Quito, Ecuador Travel Guide
The scope of San Francisco de Quito (or simply “Quito” as it is commonly called) is intense with over 1.5 million inhabitants equaling roughly 484 people per square mile.
Population density is great but a more pressing reality are nearby volcanos – Quito is located in the Andes mountain range near the equator and the only capital city in the world to be threatened by volcanic activity.
In August 2006, Volcano Pichincha errupted, dumping a layer of ash over the city and causing temporary closure of Mariscal Sucre International Airport.
Quito´s elevation is 2,800 metres (9,186 feet) above sea level, making it the highest capital city in South America. The second highest is Bogotá, Colombia at 2,620 meters (8,646 feet).
If traveling to either of these cities – or high altitude areas in Ecuador, Peru or Bolivia – read this article beforehand: Travel Health – Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment of Altitude Sickness
Green spaces are everywhere and Parque Metropolitano Guanguiltagua in Quito is the largest urban park in South America at 1,376 acres (5.5 km²). By comparison, Central Park in New York City is only 843 acres.
Quito is a popular traveler hang-out with the Mariscal district (between the old town and airport) a favorite haunt due to its relative safety and abundance of nightclubs and hostals. And for the heck of it… why not go to the middle of the world (La Mitad del Mundo in Spanish)? Downtown Quito is 15 miles south of the equator, you can step between the north and south hemispheres in quite a few choice locations.
Tourist attractions located near Quito include: Cotopaxi National Park , Otavalo (famous craft market), Antisana (Ecological Reserve), Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve (conservation and bird watching lodge), Papallacta & Oyacachi (thermal springs), Cayambe (Coca Ecological Reserve), Mindo Nambillo (cloud forest) and last but not least – the summits Rucu or Guagua of Volcano Pichincha.
More detailed information is located here: Travel Destinations & Things To Do Around Quito. There is also the relocation hot spot Cotacachi, just two hours away: Cotacachi, Ecuador – Cheap Place to Live in South America. The thrill seekers’ hot spot – Baños- is just four hours from Quito by bus: Travel Guide to Baños.
Nightlife in Quito – What’s Shaking Where Whether You Like it Rowdy or Mellow
There are many different entertainment options in Quito. If you want to party head to the Mariscal neighborhood where there are tons of bars, dance spots and international restaurants.
One of the best places to salsa dance is called Séseribo (though not in the Mariscal), which is located at Calle Veintimilla 325 and Avenida 12 de Octubre streets. Also, Aguijón – a popular nightclub in the Mariscal playing a mix of alternative rock, salsa and drum and bass music – hosts a salsa night on Wednesday nights which is popular with the younger crowd.
If you want a chiller night, El Pobre Diablo (corner of Isabel La Catolica and Galavis streets) is a Jazz bar and music venue located in La Floresta neighborhood, which has live music most weekend nights. Also in La Floresta is the independent movie theater called “Ocho y Medio” located at the corner of Valladolid and Vizcaya streets. It shows documentaries, off-beat films and hosts local and International film festivals.
Guápulo is another nice neighborhood for a less rowdy night out, with a few funky cafés/bars lining its only cobblestone road; the views here are awesome. The bar Ananké and Café Guápulo are two favorites.
In the Old Town, La Ronda, Quito’s oldest street, is the place to be. If you go, be sure to try canelazo, a warm drink made with cane alcohol, fruits and cinnamon which is for sale almost everywhere.
If you want to know how much it will cost for a night on the town, to take a taxi, rent an apartment or even buy groceries in Quito read: Cost of Living in Quito.
Where to Go Shopping in Quito & Shopping Malls
There are several major malls (shopping in Spanish) in Quito. El Jardin, Centro Comerical Iñaquito (CCI) and Quicentro are all along Parque Carolina. El Jardin is located at Avenida Amazonas and Avenida La República streets and Quicentro is located at Avenida Naciones Unidas and 6 de Diciembre street. Both are upscale malls with designer shops and company stores such as Adidas, The Northface, Nine West, Armani Exchange, Polo Ralph Lauren, Zara and The Apple Store .
Quicentro also has a Dunkin’ Donuts, TGI Fridays and a few expensive sit-down restaurants. El Jardin has a few restaurants with seating as well, such as Noe Sushi and Crepes & Waffles.
Both El Jardin and Quicentro malls have a store called “El Griego” which sells some imported gringo brands that are hard to find elsewhere such as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and rice vinegar. CCI mall is located at Avenida Amazonas N36-152 and Naciones Unida streets. It is a great place to hang-out with kids, has a movie theater and an ice skating rink! All three malls have food courts with typical Ecuadorian chains and American fast food joints as well as a supermarket and banks.
Bus Stations in Quito & Times of Travel to Destinations
Quitumbe bus terminal is located in the far south of Quito, about an hour from the Mariscal on the Trole, or 30 minutes in taxi. This is the place to go when taking buses to southern destinations, including Baños, Ambato, Latacunga, Riobamba, Guaranda, Puyo, Tena, as well as the coast and jungle.
Some bus companies have offices in the Mariscal with departures from their location in the Mariscal: Reino del Camino, Loja Internacional, Panamericana and Trans Esmeraldas.
There are a few other terminals in the north of Quito servicing northern destinations. Ophelia has buses to Mindo, while the company Carcelén has buses to Ibarra, Otavalo, Tulcan, Cotocachi, Puerto Quito, Atacames and Esmeraldas.
