Quito 6 Day Itinerary

Quito was our final stop on a three month South American adventure. We spent a total of 6 days in the city, although in reality, they weren’t consecutive as we took a trip to the Amazon after day 2. If you don’t have 6 days, skip the Tren de los Volcanes; it was fun, but probably didn’t live up to the hype (price). We really enjoyed the guided tour of the Palacio de Gobierno, but it is very popular. I recommend booking online as much in advance as possible.

Itinerary

Day 1Flight to Quito
Casa Montero
La Ronda
Dinner at Casa los Geranios
Day 2Basilica del Voto Nacional
Iglesia de San Francisco
Iglesia de Santo Domingo
Day 3Plaza Grande
Palacio de Gobierno
Museo de la Ciudad
National Assembly
Museo Nacional
Dinner at Bandido Brewing
Kinde House
Day 4Tren de los Volcanes
Day 5Museo de Sitio Intiñan
Mitad del Mundo
Day 6Hop on Hop off Bus:
El Panecillo
La Carolina Park
Botanical Garden

Attractions

1La Ronda
2Basilica del Voto Nacional
3Iglesia de San Francisco
4Iglesia de Santo Domingo
5Plaza Grande
6Palacio de Gobierno
7Museo de la Ciudad
8National Assembly
9Museo Nacional
10Tren de los Volcanes
11Museo de Sitio Intiñan
12Mitad del Mundo
13El Panecillo
14La Carolina Park
15Botanical Garden

Quito Day 1

Flight to Quito

In the morning, we head for the airport for our flight to Quito; the world’s second highest capital. We’re going 800 miles further north and 2850 metres higher in altitude. It’s our 9th LATAM flight and for the 9th time, it lands bang on time. Someone from LATAM needs to come to the UK and give the likes of British Airways and EasyJet a few lessons.

Flight to Quito
Flight to Quito

Casa Montero

We get a taxi to our hotel in the old town. The Casa Montero is OK; a colonial style building with lots of charm, if a little tired. But the surrounding area is a bit rough. It’s on the edge of Plaza de Santa Domingo. The area in general and the hotel steps in particular appear to be a meeting place for winos.

Iglesia de Santa Domingo
Plaza de Santo Domingo

It is, however very centrally located and therefore convenient for sightseeing. Plus the restaurant has a great view across the city to El Panecillo.

Restaurant at Casa Montero
Restaurant at Casa Montero

La Ronda

In the evening, we take a walk along la Ronda, a cobbled street with colourful 17th century houses, and find somewhere for dinner.

La Ronda
La Ronda

Dinner at Casa los Geranios

We opt for Casa los Geranios, a quaint little restaurant which is, as the name suggests, adorned with geraniums.

Casa los Geranios
Casa los Geranios

The food is very good, if a bit pretentious. I have chicken in orange and teriyaki sauce with a chocolate glaze (with chips of course). The old man has steak followed by a flambeed ice cream dessert which looks like it will burn for ever. Then we return to our hotel and lock ourselves in for the night.

Flambeed ice cream at Casa los Geranios
Flambeed ice cream at Casa los Geranios

Quito Day 2

Today, we’re going sightseeing on foot in Quito – primarily churches as most other tourist attractions are shut on Mondays. By now, we’ve been to umpteen Colonial South American town centre, whose layouts are so formulaic I could walk them in my sleep; main plaza with cathedral and government palace. On either side, the churches of San Francisco and Santo Domingo. And somewhere in the middle, the Jesuits, who took a vow of poverty but coated their churches liberally with gold.

Demonstration
Demonstration

After breakfast, we set off for the main square but there is a demonstration underway. The square is completely blocked off and circled by riot police. More and more people are arriving and most are wearing surgical masks. And I don’t think they’re doctors….

Ecuadorian police
Ecuadorian police

Basilica del Voto Nacional

We bypass the square and head for the enormous Basilica del Voto Nacional. The old man decides to climb the tower, which is apparently quite rickety. I opt to sit in the café with a Coke.

Basilica del Voto
Basilica del Voto Nacional

I visit the interior of the Basilica instead. Some of the stained glass is being renovated, so the statues in the nave have been wrapped in a dark fabric. It looks like the church has been overrun by Dementors.

Basilica del Voto Nacional
Basilica del Voto Nacional

Iglesia de San Francisco

Next, we go to the Iglesia de San Francisco. It has a beautiful courtyard, an excellent museum and plenty of of religious art. I try to buy some post cards, but they have run out, so offer me posters for the same price of $0.25 each. It sounds like a bargain, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do with these posters – answers on a postcard (obviously not a postcard of San Francisco church).

Iglesia de San Francisco
Iglesia de San Francisco

We pass the rear of the Cathedral, but it is still closed due to the demonstration. Next we consider the Jesuit Church, until we realise entry is $5 each.

