So I went to Ecuador for a wedding in the end of February and I decided to make a full vacation out of it because why not!? I wanted a chill vacation where I didn’t have to move around too much like I have done on some of my previous trips so this was more of a relaxing, take it easy kind of trip. I went to Ecuador because of the wedding, but there are a few good reasons to go to Ecuador regardless especially if you are traveling there from the states:
- It isn’t too far of a trip. It is a 6 hour direct flight, if you’re fancy like that.
- There is no time difference at all from the east coast, you’re basically just going straight south from NYC.
- They use American dollars! 💵 No need to deal with currency exchange and the issue of taking out too much cash and trying to spend it all on the last day, plus everything is super cheap.
- The country is beautiful, the people are nice, and overall it is just a blast.
In case you are like some people I know, and always want to know how people got certain places… I flew ✈️ in and out of Newark (EWR) through Panama City (PTY) to Quito (UIO) on Copa Airlines / United and arrived on a Saturday night around 11 pm. I was a sleepy little panda so I went right to bed at the Hilton Colon Quito Hotel.
I like to tell stories about my travels and sometimes get carried away and keep on going… so I’m going to write the full stories! But for those of you who just want the highlights of the best things to do in Quito and don’t give a $h!t about exactly what I did, I’ll spare you every single thing that happened to me😝 and put the highlights in a list below. If you do care and find my stories totally riveting, keep reading below after the list. 🙂
Quito in 24-48 Hours:
- Take the Teleferico up to the top of a mountain next to the Pichincha Volcano & hike further up the mountain from the teleferico drop off point if you’re up for it
- Walk around the old town, especially Plaza Grande and head into the gold church aka La Compañía
- Venture out to El Mitad Del Mundo – the center of the world aka the Equator (YES this is what Ecuador is named for…) keep in mind that what is called “El Mitad Del Mundo” is technically a big monument that isn’t actually the accurate equator! If you want to stand with one foot in both the northern & southern hemisphere at the same time at the real equator, you’ll need to go just nearby which is the Intiñan Solar Museum!
- Take the “tour” at the outdoor Intiñan Solar Museum, it is pretty quick and really interesting, plus this is actually the real Eqautor AND they show you how chocolate is made and you get to taste some, yummm
- Drive up to the top of the Volcano and peer down into the valley below
Wake up in the morning feelin like P Diddy. JK def didn’t but I did wake up pretty well rested and have a ballin breakfast at the buffet. Amazing french toast (which I’ve been really into lately especially this french toast which had tons of cinnamon yummm), make your own omelets 🍳, tons of fresh fruit and fresh squeezed orange juice! 🍊 After breakfast, my friend and I went and asked the concierge what were the best things to do around town in Quito. He drew on a map all of the things that he thought we should see and off we went.
First stop was a cute little mercado which was legit right next to our hotel across the street. It was a small park 🌳 with stands of beautiful hand painted art as well as handicrafts. One of the paintings was of a guy wearing a hat standing at the very top of a mountain. The background was all white and it had a whitewash tone to it which looked really cool. If it wasn’t such a burden for me to have to carry it home I would’ve bought it for my older brother, Kevin. It was awesome and it reminded me of him a natural born explorer making his way to the top of every mountain 🗻 and natural wonder. After staring at it for a while and appreciating my older brother, we moved on past some of the other artists and their landscape paintings. Many of Quito and Ecuador, many of generic beach scenes which I always love and then we made it to the handicrafts.
There were stalls with jewelry, rings with semiprecious stones, bracelets weaved with threads including the typical tourist ones saying ECUADOR, and tons of alpaca ponchos, sweaters and best of all, scarves (alpaca is actually a really sustainable fabric for all of my animal and earth lovers!!! click here for more info). The alpaca scarves were so soft and in a million different beautiful colors! Of course now that I’m home I regret not buying one in legit every color. I got a pretty burnt orange one and a striped one with different shades of beige that will go with everything. Obviously bargaining is 🔑 which my friend was much better at than I am 🙈. If you left it up to me I’d be all 💸 lalala jk I’m not that bad at bargaining although he is definitely better but whatever, we got a great deal. So with alpaca scarves in hand we decided it was time for a quick snack.
My friend likes to check out the Big Max index in all foreign countries and since there was a McDonald’s right across the street lolz… we stopped by so that he could grab a pollo burger, and I ate some 🍟. As we were walking out and headed back by the park, we noticed an outdoor McD’s stand right outside of the actual standalone building just for selling ice cream! How cool! I’ve seen other versions of this concept in other foreign countries (especially India) and I always thought it was genius. So we decided it was time for a treat and got 🍦 (for only $1!!!!) to eat while we walked back by the paintings in the park.
