Taxi boat, 2h, 25-30USD
* Isabela-San Cristobal: You have to go back to Santa Cruz first. Taxi boat, 2h, 25-30USD
* San Cristobal-Quito: LATAM, 4h, 218,23 euros
Check out my special article on the Galapagos to find out more! Section ESCAPE in South America, on the menu bar.
By taxi, count about 1h and 25USD.
Try to share the taxi with other people who are going downtown 😉
Name: Hostel L’Auberge Inn
Type: Hostel with double room and shared bathroom. They also have rooms with private bathrooms. There is a kitchen and a restaurant. Possibility to have breakfast (max 4USD for a buffet). There is a laundry service. It’s great location, it’s clean and nice. Excellent place! We stayed at least 10 nights! You can leave your things there when you leave for several days.
Price: Around 17USD with taxes for a double room and around 11USD with taxes for a single room.
Address: Av. Gran Colombia N15-200 and Yaguachi, EC170150 Quito, Ecuador
Name : MAGUI HOUSE
Type: Hostel with double room and shared bathroom. Possibility to use the kitchen. It’s very clean and Magali is very friendly.
Price: 15USD the room
Address: ROCA Y PIEDRAHITA 568 EDIFICIO COLOR BEIGE / MOSTAZA, PRIMER PISO, 100450 Otavalo, Ecuador
Name : Guesthouse Mindo
Type : Hostel with double room and private bathroom. There are two kitchens and a terrace that overlooks the village. The owner is really nice. It is very well located.
Price: 14.5 USD per night.
Address: Calle Playeros y Olivos, 170167 Mindo, Ecuador
- Mitad del Mundo
- Mercado Artisanal
- Iglesia San Francisco
- Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus
- Basílica del Voto Nacional
- Convento San Augustin
- Plaza de la Independencia
- Barrio Gualupo
- Barrio La Floresta
- Calle La Ronda
- La Iglesia de El Sagrario
- Virgen de Penecillo
- Museo de Guayasamin & Capilla del Hombre
What: A cable car that takes you to the bottom of a volcano and offers a breathtaking view of the city in clear weather. It is possible to hike 5-6h return to the volcano (think to take a lot of water).
Where: In the north of the city
How: Ammez by taxi or bus (see on their website for bus lines).
Opening hours: 9h-20h on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 8h-20h the other days.
Price : 8USD return
Autre : N’y allez pas si vous voyez des nuages…
What: Don’t be too excited, this is not the real line, it’s a tourist trap! It is well laid out, there are explanations and tourist shops. But the real line is not on this site. If you run out of time in Quito do not go!
Where: In the north of the city, about 30min.
How: By taxi, about 15USD the taxi. Otherwise there is a bus.
Other: There is also a museum next door, often forgotten by tourists. It is also possible to hike to Pululahua crater (take a bus, 15min, then walk 45 minutes).
What: Need to give gifts, bring back memories? Well, it’s the place to be! There will be anything you can imagine, be it textiles or food. Remember to negotiate.
Where: Jorge Washington 611, Quito 170143
Opening Hours: 9h-19h.
What: This building dates from the 16th century; its construction began in 1550, sixteen years after the foundation of Quito by the Spanish conquistadors in 1536, it was completed around 1680. “The excavations carried out in the church of San Francisco revealed pre-Inca and colonial treasures. almost two blocks, making it the largest in Quito, and since 1983 it has been part of a major revitalization project of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation, which houses more than four thousand works of art, including furniture, paintings and sculptures.
From the choir of the church begins one of the most emblematic cultural visits of the historic center of Quito. Its ceiling is a succession of small fabrics painted with faces of angels and flowers, in the style of the Renaissance. Its main altarpiece, circular in shape, contains the main altar with magnificent statues.
In 1996, part of this complex was dedicated to the Franciscan Museum, which displays 250 impressive works of art, such as “The Immaculate Eucharist” by Miguel de Santiago and the astonishing works of Manuel Chile “Caspicara”. ”
Where: Plaza San Francisco.
Price: The entrance to the church is free but the convent is to be paid (I did not visit because it did not seem more interesting than that).
Short story: There is an interesting legend with the Indian Aunqui Hualca, son of Hualca, a follower of Rumiñahui, who was in turn general of the armies of Inca Atahualpa. The Indian, in a phase of misfortune, was greeted by the Spanish Hernán Juárez to whom he served loyally. From this moment, the Indian was renamed Francisco Cantuña.