Approximate bus travel times from Quito are as follows: Cuenca is 10 hours; Canoa is 6-7 hours; Cali, Colombia is 18-20 hours; Guayaquil is 8 hours; Baños is 4 hours; Puerto López is 10 hours; Ibarra is 3 hours; Otavalo is 2 hours and from Quito to Lago Agrio is 8 hours.
During winter (invierno in Spanish) – the months June, July and August – are the best times to visit Quito as it is normally pleasantly sunny with little wind or rain and temperatures on average 19 degree C (66 F).
With year-round temperatures averaging 15 degrees C (59 F), no time during the year is unpleasant in Quito. However, the rainy season during summer (verano in Spanish) – December through March – may make outdoor activities less enjoyable.
- Name: Lugano Suites Hotel Book Now
Area: La Carolina Park
Address: Suiza N33-132 & Checoslovaquia
Website: http://luganosuiteshotel.com/english/quito.asp Fully-equipped one-bedroom apartments (microwave, dishwasher, plasma TV) with living/dining areas and views of downtown Quito. Just 6.4 km (4 miles) from the historic center and Mariscal International Airport.
- Name: JW Marriott Hotel Quito Book Now
Area: Downtown Quito
Address: Orellana 1172 & Amazonas,
Website: http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/uiodt-jw-marriott-hotel-quito/ Spa, swimming pool, several restaurants (Mexican, local & International cusine) and bars plus plush rooms with AC, minibars and plasma TVs.
- Name: Hotel Boutique Plaza Sucre Book Now
Area: Historic center, 20 minutes from the airport
Address: Sucre Oe, 2-36, 170150
Website: www.hotelplazasucre.com/ Boutique hotel in 18th century building with balconies, satellite T.V, and soundproofed rooms.
- Name: Reina Isabel Hotel & Suites Book Now
Area: Mariscal District
Address: Avenida Amazonas N23-44 & Veintimilla
Website: www.hotelreinaisabel.com/ Modern decor and amenities as well including iPod docking stations in rooms, comfy sitting areas and a few with private hot tubs.
- Name: Posada del Maple B&B
Area: Mariscal District
Address: Juan Rodríguez E8-49 & 6 de Diciembre
Website: http://www.posadadelmaple.com/ Friendly, centrally located B&B in a quiet location offers shared rooms with bunk beds and private rooms with either shared or private baths plus a mini-suite! It also has several different indoor and outdoor common areas and rumored to have a great free breakfast.
- Name: Hostal El Arupo
Area: Mariscal District
Address: Juan Rodríguez E7-22 & Reina Victoria
Website: www.hostalelarupo.com &nbps; A clean and colorful hostel with shared kitchen, outdoor patio and garden, communal sitting area centered around a fireplace and cable TV. Its 14 spacious rooms all come with private tiled bathrooms. Continental breakfast is included, as well as free Internet and WiFi.
- Name: Rincon La Ronda Restaurante
Area: Downtown Central
Address: Belo Horizonte street E8-45 & Diego de Almagro
Website: http://www.rinconlaronda.com/ Upscale Ecuadorian cuisine served by suit-clad waitstaff in a sophisticated environment and usually accompanied by traditional live music. Excellent place to try traditional plates from the different regions of Ecuador, some with a modern twist such as fritada (fried
pork), sevo de chivo (goat stew) and locro de papas (creamy potato soup topped with queso fresco and avocado).
- Name: Zazu
Address: Mariano Aguilera 331 & La Pradera
Website http://zazuquito.com Recognized as one of the best restaurants in Quito, has a menu heavily based on seafood with several different types of ceviches (some with exotic fruits) and entrees such as pistachio-crusted tuna and prawn tempura with couscous, plantains and chili marmalade. Also has few Uruguayan-style beef dishes for meat lovers.
- Name: Café Mosaico
Area: Parque Itchimbía
Address: Manuel Samaniego 30 & Antepara streets.
Website: www.cafemosaico.com.ec This funky cafe’s best feature is its spectacular panoramic view of Quito and outdoor terrace seating plus cozy indoor seating by the fireplace. Specializes in Greek food, but also has American and Ecuadorian dishes. Live local music.
- Name: Le Arcate (Italian, wood-fired pizza)
Address: Baquedano 358 & Juan León Mera
Website: www.learcate.com An authentic Italian eatery with homemade pasta dishes, risottos, meat and fish mains, and over 50 different types of wood-fired pizza and calzones. Top it all off with tiramisu, chocolate mousse or profiteroles. All in an intimate setting making it a great place to bring a date.
- Name: Uncle Ho’s
Address: José Calama E8-40 & Diego de Almagro
Website: None. http://unclehos.com/ Great Vietnamese and Asian fusion dishes at reasonable prices. Besides Pho and Pad Thai has a mix-and-match option where diners can choose skewers of shrimp, beef, pork, chicken or tofu in a variety of sauces over a noodle bowl, rice plate or three different exotic salads. Happy hour 2 for 1 Martinis Monday-Friday 4-7 p.m. and all day Saturday!
- Name: Magic Bean (American-style cafe)
Area: Mariscal & Portugal districts
Address: Foch E5-08 Mariscal Sucre & Juan Leon Mera streets in the Mariscal district plus a second location at Avenida Portugal E9-106 & Avenida Republica Del Salvador street.
Website: www.magicbeanquito.com Sandwiches, large salads, soups and some vegetarian mains. American-style breakfasts are excellent with omelets and gigantic pancakes and fresh-squeezed juices. Free WiFi. The Mariscal branch is open daily 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; the Portugal branch is open Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m.-7 p.m.