Once we finished our ice cream, we decided to head to the Teleferico aka cable car. We had the hotel call us a cab to get there because it was too far to walk and he was such a sweet and wonderful man! I love talking to Taxi drivers in other cities, they usually know so much about the city and are just genuinely nice and interesting people. Especially when in Spanish speaking countries, I try to take this opportunity to practice my Spanish! So I jumped right into questions about him and how long he lived in the city and asking him about life there. He was so nice and gave us his card to call him whenever we needed more rides! This would definitely come in handy later.
So we arrived at the Teleferico which takes you to the top of a mountain right next to the Pichincha Volcano! Apparently this cable car is the highest in all of South America which makes sense since Quito is already at such a high altitude. We had the whole cable car to ourselves since it wasn’t very busy which was cool. We spread out and kept hopping back and forth to different sides of the car so that we could see the view from all angles. When we got to the top, we had a few minutes of the clear, beautiful view before the clouds started to roll in and it quickly became very foggy. For whatever reason they sell popcorn everywhere in Ecuador which is amazing because I LOVE POPCORN! So we got some popcorn and sat at a table to watch the view as the clouds came in and out showing us the city of Quito and hiding it from our view as if we were playing hide and seek with the clouds. After the popcorn, we ventured around and noticed there was a hiking path.
We decided to head up the path before remembering how high up we were. We were winded after walking up one set of stairs which was just the very very beginning of the hike. We gave ourselves a break since it was technically our first day getting acclimated to the altitude and walked really slowly a bit further. We came across a guy who had spent four hours going up and coming back along the trail. As he told us how tough it got, and that he ended up scaling some rock walls, we looked at each other with wide eyes and agreed unanimously that we didn’t need to be that adventurous on our first day in town and not adjusted to the altitude. Although, it sounds like it would be a pretty incredible hike and I recommend maybe saving this activity for one of the later days on your trip once you’re better acclimated to the altitude so that you can hike it! We walked a bit further to where we could see Quito from a different view point and then turned back.
We headed back down the Teleferico and arrived at the base only to realize that since it wasn’t peak season, there were no taxis waiting to whisk us back into town. After waiting 5-10 minutes and not seeing a single taxi come up, we decided to pull out our new favorite taxi drivers phone number and call him to come and grab us. We told him we wanted to check out the old town and he was like perfect! I’ll take you right to Plaza Grande then. That is at the heart and center of it all.
Plaza Grande & The Old Town
Plaza Grande is just an amazing place to walk around and explore the entire downtown old city. There was so much culture. People standing up and preaching over megaphones, people dancing in the plaza, other people just sitting and watching everyone walk by. Really it just was amazing to sit and watch and listen as everyone went about their typical lives. After sitting and enjoying the plaza for a while, we got up and started walking around until we found ourselves in an amazing golden Church called La Compañía. The entire thing is decked out in gold and unlike any other church I’ve seen before. This was very, very cool.
El Mitad Del Mundo & The Intiñan Solar Museum AKA The Equator
Arguably the most important Quito tourist site so I saved the best for last… is the center of the world or the equator! Funny story is that many years ago before we had super accurate technology, the government built a massive monument and called it El Mitad Del Mundo or the middle of the world. Turns out, they were actually a couple hundred meters off from where the exact equator is… instead of moving the monument, it is still there fooling people daily! Luckily, most people have found out that the actual equator is very close by at the Intiñan Solar Museum and go check out both since they are so close together. Honestly, the fake monument isn’t worth the time or money but the real one definitely is!
Definitely do the tour of the outdoor museum because it was so cool! In addition to all of the trivia and information they provide generally about Ecuador and it’s history, they also do some amazing things directly on the line of the actual equator. It shows how clearly the magnetic forces really do effect everything. The craziest was when they took a water basin just a few feet north of the equator line to show how the water in the basin drained clockwise in the northern hemisphere when the plug was pulled, and then counter clockwise when they moved the basin just a few feet to the south of the equator line. When they placed it directly on top of the equator line, it just whooshed straight directly down the drain without spinning in any direction! Wild! They explain that this is because of the rotation of the earth on its axis and that the water follows suit. They do a lot of other fun games as well and of course let you take your picture with one foot in each hemisphere. Also, they show you how they make their chocolate in the chocolate house and they let you taste it which is amazing. Ecuador even has gourmet cacao and they explain where it comes from, how it is made and show you the entire process. Definitely worth a visit. 🙂