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How to Spend 3 Days in Quito

How to Spend 3 Days in Quito

Quito, the Ecuadorian capital, enjoys stellar scenery and a historic city center that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a destination in its own right and an excellent base for exploring other parts of Ecuador. Here are some recommendations for how best to spend three days in this Andean city.

Day 1: City Highlights

Quito’s beautifully preserved colonial center deserves at least half a day of exploration, so start things off with a tour through these historic streets. Venture out on your own aboard the convenient hop-on hop-off bus, or join a guided private or small-group tour to cover more ground in less time. No matter how you choose to explore, don’t miss Independence Plaza, the imposing Basilica of the National Vow (Basílica del Voto Nacional), Governor’s Palace, and the gilded interior of La Compañia church. After lunch, some tours continue on to the surrounding hills, visiting either El Panecillo to see the statue of the Virgin Mary that towers over the capital or the Teleferico Quito, a gondola to the top of the Pichincha volcano for some of the best views over the city. To complete your exploration of Quito, spend your evening wandering along pedestrian Calle La Ronda; grab dinner at one of the restaurants along the street.  

Day 2: History, Food, Culture

Now that you’ve had an overview of what Quito has to offer, you’ll have time today to dig deeper into your own personal interests. Foodies might want to sign up for a hands-on cooking class to learn about how traditional Andean dishes are prepared; most classes include a chef-guided visit to a local market to pick out ingredients. Those with an interest in history should visit some of the city’s excellent museums. Admire religious art at the Fray Pedro Gocial Museum or pre-Columbian art at Casa del Alabado, or learn more about Ecuador’s fight for independence at the Museo Alberto Mena Caamaño. End the day with a dinner show put on by the Ecuadorian National Folklore Ballet to enjoy dancing, music, and costumes from a diverse range of Andean cultures.

Day 3: Markets and Volcanoes

You’ve explored the streets of Quito, now it’s time to head out of town and experience a bit more of Ecuador. There’s a day trip for just about every interest. Cotopaxi National Park with its eponymous conical volcano is popular with adventure travelers, while the artisan market in Otavalo appeals to shoppers with its range of handwoven textiles and other handmade goods. Get off the beaten path with a day trip to the cloud forests of Mindo, an area known as one of the most biodiverse on the planet, or spend the day soaking in natural hot springs with spectacular mountain views at a thermal spa in Papallacta. Upon your return to Quito, top off your stay with a walking food tour that includes some of the city’s best spots.

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8 Tours and Activities

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Full Day Quito City Tour Including Teleférico and Mitad del Mundo

Full Day Quito City Tour Including Teleférico and Mitad del Mundo

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132
Get a sense of the architecture, history, and culture of Quito during this private tour visiting the city’s top sights. Start with an exploration of the historic city center of this Ecuadorian capital, visiting its main Basilica, Independence Plaza, and many more colonial-era sites. Then take a trip aboard the Teleférico to a peak more than 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) above the city for sublime views, finishing your day at ‘Mitad del Mundo,’ a monument marking where the earth’s equator splits the world into north and south.
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  • 9 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$118.00
From
$118.00

Termas de Papallacta Spa

Termas de Papallacta Spa

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4
Relax and rejuvenate in the mineral-rich waters of Termas Papallacta Spa during this 8-hour day trip from Quito. Immerse yourself in the beautiful scenery of the cloud forests near Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve during a 1.5-hour walk. Then soothe your aching muscles as you enjoy some pampering with a soak in the thermal pools of Papallacta Hot Springs. This trip to Termas Papallacta Spa, perfect for couples, also includes a guide, entrance fees, round-trip hotel transport.
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  • 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$125.03
From
$125.03

The Original Quito City Tour in Trolley with Hotel Pick-up -

The Original Quito City Tour in Trolley with Hotel Pick-up - "Small Group"

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81
Experience the best of Quito on this replica traditional tram tour. Trundle through the Ecuadorian capital’s colonial and modern neighborhoods; and hear tales of the city’s history and culture you might miss if alone. See the Plaza Grande and Basilica of the National Vow; admire panoramic views, and savor local ice cream (own cost). Monday tours bring the chance to watch the Changing of the Guard at the Presidential Palace.
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$15.00
From
$15.00

Quito City Tour Double Decker Bus

Quito City Tour Double Decker Bus

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252
Tour the capital city of Quito at your leisure aboard this popular hop-on hop-off bus tour. Enjoy hassle-free double-decker transportation through narrow city streets as you make your way to numerous city attractions and landmarks. Choose to get off at any of the stops and make the most of your time in Quito.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$15.00
Price varies by group size
From
$15.00
Price varies by group size

Otavalo, Cotacachi and Cuicocha Tour With Optional Hotel Pick-Up -

Otavalo, Cotacachi and Cuicocha Tour With Optional Hotel Pick-Up - "Small Group"

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95
Journey through Ecuador’s incredible landscapes and stop on route for photos and to visit Otavalo Market on this tour from Quito. Head north along the Pan-American highway, taste biscuits in Cayambe, and hop out at Otavalo Market to experience the local shopping culture by bartering for handicrafts. Then, stop at Cuicocha Lagoon—a crater lake below Cotacachi Volcano—to snap photos and perhaps take an optional boat ride (additional cost).
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  • 9 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$49.00
From
$49.00

Private Tour: Middle of the World & Pululahua Crater. All entrances included!

Private Tour: Middle of the World & Pululahua Crater. All entrances included!

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Straddle two different hemispheres during this half-day visit to the equator at Ecuador’s famous ‘Mitad del Mundo.' Try out some unique physics experiments demonstrating the influence of the earth’s poles at the Intiñan Museum. This trip includes a guide, Intiñan Museum entrance fees, round-trip hotel transport, and an optional upgrade for a private tour.
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$85.00
From
$85.00

Mindo Day Tour including Chocolate Tasting, Hummingbirds, and Cloud Forest Hike

Mindo Day Tour including Chocolate Tasting, Hummingbirds, and Cloud Forest Hike

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41
Discover the amazingly diverse wildlife and scenic beauty of the cloud forests of Mindo during this 8-hour day trip from Quito. This unique ecological area is known for having one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity anywhere on earth, including numerous exotic species of birds along with a wealth of fun attractions. During your excursion, you'll first stop by the Hummingbird Garden and walk into the forest to admire the beauty of this natural reserve before proceeding to Mindo. In Mindo, you can choose from among a range of optional activities (at your own expense), including a visit to a chocolate factory, an orchid garden tour, ziplining, a bird-watching trip with a local expert, and much more.
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  • 10 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$109.00
From
$109.00

Full-Day Tour Cotopaxi National Park - All included from Quito

Full-Day Tour Cotopaxi National Park - All included from Quito

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71
Explore the rugged surroundings and stunning scenery of Cotopaxi National Park and Cotopaxi Volcano during this full-day trip. Enjoy a short hike into the Limpiopungo Valley before driving ever-higher into this sky-high region, stopping at the 15,800-foot (4830-meter) Padre Rivas Refuge. If you’re feeling up for it, you’ll continue to the 16,500-foot (5,050-meter) Cotopaxi Glacier. This Cotopaxi day trip also includes national park fees, a guide, bottled water, round-trip hotel transport and an optional trip upgrade with lunch.
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  • 9 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$69.00
From
$69.00