Quito has become one of South America’s most popular tourist destinations, and for good reason! The city offers a perfect blend of colonial architecture, indigenous culture, and modern amenities. It is also a great staging ground for daytrips into a broad set of visitor sites. Located 9,350 feet (2,850 meters) above sea level, making it the second highest capital city in the world. It boasts many parks and plazas with breathtaking views, courtesy of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes of the Andes.
The Metropolitan District of Quito extends beyond the immediate area surrounding the capital of Ecuador, which happens to be the country’s second most populous city. The district encompasses a wide range of sites that includes picturesque towns and neighborhoods, offering a fair amount of unique things to do in Quito.
Daytrips from Quito
Quito occupies a privileged location, close to several unique places where visitors can take part in a wide array of activities.
The Middle of the World Monument
This is where you can famously stand on the Equator line. The Middle of the World Monument is one of Ecuador’s most popular tourist attractions. Located just on the northern outskirts of Quito, it marks where the equatorial line crosses through South America.
Various activities are available to visitors here. They include the Intiñán Museum and a planetarium! The monument is also surrounded by lush gardens and hiking trails, making it a perfect place to spend a day exploring Ecuador’s natural beauty. There is even a place nearby where you can enjoy a zipline activity.
Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure, Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve is the perfect destination. This extinct volcano crater northwest of Quito has become a lush reserve, a haven for hiking enthusiasts, and a terrific spot for overnight camping. Sustainable tourism is essential to the reserve, and plenty of activities keep visitors busy. From hiking and bird watching to horseback riding and camping, there’s something for everyone.
Cotopaxi National Park
If you’re looking for an adventure, Cotopaxi National Park is the perfect destination. Home to the world’s tallest active volcano, Cotopaxi is a mecca for trekking and climbing enthusiasts. Sustainable tourism is also vital to this park’s ecosystems, and plenty of eco-friendly adventure options are available. So whether you’re looking to summit a volcano or explore a new culture, Cotopaxi National Park should be right near the top of your list.
Pasochoa Wildlife Reserve
A short drive from Quito lies the Pasochoa Wildlife Reserve, a mountainside paradise for any nature enthusiast. This spot is perfect for birdwatching and hiking. The reserve is home to over 100 different species of birds, including colorful hummingbirds and majestic eagles. But the nature sightings don’t stop there; the reserve is also home to Andean deer, wild rabbits, and foxes. With so much to see and do, the Pasochoa Wildlife Reserve is conveniently located and ideal for escaping the hustle and bustle of the city.
Papallacta Hot Springs
Papallacta’s marvelous hot springs are home to various spas and hotels that have become a staple of relaxation for many people in Quito. The natural thermal pools offer a relaxing atmosphere, and the views of the surrounding mountains are simply beautiful. There are swimming and soaking pools to choose from all over this small, hilly, and dreamy town, so you’ll be sure to find the perfect one! Whether you want to relax in the warm water or plunge into a refreshingly cold pool, there’s something for everyone. Papallacta is an ideal spot if you’re looking to unwind and relax. You won’t be disappointed!
Otavalo is a small city in northern Ecuador, famous for its market. The Otavalo Market is one of South America’s largest and most vibrant markets, and it is a popular destination for locals and tourists and a great place to find traditional Ecuadorian crafts. These include hand-woven textiles and wooden carvings. It is also an excellent place to purchase produce and other goods at lower prices than in Quito. The market is particularly lively on Saturdays when many people come from all over the region to shop and trade. Otavalo is a very satisfying place to experience traditional Ecuadorian culture and to find some unique souvenirs.
It is rather mindboggling that the lion’s share of the Mashpi Reserve is contained within Quito’s Metropolitan Area. To find such a pristine biodiversity hotspot so close to a capital city is nothing short of incredible. This is like having the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the most biologically diverse U.S. National Park) located just a short distance from the metropolis of Chicago.
Adventurers and nature-lovers alike will find plenty to love at Mashpi Lodge. Visitors can explore the reserve’s many hiking trails, take in the amazing views from the lodge’s Sky Bike and Dragonfly Canopy Gondola, or even go on a night walk to explore the nocturnal activity along a shallow riverbed. The reserve is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including jaguars, ocelots, monkeys, sloths, and around 500 species of birds. And, with its mix of cloud forest and rainforest habitats, there is always something exciting to see.
Can Mashpi be a day tour? Does it offer any of its activities to non-guests?
