Only have a few hours to kill but want to see something worthwhile? Here are 10 quick Quito day trips, with pros and cons for each. Bonus – there is a map included at the end of the article that points out great parking places for those of you in your own vehicle.

 

Quick Day Trips in Quito

La Virgen del Panecillo, Quito Day Trips, Ecuador

1. The Panecillo

  • PROS – history, art, handmade goods, and terrific views
  • CONS – tourist buses with lots of people, tourist prices at many of the vendors, chance of pickpockets

Whether it’s to see what the local artisans have brought for sale or the terrific views or to see the stained glass virgins inside the museum of the Virgin Mary at the top of this distinctive hill, you’ll only need an hour or so to walk around. If you want a little local color, you can also walk to the far end of the parking lot, follow the grassy field to the end, and there is a good chance an elderly Quiteña will be guarding her flock of sheep. Make sure to take some small pocket change if you would like to take her picture.

Vulgomaestre Stickers, La Ronda, Quito, Ecuador

2. La Ronda

  • PROS – easy parking (search Estacionamiento La Ronda in WAZE), shops with unique and traditional objects, wide choice of restuarants
  • CONS – steep hills, beware of petty theft and pickpockets (especially at night), most of the shops closed before lunch

La Ronda is a small neighborhood in historic Quito. The streets have been blocked to traffic so that only pedestrians can walk up and down the ancient cobblestone roads. The best time to visit is late afternoon to early evening when most of the shops are open. Make sure to visit Vulgo-Maestre for modern takes on traditional Ecuadorian culture. You can buy stickers, jewelry, and t-shirts all made in Ecuador by local artists. It’s also worth the time to walk into many of the little doorways – there are artists working with iron, inlayed wood, and more hidden in many of the little garrets found tucked into the buildings. Along the streed are many restaurants serving traditional Ecuadorian food. One of our favorites for a meal is Los Geranios – a little pricier than many in the neighborhood but with a beautifully decorated interior and a small patio (not for dining) with a view of the Panecillo. But you can also just stop for an ice cream or an empanada de viento.

If you have a little extra time, it is worth walking to the Plaza Santa Domingo. If the church is open, it is well worth taking a few minutes to walk inside. If it is closed, look to see if the museum next door is open. If so, the small entrance fee is worth the cost just to walk the interior of the church. Make sure to ask to see the stunning Capilla de la Virgen del Rosario.

Casa del Alabado, Quito Day Trips, Ecuador

3. Casa del Alabado

  • PROS – photography allowed, English tour available via headphones, impressive collection that is well presented
  • CONS – no close parking lot, interactive exhibits work poorly, not a dynamic presentation to interest children

If you love museums and you love pre-columbian artifacts, Casa del Alabado is a place you should not miss. The museum is located in an old colonial home just down the street from the Plaza San Francisco. If you want to take kids, I would prep them before hand and have them see how many animals they can discover on their visit. If they are old enough to take notes, have them keep a list. Or they can use a small camera to take a photo of their finds.

La Compania de Jesus, Quito, view towards altar

4. La Compañia de Jesus

  • PROS – stunning collection of artwork from the Quito School, professional guided tour included with entrance fee
  • CONS – no photography allowed, no close parking lot, tours are not always available in English

If you love churches and religious artwork, this is a must-visit church. Just about every imaginable surface is either bathed in gold or hung with oil paintings or wooden carvings from the Quito School. The church is an example of Baroque architecture and took more than two hundred years from idea to conception. Construction began in 1636 and was finally completed, after a pause of about 50 years, in 1765.

Today, the church is one of the most visited in all of Quito in part because the remains of Mariana de Jesús, the patron saint of Quito and the first Ecuadorian Catholic saint, are interred beneath the main altar.

Orchids from the Botanical Garden, Parque Carolina, Quito, Ecuador

5. Parque Carolina

  • PROS – photos allowed in most places, easy parking, central to North Quito
  • CONS – pickpockets who target users of cellphones and cameras, crowded on the weekends

If you only have a couple of hours, just walk straight to the Botanical Garden in the center of Parque Carolina. In this small oasis, you can see many examples of Ecuadorian flora, including an impressive collection of cacti, a beautiful rose garden, and one of the best orchid exhibits I have ever seen in my life. A careful observer might also see hummingbirds flitting around the more colorful flowers in the gardens.

