Quito, formerly known as San Francisco de Quito, was founded on the ruins of an Incan city. In 1978, this huge city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Quito has some of the best-preserved historic centers. This city has a rich pre-Colombian history and has a lot to offer to tourists. Thanks to its close proximity to the equator and its elevation of 9,350 ft above sea level, Quito has a fairly constant climate.
Here are the best day trips from Quito:
1. La Mitad del Mundo
This enormous trapezoidal monument commemorates the exact location where Charles Marie de la Condamine, an explorer of French origin, calculated the earth’s equatorial line in the 18th Century. The name translates to “the middle of the world.”
La Mitad del Mundo is Quito’s tourist Mecca. Visitors come here to take pictures at the equator, where the northern and the southern hemispheres meet. This popular destination is always crowded, so be prepared, especially between June and September.
There’s an elevator that goes up to the top of the monument. This allows you to have great views of the surroundings. The great thing about the 30-meter-tall monument is that it’s accessible to everyone.
The monument is 26 km north of Quito so you can easily get here by road.
Recommended tour: Quito: Full-Day Ciudad Mitad del Mundo Tour
2. Parque Bicentenario
This modern park is the second largest in Quito, covering an area of 200 acres. Having only been inaugurated on 27th April 2013, Parque Bicentenario is located in the area previously occupied by the Old Mariscal Sucre Airport. The park is at 2,800 meters above sea level.
The former runway is what makes the park’s design so beautiful. It has now been painted and converted into a recreation site which comprises play structures for kids and lanes for cycling.
Within the park, there are more than a thousand trees as well as a man-made pond.
3. Quilotoa Lagoon
Breathtaking sights await you at the Quilotoa Lagoon.
This lagoon was formed as a result of the collapse of a now-extinct volcano whose 3-kilometre wide (and 250m deep) crater was filled with water. The volcanic mountain collapsed about 600 years ago after a catastrophic eruption which was followed by a period of dormancy. The lagoon waters are green in color, thanks to the dissolved volcanic minerals. The surface of the lake is located 3,500m above sea level
Situated about a 3-hour drive from the southwestern end of Quito, Quilotoa is a common day-trip destination that is growing in popularity.
Expect nothing short of spectacular views and unending photo opportunities. Also, do not forget to bring a bottle of water and wear comfortable shoes if you plan on taking a walk around the crater.
Suggested tour: Quilotoa Lagoon Tour
4. Cotopaxi National Park
The massive Cotopaxi National Park it the most-visited national park thanks to its spectacular setting; it has rocky mountain trails, sweeping plains, and glassy lagoons. The national park covers an area of 33,393 hectares.
Are you ready for an outdoor adventure? If yes, you definitely need to make the trip to this park which is located about an hour or so from Quito. The park is roughly 53 km south of the Ecuadorian capital. This stunning park has a fascinating history in addition to its beautiful natural setting, which offers tourists a remarkable experience.
Here you will find the highest volcano in all of South America. Experienced hikers take great pleasure in going up the Cotopaxi Volcano, whose last significant eruption was in 1904.
Recommended tour: From Quito: Cotopaxi National Park Full-Day Tour
5. Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus
The church’s Spanish name directly translates to “The Church of the Society of Jesus.” It’s usually referred to as la Compania by the locals. According to most observers, this church is the most beautiful in South America. This Church and most of the nearby buildings were constructed around 1741. In 1781, Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus was damaged in a fire and later by an earthquake, in 1882.
La Compania is well-known for its large central nave which well decorated using wood carvings, gilded plaster, and gold leaf.
This church makes for an ideal day trip for those looking to get in touch with their spiritual side.
6. Pasochoa Forest Reserve
This forest reserve features a vast range of trees, ferns, orchids, and a wide variety of bird species.
The main reason for the reserve’s preservation is the uneven surface, which can make accessibility a challenge. The forest was declared a protected area in the year 1982 and later declared a Wild Life Refuge in 1996.
Today, the Pasochoa Forest Reserve is one of the few remaining original Andean Forests. The Pasochoa is run by Fundacion Natura which is in charge of all the conservation projects and research projects.
7. Pululahua Volcano Crater
Pululahua’s last eruption happened about 2,500 years ago and resulted in a crater that is full of fertile soil. This makes the crater one of the only two that is cultivated by its 120 inhabitants. In the middle of the 34 square kilometer crater lays a lava dome which is 500m high. The dome is covered in lush cloud forest vegetation and offers excellent views from the summit.
Pululahua in Quichua means “smoke of cloud of water.” The name came about due to the fog that covers the crater every day at around noon. Technically, it never rains in Pululahua so the fog provides the water for the crops grown here.
The best time to visit is in the morning hours before the fog rolls in. This way you’ll be able to enjoy the fantastic views and take pictures.