Mashpi is such an amazing destination, however, it is not designed to accommodate day tours. To guarantee visitors a full and worthwhile experience, activities are only available to overnight guests of the lodge.
Whether you’re looking for an exciting adventure or a relaxing nature retreat, Mashpi Lodge is a rainforest hotel like no other! We recommend you visit this unique lodge at the front end of your visit to Ecuador. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, keep in mind that Quito is located high in the Andes. Altitude can therefore be a factor. One way to avoid any possible altitude sickness, is to arrive in Quito and head to a nearby, lower, and more comfortable altitude until your body acclimates. Mashpi Lodge is located at 3,117 feet (950 meters) above sea level. It is an ideal spot for getting your body accustomed to the elevation.
After spending two, three, or four high-quality and activity-filled days at Mashpi Lodge, you’ll be ready to explore even more of what Ecuador has to offer. Quito’s Old Town is the perfect next stop along your journey.
Activities within Quito
Adventure awaits around every corner in Quito. From exploring the colonial streets of Old Town to taking in the view from El Panecillo Hill, there are endless activities to keep visitors entertained. There are plenty of museums and art galleries to explore for those interested in a more cultural experience. And for those who prefer to travel off the beaten path, there are plenty of exciting options. Whether you’re looking for an adventure or a chance to relax and soak up the local flavors, Quito has something for everyone.
– El Panecillo
El Panecillo is a hill located in the center of Quito with stunning views of the city both to the north and to the south. The hill is home to a large statue of the Virgin Mary, which was built in 1976. Though located close to the Old Town, it is best to hire a driver or local tour guide to take you to the top of this delightful hill from which you can enjoy amazing panoramic views of Quito. On a clear day, you can even see volcanic peaks in the distance. A visit to El Panecillo will also offer you a chance to learn a little about the city’s history and culture.
– La Ronda
La Ronda is a traditional colonial-style street located in Quito’s Historic Center—a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The street is lined with colorful houses, many of which have been converted into cafes and shops. La Ronda is a great place to grab a bite to eat or pick up some authentic souvenirs of Quito. It is also located within walking distance of several museums, including El Museo de la Ciudad (The City Museum), where you can learn about Quito’s rich history and the figures that shaped the city as we know it today.
Ecuadorian food features a delicious blend of indigenous and Spanish influences. Quito is the perfect place to try traditional dishes like ceviche, empanadas, and llapingachos. And, if you have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of amazing desserts, some of which you may not find anywhere else! Also, get ready to try some of the most amazing bread you’ll eve taste!
Quito is home to several bakeries featuring delicious pastries, desserts, and an assortment of panes typically sold as single servings, and which are very affordable. Quito is also a great place to try local fruits and vegetables. Many of Quito’s restaurants offer views of the city, making them the perfect spot to enjoy a meal while taking in the sights or doing a little people watching.
Where to Stay in Quito
Quito has become the perfect staging ground for forays into the nearby natural areas of the Ecuadorian Andes, and the adventure begins in the city’s immediate surroundings. It is also not at all uncommon to stay on the outskirts of town and visit the city proper as part of a day tour.
If, for instance, this is something that interests you, we recommend chatting with a destination expert about your different options. Depending on how much time you have, it may ultimately be better to visit a destination just outside of Quito, but within its Metropolitan District, such as the aforementioned Mashpi Lodge, and then focus on exploring Quito and other surrounding areas after a few days in the lush rainforest.
Of course, Quito has plenty of terrific accommodations available to visitors. For a more relaxed atmosphere, we recommend staying in Quito’s Old Town—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—, which offers the added benefit of being relatively close to everything the city offers. It is a part of town with many gorgeous and curious colonial-style buildings, cobblestone streets and sidewalks, and unique shops, cafés, museums, and churches.
And the views are just spectacular, so definitely check out San Francisco Plaza, where you’ll find our sister hotel, the award-winning Casa Gangotena Boutique Hotel! Check out this blog to discover even more activities and expand your list of things to do in Quito. (Be sure to ask your destination expert about any available discounts there for guests of Mashpi Lodge.)
With so much to see and do, Quito is an ideal destination for any vacation. And, when paired with an exciting rainforest lodge, like Mashpi, it is even more captivating and satisfying! A city that enables you to stay in its periphery or in its very center, while offering a generous array of exciting activities and nearby points of interest, is a destination worth exploring to its fullest.