If you have more time, there is a small zoo with reptiles and amphibians. The collection is small but it makes for a quick visit with children. Unfortunately no photos can be taken.

And the park itself is worth walking. There are several statues and other works of art throughout the park. Just be careful of cameras and cellphones while walking the open trails.

Quito with view of the Panecillo, from La Basilica del Voto Nacional

6. The Basilica del Voto Nacional

  • PROS – multiple options for family members, fairly easy parking, stunning views on clear days
  • CONS – visiting the spire requires climbing tight stairs that are ladder-like, separate entrance fees for the interior and the towers

This is a great outing for active kids! It is possible to climb up into one of the front towers and into the spire at the back of the Basilica. The entrance for this adventure is found at the front entrance of the church and will require a small entrance fee. Inside there is also a small cafe and a gift shop… for those who are less inclined to climb all the way to the top! Two flights of stairs will take everyone to the choir stall where there is a magnificent view of the interior of the church itself. We love the late morning for this visit because the sun shines through the stained glass windows. Once outside at the upper levels, ask kids to see how many different animals they see in the gargoyles.

The interior of the church is also beautiful. It is possible to climb the stairs into the seating areas on the second level and just sit and admire the Rose Windows. The majority of the chapels are pretty bare – the Basilica is still a fairly new church. However, the chapel behind the main altar is well worth a visit. No photos allowed in that room but permitted elsewhere.

There is also a small cafe outside the church but on church grounds where less adventurous family members can wait while having a fresh juice or coffee and a snack.

San Jorge de Quito, Quito Day Trip

7. San Jorge Eco-Lodge

  • PROS – close to town, amazing birds, excellent gardens for portrait photography
  • CONS – reservations needed for lunch, not ideal for young children

Although the San Jorge Eco-Lodge on the outskirts of Quito markets to overnight guests, the historic estancia make a great place to visit for day-trippers. First, the grounds of this lodge are impressive with an original bull fighting ring and well-manicured gardens. Second, they have hummingbird feeders which attract some of the most interesting species like the Sword-billed Hummingbird with its 10 centimeter long beak and the brightly colored Sparkling Violetear. Third, they have a set of hiking trails that are accessible from the lodge itself. If you want to eat lunch, you will need to call ahead to make a reservation. And please be aware that many of the overnight guests are there to view wildlife and may not appreciate having active young children scaring the birds.

If you’re up for a tad more adventure, keep going down the road towards Nono and turn onto the dirt road heading to the Yanacocha Reserve. The drive itself is stunning with views of the surrounding farmland and the distant mountains. Once at the Reserve, you can hike out to the Hummingbird Garden. On a clear day, it is possible to see Guagua Pichincha. On all days, the trail meanders through the cloud forest and an observant hiker will see birds, orchids, insects, and maybe, just maybe, a Spectacled Bear. If you see the later, we would be extremely jealous but would ask to see pictures anyway!

Quick Day Trips Just Outside of Quito

These trips can be done in 4-5 hours. If you plan on adding any hiking or adding a lunch, you might want to invest 6 or more hours.

Pichincha from the Teleferico, Quito, Ecuador

8. The Teleferico

  • PROS – great views on clear days, easy parking, iconic destination
  • CONS – need to dress in layers (warm hats, scarves, and gloves), altitude can provoke headaches and nausea in some people

Although many people take the Teleferico up the slopes of Pichincha with the goal to hike once there, it isn’t necessary. The trip alone is an adventure and it is possible to see a lot without walking very far. On a clear day, the volcanos Cayambe, Antisana, and Cotopaxi can be seen in the distance. And if you want to see a little of the high paramo, including an incredible variety of flowers, then take the steps next to the building with all the shops and it will lead you to the best trail up. You can walk as far or as little as you like but we recommend making it to the first rise to get views of North Quito.

