Quito, Ecuador: What Everyone Ought to Know
The situation is inevitable. You’re out with your buddy, have had a few cold ones, and are looking for an unsuspecting hotty in the mood for bad decisions. As luck would have it, there is… unfortunately, Ms.Perfect 10 is accompanied by a friend that is less than standard. Entertaining unattractive women is not what you do best… but being the pal that you are, you suck it up and agree to take one for the team. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you:
QUITO, THE GIRL YOU THOUGHT YOU DIDN’T WANT TO MEET.
Every traveler who visits Ecuador at some point must spend some time in this small metropolis. For most, it is a one or two night stop en route to hotter destinations: Galapagos, Guayaquil, Cuyabeno Reserve, or Cotopaxi. The time I spent in Quito began as an obligatory stopover and evolved into 4 months of fun.
Let’s be real. My first impression was far from dazzling. Cold, rainy, and grey (February). The weather didn’t help set apart the historic districts of the city from the countless other colonial structures that litter the South America backpacker’s trail. In short, I wanted to leave.
Clearly, Quito is not a city like NYC, Rio de Janeiro, or Berlin. However, I am really glad that I gave the city a chance, because I ended up meeting some great people and discovered some great not so known (and known) hot spots.
For those of you who only have 48 hours to spend in Ecuador’s capital, here are the best things to do and see.
Adventure / Sports
Teleferico & Vulcan Pichincha – One of the most popular activities for tourists in Quito. Not without good reason. The volcano is a perfect vantage point for stunning photos of Quito and the surrounding volcanoes.
- Hikers: Plan for a total of 6 hours if you want to reach the summit. Don sturdy shoes, bring a jacket, wear sun block, and bring lots of water.
- Equestrians: Horses & Guide are available for $10/hour at the trail head. Tackling the volcano in the saddle cuts total trip time in half.
Puenting – Tie a 40 meter rope to your waist and jump off a bridge ($20). Better yet, find a beautiful Quiteña willing to do it with you. You can watch the video of our jump HERE. A word of advice, make sure she has the proper parental consent (latin culture dictates that the need for this extends well into the 20s) … if they find out on Facebook they may not be too happy… and bodies are easily disposed of in South America.
La Capilla del Hombre – http://www.capilladelhombre.com/
Oswaldo Guayasamín is probably Ecuador’s most famous artist. The sufferings of the indigenous and political injustices are the primary focus of his works. Check out this “chapel of man”. Entrance is only a couple dollars, well worth the time, and will provoke thought.
Casa del Alabado – http://alabado.org/
Located in the old town, Casa del Alabado is a brand new pre-Columbian art museum that features a really beautiful collection. Added benefits are that the exhibits are not cluttered and the GPS tour telling the incredible story of birth, death, and regeneration is sure to capture your attention.
Ocho y Medio – http://www.ochoymedio.net/
Unfavorable weather, long bus rides, and the occasional hangover from the party the night before have only one real cure: a good film. Visit this small theatre that features independent foreign films. It is just what the doctor ordered!
Food & Drink
Cyril Chocolate Museum – http://www.cyril-boutique.com/
I LOVE this place. Cyril brings decadence to the next level with the 7 Deadly Sins product line. The chocolate is truly art (photos within the shop are prohibited). Everything from small truffles to chocolate castles are available for purchase (prices are amazingly reasonable). Sit for a few hours on the patio, drink a coffee (it really is good), and indulge in chocolate decadence. You will not regret it!
Tea at Guápulo Mirador
If you didn’t catch the sunset at Pichincha, wind down and enjoy a spot of delicious tea and maybe an empanada. It is relaxing and a great way to conclude a visit to La Capilla del Hombre.
Sakti Vegetarian Restaurant – http://sakti-quito.com/
Good luck trying to explain vegetarianism to an Ecuadorian… you would have better luck explaining nuclear physics. Just about every traveler (myself included) gets sick of eating the “plato del dia” of rice, beans, a small salad, and some kind of unidentifiable fried meat. Fortunately, some Europeans have started an affordable ($3) and impeccably clean restaurant dedicated to saving foreigners from the dreaded plato del dia.
Cocina Alma – http://www.alma.com.ec/en/
This upscale restaurant is the place to go with your special someone. Why am I recommending food from an Argentinian Chef in an Ecuador post? Because the food is good, even if your date isn’t so hot (I’m a firm believer that anyone who humors me with a date should at least eat well)!
La Ronda– Enjoy a Canalazo (think hard cider) and some live traditional music while you mix with the locals on this lively street in the historic district. Not the typical club scene that is found in Plaza Foch (nothing unique there) and a lot safer zone.
Casa Bambu – http://hotelbambuecuador.com/
One word: Immaculate. This hostel is run like a hotel but maintains the friendly atmosphere and prices of a hostel. Location is very convenient, within walking distance of new/old town… more to come on this gem later!
There you have it. Quito has a surprising amount of free cultural activities in which you can participate. Even better, the city is really close to the extreme sports destination of Baños and the tranquility of Mindo. Stay tuned for updates on these locations. In the meantime: