Paul Schicke
Written by Paul Schicke Senior Expedition Designer

Updated: January 23, 2024
Published: March 17, 2023

  • Twitter
Butterfly in Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador is a popular spot to begin any adventure in this diverse country. It truly offers it all, with everything from the Galapagos Islands full of unique and abundant wildlife to the Amazon rainforest, towering volcanoes, and beautiful beaches.

If you're planning to fly into Ecuador’s high-altitude capital, you'll not only find plenty to do right in the city; it’s the perfect base for exciting day trips, including Otavalo Market and the Hacienda Highlands. Plan to spend at least a few days here, if possible. Quasar can arrange your stay at one of the Spanish colonial hotels right in the heart of the historic center, placing you mere steps away from it all.

Things to See in Quito

Framed by soaring volcanic peaks while perched at over 9,000 feet above sea level, Quito is the world's second-highest capital, and it surrounds visitors with breathtaking views. UNESCO-listed Old Town Quito has been called the best-preserved colonial city in all of Latin America by Condé Nast.

The enticing cobbled streets are lined with grand colonial architecture, including the iconic Baroque-style Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús. Known as the "Church of Gold," it was built over a 160-year period during the early 17th through the mid-18th century. Made of stone from the Pichincha volcano, it has a unique rose-gray color and an elaborately carved gilded interior.

La Basilica in Quito, Ecuador

Visit the Plaza de la Independencia

You'll want to spend time in the city's prettiest, largest, and oldest square, Plaza de la Independencia. A popular gathering place, locals often hang around the central fountain discussing politics while indigenous women in their woven shawls hawk various goods just steps from the president's palace.

After getting your bearings, stroll Calle la Ronda, one of the artsiest and oldest streets in the city. Simply roaming, browsing the shops, and sampling the local cuisine along the way can make for an enjoyable afternoon. If you have any interest in history, don't miss the Museo Casa del Alabado with its incredible pre-Columbian art and artifacts.

Independence Square in Quito, Ecuador

Ride the Aerial Tram

Get a "condor's eye view" over Quito and its surrounding volcanoes by riding the aerial tram. One of the highest aerial lifts on the planet, the 10-minute ride ascends the flanks of Volcan Pichincha to the top of Cruz Loma. Many visitors want to "walk the line," as in the equator line, located 15 miles north of the city. There's a yellow line representing the equator that leads to the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World City) monument, with a small museum focused on Ecuador's indigenous cultures inside.

Aerial tram overlooking Pichincha Volcano

Top Day Trips from Quito

Quito is an ideal base for many day trips. Depending on the amount of time you have, you might even spend a night or two at one of the many intriguing destinations in the region.

Banos Town in Quito, Ecuador


The town of Otavalo in the Andean highlands is surrounded by volcanoes and home to one of the best local markets on the continent. At the Otavalo Market in the central Plaza de Ponchos, you'll see traditionally clad indigenous locals selling textiles and handicrafts. There are multiple craft villages in the region where one can take authentic workshops. Or embark on a scenic hike, with miles of trails available, including the trek around volcanic Lake Cuicocha, a 7.7-mile loop trail.

Hat Makers in Otavalo Market

Hacienda Highlands

If you want to explore more in-depth, Quasar can arrange a stay at one of the historic Spanish colonial haciendas nearby, such as Zuleta or Pinsaqui.

Hacienda Zuleta

Zuleta offers a variety of activities, including horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, visiting a condor recovery program, and even checking out the local pyramids. It sits on a property with its own cheese factory and organic garden and was once the home of beloved Ecuadorian President, Galo Plaza.

Hacienda Zuleta in Ecuador

Hacienda Pinsaqui

Hacienda Pinsaqui once hosted well-known figures like Simone Bolivar, South America's liberator, and Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. It also offers horseback riding and other activities just a short walk from the Otavalo handicraft market.

Hacienda Pinsaqui in

Papallacta Hot Springs

It's possible to visit soothing hot pools and indulge in decadent spa treatments, too. Nestled at an elevation of 10,800 feet in the Andes, the town of Papallacta is renowned for its geothermal springs. Papallacta Hot Springs & Spa includes a variety of pools, with some private options. Enjoy everything from hydro massages to head-to-toe chocolate wraps.

Papallacta Hot Springs

Cotopaxi Volcano

As one of the hottest spots on Earth, the Andes are home to many massive volcanoes. But no other area in the region has more than Ecuador. The 200-mile ridge that stretches south of Quito, known as the Avenue of the Volcanoes, is home to the highest and most active. At 19,347 feet in height, Cotopaxi is the second highest in the country. It's also the angriest, erupting some 50 times since the mid-1700s. Located in Cotopaxi National park, just 40 minutes from the capital, it makes for an easy and fascinating day trip.

No matter where you plan to explore when visiting Quito, Ecuador, from Old Town to Otavalo and the Hacienda Highlands, Quasar is here to help ensure a smooth, stress-free, memorable experience.

Cotopaxi Volcano in Ecuador

Paul Schicke
By Paul Schicke
Senior Expedition Designer

Hello! My name is Paul. I am a photographer, traveler, teacher and writer. I have extensive experience in travel to Galapagos, Peru, Patagonia and the western seaboard of South America specializing in ways travelers can experience these once-in-a-life destinations like locals on the road. Lover of wine, chocolate, travel, coffee, and helping others plan vacations of a lifetime!

Schedule a Call with Me