Cantuña set about building the atrium of the San Francisco Temple, but his time was short and it was difficult to finish within the allotted time. So he made a pact with the devil. Cantuña would give him his soul in exchange for the construction of the atrium. The work was delayed for one night and Cantuña did not stop praying to the Virgin for fear of being taken to hell. When the demon appeared, the atrium needed a stone. The pact was therefore canceled and Cantuña was released. To this day, the San Francisco atrium is missing a stone.
According to some theories, the church of San Francisco was built on the palace of Huayna Capac, the eleventh and penultimate ruler of the Inca Empire. According to the chronicles of yesteryear, the verbal traditions and testimonies of the Spanish conquerors themselves, in what is now called the historic center of Quito, Inca temples were built. In the area of Panecillo or Yavirac, was the famous sun temple adorned with gold and silver that Huayna Capac brought back from Cuzco.
In the skirts of the Pichincha was the Inca Capachuasi palace, a building decorated with avenues of flowers and fresh flowers. To date, the sector retains the name of Toctiuco. Near the previously mentioned palace, where the church of San Francisco and its convent are now, were military buildings and houses of the main curacas and orejones of the Empire. In addition, what is now the Plaza de San Francisco was thousands of years ago, because before the conquest of Inca, a great Tianguez, that is to say a market, the very one that was the principal of the whole northern region of the Andes.
Huayna Capac was the successor of Tupac Yupanqui and in love with Paccha, daughter of the last Shiry, merged his great empire with the kingdom of Chinchasuyo, the northern part of their domains. In this, he rebuilds the temple of the sun, establishes his palace and directs the Tahuantinsuyu empire.
“On the death of Huayna-Capac, his body went to Cuzco, while his heart was in Quito, accompanied by what he had most desired of his life: his beloved Paccha, his beloved son Atahualpa and the city of his comfort that he had stolen the ancient seat of the Incas. “
What: This church dates from the 17th century in the Baroque Latin American style. St. Gregory College and University, of which she was a member, formed the headquarters of the Society of Jesus in the Spanish colonial empire. It is considered one of the seven wonders of Ecuador and is one of the most visited monuments of the city of Quito. Its facade has been carved in Andean volcanic stone; inside we find an impressive work of wood. The woodwork is covered with gold leaf (this is what makes it a breathtaking impression when you come inside, it’s very surprising). was built in 1605 by the Jesuits, who were expelled from the royal audience of Quito because of the edict of exile decreed in 1767 by Charles III, King of Spain. Its construction lasted approximately 163 years and was abandoned until 1794. After being entrusted to the Camilo brothers, the company of Quito was restored to the Jesuits in 1862, with the authorization of the president Gabriel García Moreno. This monumental architectural work has been the subject of an integral restoration process since the earthquakes destroyed important structures such as the tower in 1868.
Where: García Moreno N10-43, Quito 170401
What: This basilica is considered the largest Neo-Gothic temple in America. The basilica of the national vow is the most important work of the neo-Gothic architecture of Ecuador and, at the same time, the largest of the new world. It was built from 1892 to 1988. If you visit it you will find that it looks very much like French and European buildings; this is due to the fact that it was made under the direction of the French architect Emilio Tarlier. From the top of the towers you have a breathtaking view of the city.
Where: Carchi and Venezuela
How: On foot or by taxi.
Price: 2 USD to enter the heart and less than 3USD to ride in the towers.
What: Another church with its neo-Gothic convent whose visit is done with a guide.
Where: Guayaquil 924 y Chile
What: Central well animated place where you can have a drink while watching the locals mix with tourists. Good place to see the traditional outfits worn by women. All around it will be possible to visit churches and the seat of government (you have to present your passport and take a meeting).
Where: Plaza de la Independencia
How: By foot
Other: Pay close attention to thieves …
What: Very small neighborhood on the slopes of the Machángara River. We see small houses facing a beautiful valley and back, higher up buildings. It’s a pretty confusing whole. This neighborhood is considered a bohemian and artistic district because it houses many local artists and some cafes / hippie bars (we really did not see many). It seems that the neighborhood is more fun (more lively) at night.
Where: Look for the Guapulo Viewpoint (Rafael Leon, Quito), or go to the Church of Our Lady of Guapulo (Quito 170136).
