Travel Destinations & Things To Do Around Quito, Ecuador
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Jena Davison, a Travel Writer and Editor based in Quito, Ecuador.
- La Mitad del Mundo
Although Mitad del Mundo (The Middle of the World in English) is extremely touristy, it would be a shame to stay in Quito and not visit the equatorial line located only 30 minutes from the city. Taking photos straddling the equator is obligatory, but there are a few interesting museums at the site as well.
Inside the equatorial monument is an ethnographic museum where you can learn about Ecuador’s different indigenous groups; their traditional dress and customs.
About 100 meters from the monument is where the actual equatorial line exists and you can visit the Museo del Sitio Intiñan, which allows visitors to participate in experiments to prove the different gravitational pulls on each side of the equator. There is also a planetarium and insectarium near the monument.
- Pululahua Crater
This 2,500-year-old volcanic crater a few kilometers past Mitad de Mundo is worth a visit. The views from the top of Pululahua are spectacular and there is an expensive hotel and restaurant called El Cráter on its edge, if you’d like to enjoy a meal or coffee with the vista.
For the more adventurous, you can hike to the bottom of Pululahua where a small agricultural community lives and explore one of the several hiking trails on foot or by horseback. If you’d like to spend the night, you can camp out or stay at Pululahua Hostal – a comfortable eco-lodge with cabañas, Jacuzzi, restaurant and horses for hire.
The crater is part of a larger protected ecological reserve – Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve – designated in 1966. It contains many unique species of flowers, birds and butterflies.
Termas de Papallacta
A popular day trip from Quito, Termas de Papallacta are public hot springs located in the páramo (ecosystem above the forest line yet below the snowline) on the way to the jungle. For $7 USD, visitors can spend the entire day relaxing in the hot springs of varying sizes and temperatures and chow down on locally caught trout. The termas are best and most romantic after dark.
If you aren’t on a budget, spending the night at the upscale Termas Papallacta Hotel and Spa is worthwhile and you can access its private pools to avoid the weekend crowds at the public facility. The surroundings are a great place for hiking with many folks heading out in the early morning for a hike, ending the day with a dip in the rejuvenating baths.
Located only 2.5 hours from Quito, this cloud forest paradise is an easy weekend trip. The area is gorgeous, with green landscapes, a milder climate and a laid-back vibe. Activities include bird-watching, visiting butterfly gardens, hiking to waterfalls, tubing and zip lining. More information on the popular zip line tours can be found here: Mindo Canopy Adventures.
It is also possible to take a chocolate tour to see the whole chocolate-making process at El Quetzal, which runs an artisan chocolate business out of Mindo. There are lots of budget accommodations in town, as well as some excellent eco-lodges right outside the downtown area. Travel Guide to Mindo
The bustling Otavalo Market, located about two hours from Quito, is one of the biggest artisan markets in South America. It is a colorful spectacle of handmade rugs, jewelry, painted wooden products, woven bags and hammocks, alpaca clothing and more. View Photos of Otavalo
Although it takes place every day in the central Plaza de Los Ponchos, the market is best on Saturdays, when the most vendors are set up. You can buy all sorts of regional artesanía; just be sure to bargain. Travel in Ecuador – Otavalo
On early Saturday mornings, there is also a traditional animal market, which is fun to see and photograph. This is an easy side trip for just the day.
Photographs by Jena Davison, all rights reserved.