Before heading to Cuenca, Ecuador for a month, we took a long weekend trip to the capital city Quito, Ecuador. Between hiking to an active volcano and eating at restaurants with sweeping city views, we really enjoyed our few days in Quito.
Below we will list our favorite activities, restaurants, and recommended accommodation.
Activities in Quito, Ecuador
Hiking to Rucu Pichincha, An Active Volcano
One of the coolest things we have ever done as travelers was to make the decision to hike to Rucu Pichincha in Quito, Ecuador. We were vastly unprepared for the actual hike but we were drawn in by the ability to take the “Telefériqo” which is a cable car that takes you up to the trailhead. The views from this alone made the entire excursion worthwhile.
During the hike, we constantly had breathtaking views of the city of Quito behind us and an ominous, looming volcano ahead of us. I felt like I was transported to New Zealand to the set of The Lord of the Rings. The high elevation was challenging and we didn’t bring sunscreen with us which was a crucial mistake, but otherwise it was an unbelievable experience.
If you’re not physically able or you just aren’t much of a hiker, I still highly suggest taking the Telefériqo up to the top of the mountain for sweeping views of Quito and a closer view of the Volcano. It’s an experience you don’t want to miss.
Free Walking Tour
Most cities around the world have options for free walking tours. There is no cost for the tour, but if your guide does an exceptional job, you pay them with a cash tip. Our free walking tour in Quito was one of the best we’ve ever had due to the extensive knowledge of our guide. He didn’t hold back from giving us his personal opinion on the history and politics of Ecuador which was very interesting to hear from a local.
The tour lasted a couple hours and took us through all of the sites in the central historic district of Quito. It was a walk through history with recommendations for places to eat and additional places to visit while we were in Quito. I highly recommend this tour to get acquainted with Quito!
Day Trip to Quilotoa
Quilotoa is a dormant volcano crater lake that is filled with stunning blue water and a surreal landscape surrounding it. The drive is about 3 hours each way, so you have to be ready for a long day trip. I would recommend getting a tour if you’re short on time just for the ease of travel.
You can hike down into the crater which takes around 30 minutes and is fairly easy. The difficult part is the way back up. Walking on sand on a steep incline all the way up the side of the crater with the wind whipping sand into your eyes is just plain difficult. We made the climb in about 45 minutes but if you are taking your time it could take up to an hour and a half. I would still recommend descending into the crater, but if you’re not ready for the challenge of hiking back up you could pay to take a mule to the top.
Visit the Basílica del Voto Nacional
The “Basilica of the National Vote” is the largest Neo-Gothic church in all of South America. It remains unfinished to this day and legend has it that the world will end if the church is ever completed. The basilica is absolutely breathtaking inside and out.
You are allowed to climb to the top of each tower and you can see the clock faces from inside. The views of the city from the top are spectacular. It’s definitely worth a visit!
Videos of Activities in Quito, Ecuador
Below we linked two of our episodes from our YouTube channel that show all of these activities in a vlog format if you would like more information!
Restaurants and Bars in Quito, Ecuador
This restaurant is a little pricey but it’s absolutely worth it for the ambiance and the city views from the window. We walked here one night from our Airbnb and we were just delighted with the service, food, and views from our table.
If we were to go to El Ventanal again, I would make a reservation and book a table by the window ahead of time. We got lucky and got a nice table but those with reservations got the prime spots. This is a perfect spot for a fancy date night that won’t completely break the bank.
Govindas is the best spot for a delicious, affordable vegetarian lunch in Quito. We actually found Govindas locations in Cuenca, Ecuador and Medellin, Colombia that had the same menu of the day vegetarian lunch specials. This is a favorite of ours for a quick, healthy lunch for a very low price.
Bandido Brewpub is located inside of an 1850’s colonial Spanish building with a chapel tucked away in the back. There are great happy hours deals, a decent food offering of typical pub grub, and awesome American style craft beer. If you’re a craft beer fan you can’t miss Bandido!
This small, eclectic corner cafe offers a rotating menu of local draft beers as well as a small menu of food with vegetarian friendly options. Omotos was a delightful surprise, with incredible friendly staff and a really nice atmosphere. If you want to find a spot that’s a little more off the beaten track with that nice local feel, this is the place.
Restaurante Kay Pacha
If you are looking for a fresh, homemade, innovative vegan lunch that is beyond affordable, Restaurante Kay Pacha is the place to go! We happened to be at a co-working space nearby and stumbled upon this gem during lunch hour. They have a “menú del día” with rotating options each day for lunch – whatever they are making, I’m sure it’s delicious!
Accommodation in Quito, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador is a very long and narrow city with plenty of hip areas to stay during your visit. However, if you would like to be close to the historic district of Quito, I would recommend staying in El Centro. There aren’t an overwhelming amount of bars and restaurants close by but you are walking distance to a lot of the historic sites you will want to see during your visit.
We stayed at an Airbnb linked here. It was one of the nicer Airbnb’s we have stayed in South America and we would highly recommend it! If you’re new to Airbnb, use this link to save $40 off your first booking and $15 off your first Airbnb Experience!
Quito, Ecuador is a wonderful city and in a short visit we were only able to scratch the surface. However, we loved our experience and recommend everything on this list for someone else. If you want a closer view of what Quito is like, be sure to check out our YouTube videos! Enjoy your visit to Quito!