Short story: “For a long time, this area is considered historic because the Spanish conquistadores Gonzalo Pizarro and Francisco de Orellana started to search for” El País de la Canela “.They did not find the place mentioned above but they have fallen on the Amazon River, and since then they are said to have discovered it Ironically, this river had been “discovered” for a long time by the Amazonian natives, and even visited several times by Quitus, the first For this reason, the main streets of this neighborhood have names that make reference to this fact: the street De los Conquistadores and the El Orellana road, the latter being the so-called route by which the expedition began its journey . ”
Celebration: On September 7th, all Guapuleños residents celebrate their neighborhoods with village orchestras, parades, costumes, drinks and dances. This is very similar to typical village festivals, very traditional in the rural areas of Ecuador, far from the big cities.
What: Neighborhood considered hipster and bobo, surely because of its vegan restaurants and cafes. There are some nice graffiti. We did not find this place amazing but there is a way to find a good place to eat.
Where: Calle Madrid and around.
What: One of the oldest streets in the city. There are many bars and restaurants. It is very noisy, lively and touristy.
Where: Venezuela, Quito 170130
How: By foot
What: This is a church dating from the 16-17th century. It is colonial style and has a beautiful wooden door. Inside you will find huge woodwork and a very pretty dome.
Where: Calle Garcia Moreno
What: Largest statue of Ecuador, it is located on top of the hill of El Panecillo. It is one of the emblems of the city. It is very well seen from the historic center and in the evening it is illuminated. If you do not have time to climb, prefer to visit the historic center. There is also a mirador on the city.
Where: El Panecillo Hill
How: On foot or by taxi.
Website: For more information on the monument:
What: Feeling he was about to die soon, the famous painter O. Guayasamin decided with his family to make his house a museum. Large collector of objects including many pre-Columbians, his beautiful home can discover many works of all kinds. He had a special interest in religious works of art. There are paintings by Picasso, Goya and many other artists. The most interesting is the house, which is very beautiful, but also its many paintings, sketches and watercolors, which are beautiful. There is also another museum in the garden, whose architecture is quite particular and in which there are immense works of the painter, whose main themes are death, poverty, sadness.
Where: E18-94 and Barrio, Mariano Calvache, Quito 170122
What: Hiking to admire the Cotopaxi volcano which rises to 5 897 meters above sea level.
Here is what Quentin and our friend Marc did for the hike:
Day 1: Tambopaxi Lodge (North of the park)
Take the bus to Machachi from Quito to Quitumbe Terminal. These buses go much further so be careful about your stop. He will drop you at the edge of Panamericana. Price of the bus: 1,30USD.
From Machachi, direction Loreto Pedregal by bus (less than 1USD). You have to take the bus at the central park, between Garcia Moreno & Simon Bolivar.
A lodge employee came to pick them up for $ 10.
Passage of the control for the entry of the park. End of entries at 15h but to check.
Lodge rate: Dormitory for 6 people, 33USD per night per person with breakfast.
Day 2: Hiking in the park
It is badly marked out of the way you have to follow the small roads that look good or follow the road.
After the 10h hike in the park, overnight in Latacunga to hike the Quilotoa the next day.
Accommodation Latacunga: Hostal Rosita, 15USD at night, double room with private bathroom. Warning!!! There is a nightclub downstairs so on Fridays and Saturdays you vibrate with the dance floor ….
Other: The entrance to the park is not paying; no park is paying in Ecuador. You do not need a guide for this hike.
What: Beautiful trek of three days with an altitude that oscillates between 2800 and 4000 meters
How: Here is the summary of how Quentin and Marc did the hike.
Day 1: Sigchos in Isinlivi
Departure from Latacunga towards Sigchos by bus (duration 2h, fare: 2.30USD, regular even Sunday).
Once in Sigchos, first walk to Isinlivi.
The trail is very well marked. You can also use the maps.me application (it is used all the time).
Route: 12km including 300 meters of vertical drop, 400 meters of elevation gain.
Accommodation: Hostal Taita Cristobal, 17USD, dorm room. Breakfast and evening meal included! They offer lunch boxes (3.5USD) and sandwiches (1USD) for your lunch.
Day 2: Isinlivi to Chugchilan
Several routes will be available to you on maps.me. Quentin was in the valley and followed the river.
After the lookout, the hike becomes much less fun as you walk on the asphalt.
