Quito Ecuador was our first stop in South America and just the culture shock we needed to get going. The incredible city sits 9,000 feet above sea level, and serves as the gateway to the rest of the country. In all honesty, our time in Quito wasn’t what we expected! Hopefully this quick Quito travel guide can give you some of the best things to do, and even what to avoid on your visit.
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First Impressions of Quito Ecuador
We would never tell you to not visit a place, but definitely be extra careful on your travel to Quito Ecuador. I mean when the locals strongly encourage you NOT to go out past dark you should definitely take notice. Every city has places you shouldn’t be at night, but to not go out at all was strange for us.
This means lots of early mornings and a serious increase in coffee dosage. While the majority of crime in Quito Ecuador is petty theft (not kidnappings) we were nervously looking over our shoulders in some sections of downtown.
Altitude is No Joke
Holy crap. Everything you’ve heard about altitude sickness is 100% true! While being a trillion miles in the sky is sweet in theory, it can make Quito travel pretty difficult. Even those little baby Quito hills will have you struggling for air! Make sure you allow yourself a couple days to acclimate before attempting any serious hiking.
Quito Travel Isn’t So Easy
We quickly found out to go anywhere in Ecuador requires a trip through Quito. The bus system and lack of roads makes it impossible to jump directly from town to town. So unless you have a private helicopter, be prepared to go through Quito Ecuador three or four times during your stay!
Best Things to do in Quito Ecuador
Now that we’re done our complaining… It’s time to tell you how sweet Quito Ecuador actually is! Here’s some of the best things to do in Quito on your visit.
Take You To Church
Basilica del Voto Nacional
Armed with dual clocks and a killer view of the city, this staple of Quito is the largest neo-gothic church in North or South America! However strange it may be, we should be glad that this basilica will forever remain unfinished. Local legend has it that if this 19th century masterpiece is ever completed the end of the world will be reign down upon us!
Compania de Jesus
This is the most famous church in Quito, and one of the most impressive structures in the city. Built by Jesuit Priests starting in 1605, the Church of the Society of Jesus took over 150 years to be completed. The inside is also painted solid gold… Need I say more??
The oddly shaped hill which translates to “little bread loaf” is hard to miss with the giant statue “Virgin de Quito” sitting proudly atop. Include this in your Quito travel and she will reward you with stunning panoramic views of Ecuador’s capital city.
Quito Travel Tip: With frequent robberies on the hiking path do yourself a favor and spend the $2 USD for a taxi.
Quito Ecuador Old Town
We spent hours walking around this area in the heart of Quito. As the first world heritage site named by UNESCO, Quito’s old town has an abundance of great street food, colonial architecture, museums, and top notch people watching.
The hop on hop off bus is an awesome and safe way to see all of Quito’s beauty. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a ride on the top of a double decker?
What to Eat and Drink in Quito
After some of the best things to do in Quito it’s time to jump on the Andean diet! Meat, fish, and healthy servings of potatoes and rice will be your new norm here. Simple, but tasty food is done right in Ecuador. La Ronda street in the old town is a great spot for a meal or drinks. Being on a budget, we were always on the hunt for the “menus of the day.” Below is what to expect for $2-3 on a set menu.
Toast, eggs, coffee, and your pick of fresh juice.
Reverse Coffee: Warm cup of milk is brought and you add the coffee syrup or powder yourself. This had us confused the first time!
Lunch starts off with a creamy potato soup. Then pick your poison with chicken, beef or fish which is always accompanied by rice and potatoes.
Other Quito Ecuador Specialties
Empanadas: Even after our Quito travel guide, it’s not going to be the last time you hear us mention these fluffy cheese filled pockets of goodness. We especially enjoyed the Carne and Queso ones!
Salchipapas: Fries and Sausage with a special sauce drizzled on top. This is an Ecuadorean favorite.
Churrasco: Eggs over steak…. That alone should be enough to get your mouth watering. Served with fries, salad, and healthy portion of avacado. Warning: May require post meal nap.
Overall, we had a fun experience in Quito. We embraced its uniqueness as we become acclimated with the people, food, and climate of South America. We wouldn’t say it was our favorite place in South America, or even Ecuador. Yet, if you plan on traveling anywhere in the country you will be crossing paths with Quito. So make sure to enjoy it!
Have any questions on the city, or want to share your own favorite things to do in Quito Ecuador? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Where to Stay in Quito Ecuador
Ultra Luxury (High End) –Plaza Grande Hotel – For comfort and luxury look no further then Plaza Grande Hotel. Located in the heart of the historic center this is the perfect hotel to embrace a high end stay.
Fun Vacation (Mid Range) – La Casona de la Ronda Hotel Boutique Patrimonial – First thing that will blow you away about La Casona de la Ronda is its unique and beautiful decor. Greenery carries though as a theme to the hotel which mixes with modern comforts.
Hostel Life (Budget) – Masaya Hostel Quito – Offering dorms and private rooms Masava Hostel is great for any traveler of any age looking for a cheaper accommodation. Just because you are saving on price doesn’t mean you’ll be skipping on design or quality.
For more places to stay after reading our Quito travel guide you can explore the latest prices here!*We receive a commission for purchases made through links in this post. This allows us to continue our travels and keep providing great content to our readers! Also, as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
Quito is a beautiful city with a rich, historic heritage. There are some rough spots, but overall it is a fantastic city that is worth experiencing. Glad that you had a good time when here.
Yes, we loved Quito! The good definitely outweighs the bad, and the architecture and scenery is incredible!