On the 28th of January 1966, Pululahua was declared a Geobotanical Reserve. It is home to more than 2,000 species of birds, mammals, flora, and exotic insects. This peaceful paradise, located 17 km to the north of Quito, is a favorite destination for both tourists and botanists.
Available tour: Mitad del Mundo and Hiking in Pululahua Volcano
8. Capilla del Hombre
Any culture vulture who is visiting Quito needs to make their visit complete by making a day trip to La Capilla del Hombre. This building was designed by Guayasamin and its construction began in 1995, ending in 2002 after his death.
This chapel is a purposebuilt museum that contains more than 4,500 artifacts that depict the history of the people of Latin America.
Come and see the attractive scriptures and murals that are integrated into the surroundings.
9. Santo Domingo
The driving distance from Santo Domingo to Quito is 132 kilometers. The town is also referred to as Santo Domingo de Los Colorados. This fairly large town is one of the newer towns in Equador.
Santo Domingo offers a wide range of facilities to visitors. There are a number of nightclubs and malls that cater to the needs of every shopaholic. The latest addition to the malls is La Avenica Quito mall. There are also a couple of restaurants that offer a wide variety of cuisines and local dishes.
Overall, the atmosphere here is exciting and energetic. Santo Domingo is totally worth a day trip from Quito, as there really is a little something for everyone.
10. El Panecillo
El Panecillo is a hill that resembles a small loaf of bread, hence the name Panecillo. This hill is about 3,016m above sea level and is commonly used as an observation area as tourists get a 360-degree view of Quito.
On top of this hill, there is a majestic sculpture of La Virgen del Panecillo (or La Virgen de Legarda). The 41-metertall aluminum statue of Virgin Mary was inspired by the Virgen de Quito. The statue is the largest of its kind in the world; it was built using 7,000 pieces of aluminum.
The best time to visit the Bread Loaf Hill is in the morning when the sky is cloud-free so as to get clear views. From here, you can see as far as the Cotopaxi Volcano.
11. La Mariscal
The Mariscal neighborhood is also referred to as Gringolandia.
This area is the epicenter of Quito’s tourist scene. Even though there are not as many attractions here, Mariscal has a reputation for having numerous useful amenities such as banks, laundromats, accommodation, bars, international restaurants, clubs, travel agencies, dance schools, and shops which are a major tourist magnet. All these are concentrated within a few blocks so you can easily hop from place to place.
La Mariscal is considered an entertainment center for both locals and tourists alike. The neighborhood runs from Orella Avenue in the north to La Paria in the south.
12. Mindo Protected Reserve
This protected reserve is located only 90 km from the city. It takes tourists about 2 hours to get there by road.
When you get to the Mindo Protected Reserve, expect to see more than 25 species of birds, butterflies, frogs, and dozens of orchids. Bird lovers can get to feed the birds as they enjoy the beautiful butterfly gardens. The reserve is an excellent spot for bird watching.
The main feature of this reserve is the Mindo Cloud Forest that covers an area of 19,200 hectares. This cloud forest was home to the Yumbo-Nigua who were great merchants operating between the coast and the highlands.
Recommended tour: Mindo Cloud Forest Full Day Tour
13. Otavalo Market
The Otavalo Marketplace is one of the largest in Latin America. A visit to this market will allow you to browse the colorful stalls for artisan souvenirs. The locals in this village have perfected their weaving skills and they make products for sale at this market.
Otavalo is located 92km north of the Ecuadorian capital. The market and the surrounding area offer an opportunity for tourists to soak up culture and traditions and for this reason it’s a popular day trip destination from Quito.
Although the market is open daily, Saturdays are by far the biggest market days. Coming here on a Saturday will allow you the opportunity to choose from a wider selection of goods including silver jewellery, wooden carvings, Panama hats, woven bracelets, and hand-woven textiles.
Recommended tour: Otavalo and Imbabura Sightseeing Tour from Quito
14. Peguche Waterfall
This beautiful waterfall is located exactly 3 km from Otavalo. The Peguche Waterfall is 18m tall and is fed by the waters of River Peguche which originates from Lake San Pablo.
Thanks to its proximity and easy access, this waterfall is an important tourist destination that is often crowded.
Anyone who wants to clear their mind in a natural setting should add this magical waterfall to their list of places to visit. A 20minute walk in the dense greenery has a very calming effect.
15. Cayambe Volcano
This volcano is Ecuador’s third-highest peak. It’s the world’s only mountain whose peak is crossed by the equator.
Cayambe is located 70 km northeast of Quito. Its last eruption took place in 1786; now it has a permanent snow cap.
If you’re a hiking beginner, it would be best if you stayed off the mountain’s technical terrain and just enjoy the scenic views from the foothills.