Route: 14 kilometers including 300 meters of vertical drop, 600 meters of elevation gain.
Accommodation: Hostal El Vaquero, 19USD, bed in dormitory of 6. Breakfast and dinner included. They offer lunch boxes (3.5USD) and sandwiches (1USD) for your lunch. There is also a spa for 3USD per person;)
Day 3: Chugchilan to Quilotoa
You will go down into the valley and you will have the choice between:
-go through La Moya following the paths on maps.me
cross the river towards Guayama San Pedro (but this path is not recommended by the owner of the hotel)
-taking the road to Moya you reach a belvedere (where a little lady has a shelter and can make you a little tea). Then by going to the right you have 1 hour to reach the village of Quilotoa, otherwise it is 4 hours to the left. Beware because there is a lot of wind and you walk on the ridges …
Once in Quilotoa, Quentin descended to the edge of the lagoon (the descent is easy and is done in about twenty minutes but the climb is very hard). On the signs it is written that the descent is 45min and the climb in 1:30, with possibility to go back to the middle.
Route: 20 kilometers including 200 meters of vertical drop, 1000 meters of elevation gain.
Accommodation: Hostal Chukirawa, 27USD, double room with private bathroom. Breakfast and evening meal included.
Day 4: Quilotoa to Latacunga
Bus to Latacunga (2h, 2USD), then bus to Quitumbe bus terminal in Quito (at least 1h30, 3,75USD).
Otavalo is a small town around which many activities are available to you. The main interest of the city is its market in the Plaza de los Ponchos. There was an animal market before but it was moved to a nearby village, 20min by bus. This animal market is Saturday morning only. Otavalo is also a place to discover new Ecuadorian customs and traditional clothes different from other cities.
We stayed at Magui ‘house (booked on booking). Magali has two large rooms in her apartment. It is very well located, quiet and very nice.
Price: 15USD the room.
Address: Roca y Poedrahita 568
Here are some activities you might like to do if you spend a few days in Otavalo.
On the ponchos square, beautiful craft market that becomes super big on Saturday. There are embroidery, sweaters, decorative objects etc … It ends around 16h, and gives way to a market a little more recent and more for locals; there are also food stalls where you can eat local for 2USD.
* Lago Cuicocha
What: It is a circular depression, located in the middle of the volcanic complex dating back to 3100 years ago. The volcano is now considered sleepy. The lake is deep blue when the sky is cloudy and turquoise on a clear day. In the center there are two domes: Yerovi (the smallest) and Teodoro Wolf (the largest), formed by the peaks of four dacitic domes (which means they are formed by magmatic volcanic rock).
Where: In the village of Quiroga.
How: Take a bus at the Otavalo terminal to Quiroga (US $ 0.35); there is approximately 20min of journey. Then take a taxi, which you will try to share with other people to negotiate the price (usually it’s 4-6USD the race if you’re alone, but if you share it can be 1USD per person). The journey takes 10min.
Duration: You can spend as much time as you want but to make the loop there is 14km (it’s not only flat and sometimes it goes well) so it takes about 5h if you are a good walker.
Tips: If you do not have a lot of time, do not do the complete tour, the view will always be the same; do it half. People usually start from the right; so if you start to the left (at the pier for boat tours) you will see fewer people.
* Peguche Waterfall
What: Sacred waterfall.
Where: Located at 1h-1h30 walk from Otavalo or 10min by taxi.
* Lagos of Mojanda
What: The Laguna de Mojanda is located on the border between the provinces of Pichincha and Imbabura, at the foot of Cerro Fuya Fuya, at an altitude of 4,263 meters; passing the town of Pedro Moncayo, 17 km south of Otavalo. There are three lakes to see during the hike that will take you at least 4 hours from the Laguna Grande.
How: Take a taxi (about 15USD) or try to get dropped off at Laguna Grande. Remember to organize your return otherwise you will have to walk 4 hours to reach Otavalo …
Other: It is possible to camp on site.
* Villages of Iluman
What: You can discover artisans who make hats in rabbit or sheep.
How: Take a bus from the Otavalo terminal.
Small village in the green mountains, two hours from Quito. It is very cute and very relaxing and a place known worldwide for bird watching.
Type: Hostel with double room and private bathroom. There are two kitchens and a terrace that overlooks the village. The owner is really nice. It is very well located.
Price: 14.5 USD per night for a double room with private bathroom.