Iglesia de San Francisco
Iglesia de San Francisco

Iglesia de Santo Domingo

We round off our morning in the Iglesia de Santo Domingo; highlight – a colour changing virgin. It’s safe to say that we are all churched out, so we return to our hotel.

Iglesia de Santo Domingo
Iglesia de Santo Domingo

In the evening we go from one culinary extreme to the other. After yesterday’s fancy meal, we go to a tiny three table shack where a lovely lady whips up a Mexican feast for £20, including four beers.

Iglesia de Santo Domingo
Iglesia de Santo Domingo

Quito Day 3

Plaza Grande

Another day of sightseeing on foot in Quito. We head for the Plaza Grande, which is no longer barricaded off.

Plaza Grande
Plaza Grande

Palacio de Gobierno

We are going on a tour the Palacio de Gobierno. The tour is free, but needs to be reserved by email (in Spanish) so I’m quite proud of my achievement. We head for the security post. Our names are on the list – a triumph!

Palacio de Gobierno
Palacio de Gobierno

We get a guided tour of the museum, which focuses on the political history of Ecuador and finishes with a collection of presidential gifts.

Palacio de Gobierno
Palacio de Gobierno

Then past some rather cool murals by Guayasamin depicting the first European navigation of the Amazon. The tour finishes with visits to the enormous Banquet Room with its own chapel and the Yellow Room which houses portraits of past presidents.

Guayasamin mural
Guayasamin mural

Museo de la Ciudad

Next, we visit the Museo de la Ciudad. This is housed in a 17th century hospital and gives (theoretically) a chronological history of Quito. The old man gets impatient and bypasses a group of school kids, so we are going backwards through history, witnessing the fight for independence prior to colonisation, which is all rather confusing.

Museo de la Ciudad
Museo de la Ciudad
Museo de la Ciudad
Museo de la Ciudad

In the final gallery is a temporary exhibit. There’s no indication of what this exhibit might be until we arrive. It turns out to be the history of Quito’s markets, so rather an anti climax.

Market Exhibit
Market Exhibit

National Assembly

In the afternoon, we walk through Parque la Alameda, past the National Assembly which is lined with a colourful collection of hummingbird sculptures.

Museo Nacional (MuNa)

On to the Casa de la Cultura. This huge, round glass building houses the Museo Nacional (MuNa) which takes you through the history of Ecuadorean art. There’s some great stuff here. My favourite is a collection of sculptures called La Carga, which depict Ecuadorean women going about their daily business.

There’s also a fun ‘play area’ where you can interact with the art and even climb inside a painting.

Interactive Art
Interactive Art

The MuNa also has temporary exhibit; the work of artist Hernán Illescas, which is for sale. The old man determines to win the lottery, come back and buy ‘La Migración sueño en la Memoria’, a snip at $20,000.

Dinner at Bandido Brewing

The three of us walk the two miles back to our hotel (we appear to have adopted a dog), stopping for dinner at a trendy microbrewery called Bandido Brewing. We are the oldest in there by a good 30 years. We are served by a girl with green hair and multiple piercings. The food is good, but we feel terribly out of place.

My new BFF

Kinde House

Our new hotel, Kinde House, is reached by a steep hill. The reward for this exertion – a great view.

View from our Room at Kinde House
View from our Room at Kinde House

Quito Day 4

Tren de los Volcanes

Today, we are going on the Tren de los Volcanes. This tourist train follows a 50 mile route to El Boliche which, it claims, gives you the opportunity to see 15 volcanoes (in good weather).

Chimbacalle Station
Chimbacalle Station

There aren’t any passenger trains in Ecuador; the taxi driver doesn’t even know where the station is, and tries to drop us at the offices of Tren Ecuador. Luckily, a passing motor cyclist explains his error, we get back in the taxi and follow the motorcyclist to Chimbacalle Station.

Tren de los Volcanes
Tren de los Volcanes

We board our train and set off, flanked by a team of motor cycle outriders to keep the tracks clear. We have only been able to book two aisle seats; Ecuadorean families have booked all the window seats (a group of seven have booked six window seats). However, once the train is underway, the families move to sit together and a pair of seats frees up.

Volcano spotting through the train window

After 45 minutes, we reach the outskirts of Quito and pass our first volcano, the active volcano of Atacazo. Next, through a large eucalyptus forest, then into a valley past Pasochoa, a horseshoe shaped volcano which has erupted sideways.

Tambillo Station

We stop for 30 minutes in the village of Tambillo for no discernible reason other than to bring tourism to the area. I show willing by buying a train shaped fridge magnet.

Tambillo Station

After three hours, we reach our destination, El Boliche, where we have two hours of ‘activities’. We are taken on a guided tour by an eco warrior who loves the sound of his own voice. It takes over an hour to follow a 320 metre trail. I zone out of what he’s saying, but basically he loves nettles and hates cow poo. He stings himself a few times to prove the point. Once we reach the end of the trail; a sacred tree, it’s a case of ‘exit through the gift shop’. For an hour.

