TFTR Top Ten: Awesome Stuff to Do, See and Taste in Quito

Nik and Dusty in Quito

Our visit to Ecuador’s beautiful capital city only lasted a couple of days, so we unfortunately weren’t in town for long. But we were certainly in Quito long enough to fall in head over heels in love with the place! We’d heard a lot of positive things about Quito (and Ecuador as a whole, really) from a lot of people and were excited to be visiting for the first time. And we can absolutely say that Quito was every bit as groovy as we imagined.

The really nice thing is that even though we weren’t able to stay in town very long, we did get to experience a lot of really cool stuff. And if you’re planning on visiting Quito at some point, we’ve put together this list of places to visit and things to experience while you’re there. Check ’em out! But keep in mind this is just a teeny tiny bit of what there is to see, do and taste in this lovely city:

View of Quito from El Panecillo

Get the Lay of the Land: Like we said in this week’s episode, one of our favorite ways to get a sense of any new city is to find a high spot above town and soak up the view. And that’s exactly what we did our first morning in Quito, when our guide Giovanni took us up El Panecillo, a hill just above Quito’s historic center where you can get 360-degree views of the city, as well as a close-up look at the “Virgin of Quito” who watches over the city from up on high. If you really want a spectacular view of the entire area though – and you’re willing to go a little further, a little higher and pay a little more – you can opt for a gondola ride on the Quito Teleferico, which will take you by cable car to an elevation of 14,000 feet up the side of the Pichincha Volcano and a spot called Cruz Loma. We didn’t get the chance to go ourselves, but several folks told us it was definitely worth checking out.

Cheesing It Up at the Intinan Museum
Cheesing It Up at the Intinan Museum

Straddle the Equator: If you prefer to stay a bit more grounded, then it’s definitely worth your time and a short drive to the north of Quito to visit the equator. Seriously – how many times can you literally stand on true “middle earth,” with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one foot in the southern? You can absolutely do that at the Intinan Solar Museum, which again is a bit touristy but still worth a visit.

The view from the crater at Pululahua Volcano

Visit a Volcano: And since you’re in the neighborhood, it’s also definitely worth dropping by the Pululahua Volcano, which is literally just a few miles up the road from the Intinan Museum. The views from the crater rim are simply spectacular, and a visit provides a nice peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The Basilica del Voto Nacional in historic central Quito

Step Back in Time: You simply cannot visit Quito without a stroll through its historic city center, which is one of the largest and best-preserved such areas in all the Americas. The richness of its colonial and independence-era architecture and heritage is evident in its many plazas, museums, theaters, cafes, monasteries and churches. We visited the gorgeous Basilica del Voto Nacional, which at just more than 100 years old is certainly a newcomer as far as churches and cathedrals in Quito are concerned, but what it lacks in age it makes up for in splendor. And if you have the time and the nerve, a walk up to the Condor Tower is absolutely worth it as well.

The Plaza de la Independencia in historic central Quito

Soak Up the City: If you’re looking for a beautiful spot to just sit and soak up the local vibe, the Plaza de la Independencia (or Plaza Grande) is tough to beat. It’s not only the principal public square in the city, it’s a symbol of executive power in Ecuador and a cherished site for the Ecuadorian people. Find a spot on a park bench, do some people watching, listen to the waters of the fountain, and just feel yourself falling in love with Quito.

Cotopaxi Volcano
Cotopaxi Volcano

Climb (or Drive) an Active Volcano: After you’re good and rested, and if you’re in the mood for a little adventure, a day trip to the Cotopaxi Volcano is an absolute must. You can drive a car all the way up to a parking lot located at 15,000 feet (the summit is around 19,000 feet) and enjoy some spectacular views of the (still active) volcano and the surrounding area. You can continue hiking from there, or catch your breath, take a few photos and head back to town like we did. Check out the video from our experience on Cotopaxi here on the blog tomorrow!

And when it comes to eating in Quito:

Empanadas Chilenas. Yum!
Empanadas Chilenas. Yum!

We really did enjoy our visit to Empanadas Chilenas. Excellent empanadas and cold beer at a groovy price. ‘Nuff said.

But you’d be doing yourself an incredible disservice if you didn’t stop by a place called Los Cebiches de la Rumiñahui. Admittedly ceviche has always been one four favorite dishes. Heck, we make a mean ceviche de camaron on occasion when we’re back home. But in Ecuador ceviche is much more than just a kind of food – it’s a national obsession! And the ceviche at Los Cebiches de la Rumiñahui was unlike any we’ve ever had. And better than any we’ve ever had, for the matter! Giovanni took us there for lunch and we were absolutely blown away. So go and get you some. You’ll thank us later.

The view of Quito (El Panecillo) from Vista Hermosa
The view of Quito (El Panecillo) from Vista Hermosa

And lastly if you’re looking for a groovy spot to wind down after a full day in Quito, we’d highly, highly recommend dinner and/or drinks at cafe Vista Hermosa near the Plaza de la Independencia. The service was… meh. The food was… meh. But the view? Absolutely incredible! Grab yourself a table on the roof and watch as the sun goes down and the lights of the city begin to glow all around you. Easily one of the most beautiful, most romantic spots (restaurants) we’ve ever been to. Just don’t expect too much from the food, unfortunately.

So there you go. We didn’t spend much time there, but it didn’t take long for Quito to work its way into our list of favorite cities anywhere in the world.

What about you? Been to Quito? Got some other recommendations? Please share!

Cheers gang! We’ve gotta go find us some ceviche now….

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