It’s been a while! I kicked off Summer 2019 with a trip to Ecuador – my first time in South America, with my travel buddy, Beth.
Some things that surprised me about Quito:
- They use US currency as their currency! They’re a handful of countries whose currency is actually US money
- Just like the currency, the outlets are US outlets
- THE ELEVATION – Quito is a little over 9,000 feet above sea level. To give you some context, NYC is 33 feet above sea level. I felt winded fast and super out of shape the first few days there
- The biodiversity of the environment in Ecuador, from beaches to mountains to jungles – there’s so much so close to each other
- Quito is surrounded by volcanoes – although only one is active
We stayed in Quito for the whole trip (about 6 days) and did day trips out of the city. I was pleasantly surprised that we were on private tours or small group (less than a dozen people) tours the whole time. What surprised me about Quito the most is that it’s not touristy at all. It seemed to me that many tourists go to the Galapagos instead of Quito. All of our day trips were less than 2 hours (each way) from Quito.
Day trip #1 – Mindo
If you want a bunch of different activities in one day, go to the Mindo Cloud Forest. I didn’t know what a cloud forest was until this. It’s a cool and humid environment with low level cloud coverage.
Our tour guide offered us a bunch of things to choose from including ziplining and a hummingbird sanctuary. We did 2 of the 3 cable car rides of our trip on this visit and ended up hiking around visiting a bunch of waterfalls, which was definitely my favorite part. Highly recommend wearing hiking boots because it’s wet and humid and muddy.
Day Trip # 2 – Cotopaxi
We didn’t hike at all but we did horseback ride around the base of Cotopaxi for two hours. It was beautiful even though it was cloudy so no great pictures of Cotopaxi. It was chilly near the mountain so I’m glad they gave us ponchos. However, I ended up getting sunburn!
Day Trip #3 – Hot Springs in Papallacta
Our last day trip was the most relaxing one. Highly recommend doing this. There were various hot spring pools to choose from that differed in temperature (I didn’t notice it much) and other spa things to do. We also did the steam bath in the thermal cave which was A LOT of steam but so good. We also made a friend on this trip who we ended up hanging with even when we got back to Quito. Our tour guide also took us on a little hike around the mountains near the spa.
On the way there, we even stopped to take in the views of Lake Papallacta.
Best and worst thing I did was take a cable car up Pichincha via the Teleferico. It’s just so high up. The cable car, Teleferico, goes up in less than 20 minutes so you go from 9,000 feet above sea level to 13,000 feet. The minute I got off the car I was freaking out. My friend’s heart was beating really fast, I couldn’t breathe. After panicking for a while, we bought little oxygen tanks and explored a bit.
I’ve never dealt with altitude before this trip so even walking slightly fast would have me out of breath fast.
We also went to the Basílica del Voto Nacional, which has amazing views of the city. We climbed up into essentially the church attic and up some stairs into a tower. Definitely a cool little adventure in a church. It reminds me a lot of Notre Dame.
the view from the top of the church tower
Quito has a great historical district that’s also a UNESCO heritage site. It’s very well kept and clean. That being said, it’s also a very hilly area.
Finally, because we’re foodies, we obviously had to try all the foods. Ecuadorian food is very fresh. One of my tour guides mentioned when he studied in London, he hated it because the food wasn’t fresh the way it was in Quito.
Would I go back to Quito? Absolutely! If you’re into outdoor adventures, good food, and not so touristy places, this is the place for you.