Address: Calle Playeros y Olivos, 170167 Mindo, Ecuador
Here are some activities you might like to do if you spend a few days in Mindo. I put to you what we have done and others that we can do.
What a great place to see tons of butterflies, some of which are improbable! You can see pupae of all kinds and there is a small garden that is part of the forest in which you can observe the birds.
Price: 7,5 USD
Address: On the road of waterfalls. At the end of the main street on the left then it is indicated.
* Hike of the 7 waterfalls
Hiking that can take you two as six hours. It will depend on the number of waterfalls you want to see. To make this walk there are several options:
- Take the cable car (8USD round trip) then the basket (5USD round trip with the entrance of the waterfalls included). Then you have three trails: one that takes two hours to return to see the waterfall Reina (a large waterfall). A trail that takes you in 30min round trip to the waterfall Nabillo (not great but you can swim). A third trail with seven waterfalls close to each other and which will take you two hours back and forth. We did everything and then took the basket and the cable car to go back down.
- On foot or by car, by the road (I do not know which way to take because we made option 1). You will arrive at the Nabillo waterfall. You will surely be charged the right to see the cascades at a time.
- Directly to the basket, on foot or by car.
birds including toucans!
The view of the cable car is really beautiful, much more beautiful than the nacelle. So to choose, I advise you to take the cable car. We saw lots of big birds including toucans!
* Night walk to observe animals
You go into the forest with a biologists guide to observe the nocturnal fauna. We had the chance to see many things but nothing is guaranteed!
Price: 15USD, part of which is used to preserve the forest.
* Bird watching in a private garden
Private garden in an inn. The owners welcome you with a big smile. They have taken 20 years to achieve such a result. The garden looks like an extension of the forest! There are feeders for animals (sweet water for hummingbirds and bananas in tree troughs for others). They reserve to eat at 7am in the morning. Go as soon as possible and take the time to observe you will have nice surprises (motmot, toucans, hummingbirds, squirrels …).
Where: Hostel Descanso
Price: 4USD and you stay as long as you want!
* See and listen to frogs
You go in near a lake to listen and see the frogs at night …
Agencies offer this tour.
* Zip Line
One of the most successful activities here. For an hour you pass over the forest. People told us it was great and the scenery was breathtaking.
Go through an agency in the main street.
* Canyoning and Rafting
See the agencies in the main street.
* Bird watching with specialists
In groups of four they take you to observe the birds in the forest. 9a may be good as not good. What’s great is that you are accompanied by a passionate person who will tell you more about the species you may encounter. What is less good is that you will not necessarily see something … or not necessarily something you can not see alone.
Price: minimum 30USD
We were told it was $ 80USD. There are night tours too.
We took a tour with a guide. We contacted Leon from the ToutEquateur website who gave us his contact. We should have done a 5 day tour (excluding transport) but we organized ourselves badly with our friends so we only spent three days in the jungle.
We wanted to do the Galapagos in backpacking mode. You will find out how we did and where we went on my Galapagos article: https://laglobecroqueuse.com/escape/iles-galapagos-e…agos-des-pauvres/
* EnDulce: Bread, cakes, chocolate … what else?
Address: Calle Guayaquil N6-56 and Olmedo, Centro Histórico.
* Sereno Moreno: small bar restaurant very nice and cute. They do not have much choice on the map but it’s good and cheap. The staff is very nice.
Address: Esmeraldas E3-110, Quito 170136
* Chestnut: Vega restaurant cafe run by a very friendly girl.
Address: Rafael Leon Larrea, between Avenida La Corona y Vizcaya
* Casa Warni: Sandstone nice restaurant that uses fresh and local products. It is really good. Count around 13USD for a dish. They have homemade cakes and lemonades not bad at all!
Address: Pontevedra n24-240 y Guipuzcoa, Quito
* El Dicho Marinero Cevichería: Good place to eat dishes based on fish and seafood. Frequented by the locals.
Address: Vicente Ramon Roca y Av. Juan león Mera Nro. 530, Quito, 170526
* Bandido Brewing: Super nice bar where beers are not bad. Their pizzas and burgers are extras! The atmosphere is cool.
Address: Jose J. Olmedo, Quito 170136
* Cafelibro: Nice atmosphere, there are dance and music events very often. More info on their facebook page.
Address: Leonidas Plaza N23-56, Quito 170143