Sacred Tree
Sacred Tree

We are disappointed to discover that on the ‘Volcano Train’ (which advertises itself with pictures of Cotopaxi and takes you to the foot of Cotopaxi) you don’t actually see Cotopaxi. However, unlike PeruRail, they haven’t cloned our credit card (yet)!

Tren de los Volcanes
Tren de los Volcanes

On the return journey, it rains and cloud descends so visibility is minimal. Now our ‘volcano experience’ is reduced to sitting on a retired Spanish commuter train crawling towards Quito with nothing to do except write my blog and watch the outriders struggle on the wet cobbles.

Machachi Station

We stop for two hours at Machachi station in the middle of nowhere. There’s the station, a café and a fancy ranch. It’s pouring with rain, soaking the poor dancers who are there to greet us. We have some lunch at the station, which leaves over an hour to kill aimlessly wandering round by the train, which finally departs 20 minutes behind schedule.

Dancers at Machachi Station

We return to Quito station and get a taxi. I show the driver the address of the hotel and he nods and drives into town. It becomes apparent he has no idea where he’s going when he starts asking ‘aquí?’ every few hundred metres. The old man loses patience and we get out of the taxi and walk the final mile, find somewhere to eat that’s open on a Sunday (harder than it sounds), return to our hotel, swap rooms (it’s a long story) and go to bed with no alarm set for the first time in ages.

Llamas on the train track
Intruders on the Track

Quito Day 5

Today, we are going to the equator and Mitad del Mundo; a kind of equator based theme park. It’s difficult to reach on public transport, so we have booked a tour. On the way there, it rains so heavily it’s difficult to tell if we’re driving down a road or a river. Rubbish floats past the windows when we stop at traffic lights. Luckily, it eases off before we arrive.

Mitad del Mundo
Mitad del Mundo

Museo de Sitio Intiñan

First stop is the Museo de Sitio Intiñan, which claims to be on the GPS equator. Here, we are given a guided tour which includes such activities as balancing an egg on a nail and trying to walk along the equator in a straight line.

Intinan Museum - Walking the Equator
Intinan Museum – Walking the Equator

This is followed by a very lengthy chocolate making demonstration, for no particular reason other than to try and flog chocolate. I get frustrated, time is passing, and we still haven’t reached Mitad del Mundo, which is what we came to see.

Intinan Museum - Egg Balancing Champion
Intinan Museum – Egg Balancing Champion

Mitad del Mundo

Finally, we continue to the Mitad del Mundo, which claims to be on the geographical equator. We only have 28 minutes here and in addition to a plethora of equator based photo ops, there are also more painted hummingbird sculptures. So we devise a strategic photography plan and split up, run round our allocated segments and get back to the bus a mere two minutes behind schedule.

Mitad del Mundo
Mitad del Mundo

There was supposed to be a third stop at the cable car, but we have run out of time. The driver offers to drop us there, but we will have to make our own way back to town (which was kind of the point of booking a tour). As we can’t see the mountain for cloud, we decline and return to Quito.

In the evening, more torrential rain so we retire to the hotel and spend a glamorous evening sitting in the foyer by the Wifi router as it’s the only way to get a signal.

Quito Day 6

Hop on Hop off Bus

Today, we are doing something we rarely do; taking the Hop on Hop off Bus.

Quito
Quito

El Panecillo

The bus heads up El Panecillo; a small hill with an aluminium statue of the Virgin Mary on top. It’s an interesting journey in a double decker, navigating the narrow, winding streets and low hanging electric cables.

Quito
El Panecillo from the Hop on Hop of Bus

The Virgin sits atop a dragon on a globe. You can climb to a viewing platform around the globe for a 360 degree view of the city and surrounding volcanoes.

El Panecillo
El Panecillo

La Carolina Park

We reboard our bus and travel through the old city to La Carolina Park; a large park with sports pitches, a running track, a lake and the Botanical Garden.

La Carolina Park

Botanical Garden

We spend a long time in the Botanical Garden; the best bits are the Carnivore Collection and the Bonsai Collection.

Botanical Gardens - Carnivore Collection
Botanical Garden – Carnivore Collection
Botanical Garden - Bonsai Collection
Botanical Garden – Bonsai Collection

We catch the bus again with the intention of getting off at some other stops but it starts raining and we’re weary. So we return to the beginning and have a late lunch at in a colonial courtyard in the old city, where I order a salchipan (sausage sandwich) and the old man goes, as always, for the biggest thing on the menu. Then it’s back to the hotel, narrowly missing the torrential downpour, to pack for tomorrow’s return flights. It’s been a blast, but after 10 weeks in South America, I’m ready to go home.

Trip taken: March 2019

Updated: September 2022

Author: Jane's Midlife Journey

Stopped work, started travelling. Sometimes I run - combining the two with some parkrun tourism.

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