Quito is the most beautiful capital city in South America. I know it’s a big statement, but it’s true. Prior to visiting Quito, we had seen our fair share of beautiful cities such as the marvelous Rio de Janeiro, the vibrant Buenos Aires, and the charming Sucre.
So why is Quito la creme de la creme? Because of all these reasons and more: the old town is a Unesco Heritage site; the city views are spectacular, especially from the teleferico; the architecture is beautiful; the people are welcoming; the food is great etc.
The Old Town
We dedicated our first day in Quito to the discovery of the Old Town. First thing’s first, breakfast. We chose Cafeto, a small place with good food, and fresh coffee. And by fresh, I mean they make their own coffee and toast it on the spot. I adored how the place was filled with the freshly toasted coffee scent in the morning.
After breakfast, we followed the walking tour recommended by Lonely Planet, which took us a few hours to complete. During the tour, we were able to witness the change of guards in Plaza Mayor; an incredible show put on by 100 or more pigeons, which we saw from the balcony of a dentist practice. Only because we asked nicely :); we threw coins in the frog’s mouths in La Ronda. Disclaimer, no frogs were hurt as they were not real :).
How and Where to
How to get there: We had a long journey from Salento, Colombia. Here’s the itinerary: Bus from Salento – Armenia – Cali (one night spent in Cali)- Pasto – Ipiales (overnight stay in Ipiales,)- a collective to Rumichacha, the border with Ecuador – taxi from the border to Tulcan – bus from Tulcan to Quito – taxi from the bus to the hotel. Phew!
What an experience! Although I was dreading the altitude sickness, this was one of the most beautiful and rewarding experiences in South America.
The teleferico ride takes about 10min, and goes from 2800m to over 4000m. This kind of elevation in such a short time means you might experience dizziness, headaches, and shortness of breath. Taking it slowly, and drinking water should help.
Also, the temperatures up there are quite low. I had thermals on, a jacket, and a winter hat, but then I’m easily cold. There are people wearing shorts and vests without a problem. Hey, whatever works :).
The view over Quito
When you reach the top, there is a mirador on the left and a flute player just before it. Why is this important? Because the flute player fills the air with beautiful music, including the romanian “King of the Pan Flute”, Gheorghe Zamfir. Hearing his music being played reminded me of home…
From the teleferico walking straight and then turning left just before the bifurcation with the church, there are a few stairs and a bridge which take you to a few small constructions with a gorgeous backdrop. We were the only ones there although it’s easily accessible. I recommend it.
If you go back to the teleferico, on the left as you come from the church there are stairs leading you to different spots for the view. It’s breathtaking! Don’t miss it and don’t stop, go to the top.
We visited Quito after being in South America for four months and seeing incredible things. From mountains, glaciers, deserts, wonderful valleys, beaches, and now this. The view from the sky was without a doubt one of the most impressive that we had seen.
How and Where to
How to get there: We were staying in La Floresta so we took a bus from there. I can’t remember the number of the bus, a lovely lady stopped it for us and told the driver where to drop us off. It took about 30min and the price was $0.25. From where the bus dropped us off, there is another bus (this time free) which took us to the teleferico in a few minutes.
How much does it cost: We paid $8.50 per person in March 2016. It’s worth every penny.
Other: There are places to eat at the top as well as toilets. There is also a trail to the volcano for the adventures ones.
Hidden Gem – La Floresta
Situated 10-15min north from the center of Quito, La Floresta is an up and coming neighborhood with nice and arty cafes, quirky boutiques, an alternative cinema, and a varied food scene.
We had four days to discover La Floresta and we did, with the help and guidance of Patricia and her staff who welcomed us in their “home” – Los Quipus.
We were completely charmed by this neighborhood and by our hosts. They were a delight to speak to, made us love Ecuador and its people, and more importantly, allowed us to have one of the most genuine experiences in our 5+ months in South America.
When we checked out, we were asked if we would come back to Ecuador. We said yes. And we meant it. We will come back to Ecuador and we won’t skip the hidden gem of Quito, La Floresta.
How and where to
How to get there: There are buses running from the bus terminal to La Floresta, price $0.25. There’s also the taxi option which would cost about $12. We took the taxi because we arrived late but the bus is quite reliable, arrives fast, and with super helpful drivers.
Where to stay: Los Quipus Apartments. We felt at home; the large and cozy rooms, the little pathways leading to different spaces where you could relax and read, the reception which feels like a living room, and the ever so friendly staff.*This is an affiliate link, which means that I get a small commission if a booking is made.
Where to eat: For lunch, we tried Botanica – they do good lunch deals and are in the same building as Fui, a store that sells different products made of recycled materials. For dinner, El-Tras Patio – the small burgers trio was quite good and don’t miss Canelazo. For snacks and the best hot chocolate in town we tried Cafetina which is located in the same building as my next favorite place, read below.
Don’t miss: Ocho y media Cinema. It’s an alternative cinema, only show casting niche movies.
*Post in collaboration with Los Quipus.
*Photography by Bertrand Devaux.