I arrived in Quito from Brussels (via Amsterdam) with KLM end of May as the world was slowly recovering from the 4th (5th?) wave of COVID-19 and its infamous Omicron variant. But with or without coronavirus, Quito seems not to be an over-touristy city. It was a nice feeling!
What to do in Quito?
- Take a taxi (10£ from the old town) to the TelefériQo cable car. Reach 3 945 m (12,943 ft) in 18 minutes (8.50$/adult). Admire the tentacular capital of Ecuador from the top with a coffee and a piece of cake. Explore the paths surrounding the visitor centre and go to the Rucu Pichincha volcano if you have time (5h return) and if you have already got used to the height!
- Explore the old town: start in the impressive Plaza Grande, admire the Palacio del Governo, walk to Convento Santo Domingo, visit the oldest colonial street Calle Ronda, and then walk back to Plaza San Francisco
- On your way, visit the beautiful Pre-Colombian Art Museum. One of the best scenography I’ve seen, with exceptional art pieces.
- Walk up (or take a taxi if your heart can’t handle it) to the Basílica del Voto Nacional, the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas… but not that old. It was officially inaugurated in 1988!
- Other things to do if you have more time/are less jet-lagged/not suffering from altitude sickness: La Mitad del Mundo (official line cutting the planet in half), Virgen del Panecillo, Museo Casa de Sucre, Museo de la Ciudad, Museo Nacional de Ecuador (in the modern part), tour to Otovalo
Where to eat in Quito?
- Buy cheap and delicious biscuits and pastries for breakfast from the Panadería Y Pastelería Torta de la Abuela
- Grab lunch at the Mercado central or a quick pizza or kebab at Xenial
- Hungry from walking all around the city? Take a coffee and a cookie in the courtyard of the pre-Columbian Art Museum
- Sip a cocktail admiring the sunset on the terrace of the Secret Garden Hostel, also open to non-guests
- Dinner with a view at the Bar Sereno Moreno. Make sure to ask the waiters to go on the terrace (have fun climbing the stairs between flats) and enjoy the free chichas (nothing smokeable, but drinkable!) and a tradition fritada
Where to sleep in Quito?
I definitely recommend the hostel I stayed in: Secret Garden Hostel. This big house has just everything: dorms and private rooms, many serious tours organised, free drinkable water, a beautiful terrace with a stunning view, good cocktails (and a decent happy hour), daily activities (like salsa classes), places to chill all around and book exchange.
But be ready: the reception is on the top floor! Harsh on your first day at 2 850 m!
Also: it can become quite cold at night. Pack pijamas!
Useful tips in Quito:
- If you are arriving in Quito and looking for a SIM card, do not take one from the airport. It’s like 3 or 4 times more than in your hostel. I learnt it the hard way…
- Btw coming from the airport can be a bit challenging. The bus (aeroservicio 8$ until parque del centenario) left me quite far away from the centre of town. Taxis (official and unofficial) will be waiting for you when you get out the bus … but not that many. Ask your hostel, it will probably be better
- Altitude sickness is real if you come from Europe or another low-located city. Of course, you shouldn’t feel it that much if you come from Colombia or Peru. But if you’re not, don’t hesitate to pack altitude sickness pills (usually antihistamines) in your suitcase.
- And Ecuador being the closest place to the sun is real too. I read that Quito has +- 3 kms less atmosphere compared to cities at sea level. Some studies say that the capital of Ecuador receives 30% more ultraviolet rays compared to what you would get on a beach. So don’t get fooled by the clouds, put sunscreen on. Or you’ll end up with a red face, a slight dehydration and a nice headache.
All recommendations are mine, no ads. Prices from May 2022.
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