Welcome to Quito
Tumbling from the slopes of smoldering volcanoes, the typically South American city of Quito entices travelers with a thriving culinary scene and a UNESCO-listed Old Town that begs be explored on a walking tour—day or night. Before flocking to Ecuador’s biodiverse rain forests and national parks, visitors should cover the highlights of Ecuador’s capital on a sightseeing tour. Take in the views from Panecillo Hill during a guided hike or horseback riding tour; ride the Teléferico, South America’s highest gondola; and jump between two hemispheres at the Middle of the World Monument (La Mitad del Mundo), otherwise known as the equator. Day trips from Quito include Otavalo Market, a sprawling indigenous market selling artisan treasures; Cotopaxi National Park, reigned over by the ash-capped Cotopaxi Volcano (where visitors can opt for horse or bike tours); Quilotoa Crater Lake, famed for its vivid emerald hue; and Mindo Nambillo cloud forest reserve, tours of which typically include a visit to a chocolate factory. Nature lovers should add a full-day excursion to the Ecuadorian highlands, where bears roam the forests freely and hot springs surrounding the Papallacta volcano beckon with healing properties. If you’re continuing your Ecuadorian adventure, Quito offers easy access to the Galapagos Islands; Baños (three hours away), renowned for adventure sports such as rafting, rappelling, and ziplining; and Cali and Salento in southern Colombia.