Mitad del Mundo, San Antonio, Quito, Ecuador

9. Mitad del Mundo

  • PROS– unique destination, iconic photos, neat views
  • CONS– can be very crowded, tourist prices, outside of town

Mitad del Mundo is an iconic destination and it is only about a 45 minute drive outside of Quito, depending on the traffic of course. Plan on an hour or so for walking the grounds and going up inside the monument. Many folks also like to visit the near by museum. It’s just a little further up the road past Mitad del Mundo (direction towards Mindo), on the left hand side.

This trip can be combined for a long day with Parque Jerusalem below by using the new road. Look for the Via Pisque-Puellaro using WAZE.

A little further up the road is another park, Cochasqui. It has ancient pre-Incan ruins, burrowing owls, and lots of llamas. It is possible to combine both visits for a very long day.

Flowers at Parque Jerusalem

10. PARQUE JERUSALEM

  • PROS – great place for the amateur naturalists, good place for active kids, excellent place for wildlife photography
  • CONS – the small restaurant is not always open, weekends can be crowded in the main park (rarely on the trails), need to bring lots of water

Parque Jerusalem is about an hours drive outside of Quito. It is a small regional park that protects a unique microclimate of the Andes, the dry tropical forest. This place is a wonder, covered with plants that can survive a desert-like climate and rife with birds. Your small entrance fee pays for a tractor ride up the hill to a trail that provides views of Quito in the distance. Your guide, sometimes an English-speaker, will point out flora and fauna along the way. Or you can hike up the trail on your own.

A little further up the road is another park, Cochasqui. It has ancient pre-Incan ruins, burrowing owls, and lots of llamas. It is possible to combine both visits for a very long day.

Information For Your Trip

Each of these markers corresponds with a day trip mentioned above. Click on the marker to read about parking at each destination.

  • Direction by Car, use WAZE! It really is great for getting around Ecuador. If you’re worried about losing signal, you can also download Maps.Me.
  • Direction by Public Transportation for buses around Quito, use the Google Map link and click on get directions. Use the public transportation option to find the best from your current location.

Mitad del Mundo, Quito

There is ample paid parking at the monument. Use WAZE and look for Mitad del Mundo.

The Panecillo

There is ample parking on the top of the Panecillo. Just use WAZE and search for El Panecillo or Virgen del Panecillo in Quito, Ecuador.

La Ronda in the Historic District

Parking at La Ronda can be found by using WAZE and looking the Parquedero La Ronda, located on Avenida 24 de Mayo.

Casa del Alabado

Although there are closer parking lots, we find the easiest one to approach with the least amount of traffic is Parqueadero La Ronda on 24 de Mayo.

La Compañia de Jesús

Although there are closer parking lots, we find the easiest one to approach with the least amount of traffic is Parqueadero La Ronda on 24 de Mayo.

Parque Carolina

There are several paid lots managed by the city of Quito within Parque Carolina itself. Just drive the perimeter to find one. Or you can park along Avenida de los Shyris where there are parking places in the middle of the street. If you park here during daytime hours, you will need to pay a parking attendant before leaving your vehicle. Make sure you place the ticket in an easily viewed location. If you park in the evening, you can park without paying but we generally recommend tipping the gentleman who will watch your car. We tip upon returning to the vehicle and pay 50 cents to $1 per hour.

The Basilica del Voto Nacional

There is a public parking lot on Venezuela (one-way street) just past the park in front of the Basilica del Voto Nacional. The parking places are narrow and turns are tight. This lot requires a driver with the ability to reverse into a parking space.

Teleferico

There is ample paid parking at the Teleferico. You should pay upon entering; keep your receipt to show the guard on your departure. If there is not guard on arrival, which sometimes happens if you come in the morning just before opening, then be prepared to pay upon departure.

Parque Jerusalem

Parking is included in your entrance fee to Parque Jerusalem. When driving to this location, do not rely on the Google Map marker for the restaurant of the same name. When driving on the road from Guayllabamba towards Otavalo-Ibarra, you will see a well-marked turn-off to the left towards the town of Puellaro. The park is a short distance down this road.

San Jorge Eco-Lodge in Quito

There is parking available at the San Jorge Eco-Lodge. Please call ahead so that the staff know to expect you.

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