Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, is a destination that offers a unique blend of old-world charm and modern amenities. The city is located in the Andes mountain range, at an elevation of 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) above sea level. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and breathtaking natural surroundings, Quito is a city that offers something for everyone. Here are the best things to do in Quito and the best times of year to visit.
Best Things to Do In Quito, Ecuador
1. Explore the Old Town
Quito’s Old Town, or Centro Histórico, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved colonial cities in South America. The area is home to numerous historic churches, museums, and government buildings, many of which date back to the 16th century. Some of the must-visit attractions in the Old Town include the Basilica del Voto Nacional, the Plaza de la Independencia, and the Monastery of San Francisco.
Best time to visit: The best time to explore the Old Town is from June to September, which is the dry season. During this time, the weather is mild and there are fewer crowds.
2. Take a Cable Car Ride
One of the best ways to get a panoramic view of Quito is by taking a cable car ride up the Pichincha volcano. The ride takes you to an altitude of 4,050 meters (13,287 feet) above sea level, where you can enjoy stunning views of the city and the surrounding mountains. At the top, you can take a short hike to the summit of the volcano and take in the breathtaking views.
Best time to visit: The best time to take a cable car ride is from June to September, which is the dry season. However, it’s important to note that the cable car is closed on Mondays.
3. Visit the Middle of the World Monument
The Middle of the World Monument is located just north of Quito and marks the spot where the equator passes through Ecuador. Visitors can stand on both hemispheres at the same time and participate in interactive exhibits that explain the science behind the equator. There are also several shops and restaurants in the area.
Best time to visit: The Middle of the World Monument is open year-round, but the best time to visit is from June to September, which is the dry season.
4. Explore La Mariscal
La Mariscal is a vibrant neighborhood in Quito that is known for its nightlife, restaurants, and shopping. The area is home to numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants, many of which cater to tourists. There are also several artisan markets in the area where you can find locally-made crafts and souvenirs.
Best time to visit: La Mariscal is lively year-round, but the best time to visit is during the weekends, when the neighborhood comes alive with street performers and live music.
5. Hike to the Top of Rucu Pichincha
For the more adventurous traveler, a hike to the top of Rucu Pichincha is a must-do activity in Quito. The hike takes you to an altitude of 4,698 meters (15,413 feet) above sea level, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. It’s important to note that the hike is challenging and should only be attempted by experienced hikers.
Best time to visit: The best time to hike to the top of Rucu Pichincha is from June to September, which is the dry season. It’s important to check the weather conditions before embarking on the hike.
6. Visit the Museums
Quito is home to a number of excellent museums, including the Museo Nacional del Ecuador, which houses an impressive collection of art and artifacts from Ecuador’s history. The Casa del Alabado is another must-visit museum, showcasing pre-Columbian art and artifacts.
7. Indulge in the Cuisine
Ecuadorian cuisine is a delicious blend of indigenous, Spanish, and African influences. Some must-try dishes include ceviche, locro (a traditional potato soup), and llapingachos (stuffed potato cakes). There are also plenty of restaurants serving international cuisine, so you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes.
8. Take a Day Trip to Otavalo
Located just a few hours north of Quito, the town of Otavalo is known for its vibrant indigenous market, where you can buy handmade crafts and textiles. It’s also home to the stunning Peguche Waterfall and the Cuicocha Crater Lake.
Best Times to Visit Quito:
The best time to visit Quito is during the dry season, which runs from June to September. During this time, the weather is mild and pleasant, with clear skies and little rain. This is also the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and higher prices. Another good time to visit is during the shoulder season, which runs from April to May and October to November. During this time, the crowds are smaller and the prices are lower, but the weather can be a bit more unpredictable.
On the other hand, the rainy season, which runs from December to May, can make it difficult to enjoy outdoor activities. Additionally, Quito’s high altitude can make the weather unpredictable, so be sure to pack for all eventualities.
Quito is a fascinating city with plenty to see and do. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or nature, there’s something for everyone in this charming colonial city. Just be sure to plan your visit for the best time of year, and you’re sure to have a memorable trip.