Day-trips from Quito

ECUADOR
Day-trips from Quito Itinerary

Volcanos, beaches, rainforests & more

When most people think of Ecuador, they automatically imagine the Galapagos Islands. However, this small country has much more to offer than just its world-famous archipelago. Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is located in the middle of the Andes and is an excellent starting point for exploring all three regions of the country. 

The mountain plateau, the Amazon region, and the coastal plain are all easily accessible from Quito. In this blog post, we will explore four different day trips you can take from Quito – each showcasing a distinct highlight of this fascinating country!

Day-trips from Quito

Otovalo – the Quechua market

South America’s most prominent indigenous market draws local and foreign visitors to Otovalo. Admittedly, the market now offers almost the same products as Quito’s textile and artisan markets. Nevertheless, Otovalo is worth a visit. Bring enough time to spend the whole day in the village. It’s a charming place with a unique flair. In Otavalo, you can get closer to the ethnic identity of Ecuador’s indigenous people. The Otovalenos are very proud of their indigenous heritage and continue to live their culture. They wear traditional clothes and speak Quechua predominantly.

You’ll find some museums and cultural centers around Otavalo that offer insights into the Quechua people’s history and way of life. We also loved reading “The Queen of water” by Laura Resau about life as an indigenous woman. Part of the moving story takes place in Otavalo, and it’s cool to discover the city after reading about it.

Cavalerio church in Leon, Nicaragua
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Quechua people in Ecuador

The Quechua people are a series of indigenous tribes that live in the Andean mountains of South America. However, Quechua refers more to the language than to a specific human group because many different tribes speak Quechua or closely related dialects. The Inca civilization was Quechua-speaking, and Quechua remained the Lingua Franca of the Andes even after the Spanish conquest. We had the opportunity to visit some Quechua communities on a recent trip to Ecuador. We were struck by their deep connection to the natural world. For the Quechua, nature is not something to be conquered or subdued but to be respected and protected. This worldview is evident in their traditional architecture, designed to blend in with the surrounding landscape. It is also apparent in their approach to farming, which is based on sustainable practices that have been passed down for generations. Spending time with the Quechua was a profoundly enriching experience. We came away with a greater appreciation for their culture and how they live in harmony with the natural world.

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How to get to Otavalo?

From the Terrestre Carcelen terminal, it takes only 2 hours to get to Otavalo. As soon as you arrive, you have to name the place, and the bus companies will show you where to buy your ticket. The buses depart approximately every 30 minutes.

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Best places to stay in Otovalo:

 

Granada, Nicaragua: market

Mindo – relaxation in the cloud forest

Whenever you feel like leaving Quito for more tranquility and fresher air, Mindo is the place for you. As a passionate horseback rider, the Andean village offered a welcomed alternative to the crowded city.

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Things to do in Mindo

The small town is picturesquely nestled between mountains covered in a cloud forest. We loved exploring Mindo and the landscape by horse, but there also were plenty of other things to do. A butterfly farm, zip lines, and hiking routes will clear your mind. Mindo has gotten quite popular, yet it’s quiet during the week. We especially enjoyed eating at the Food Studio. The owners are super interesting Ecuadorians who moved away from the city searching for a healthier, quieter life—Mauricio and Claudia to work together to promote Ecuador’s diverse cuisine. 

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How to get to Mindo?

Mindo lies on the route from Quito to Esmeralda. The bus leaves from near El Ejido and costs about 2,50$ and takes 2,5hrs. There are one or two buses from Mindo to Quito per day. Just ask your host a day in advance.

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Best places to stay in Mindo:

 

Baños – natural baths, rafting, and more

Baños de Agua Santa is a small town located in central Ecuador. It is situated in a valley at the base of the active volcano, Tungurahua. Baños is known for its waterfalls, rivers, and thermal pools, as well as outdoor activities such as paragliding and mountain climbing. Baños means “baths of the holy water” in Spanish, and the town lives up to its name with its numerous natural hot springs. Baños is a popular tourist destination for Ecuadorians and foreigners, and it is easy to see why. The scenery is breathtaking, and there are endless opportunities for adventure. So whether you want to relax in the hot springs or challenge yourself with some extreme sports, Baños has something for everyone.

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
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Things to do in Banos, Ecuador:

Casa de Arbol

For many, casa Arbol is the main reason to visit Baños. You’ll find a giant swing. Because it was raining (as so often) at Lauri’s visit, she didn’t get to swing high across the mountains.

Climb a volcano

Organizing a tour of the mighty volcanos Cotopaxi and Chimborazo are easy. However, the hikes can get pretty cold and challenging. So make sure to come prepared!

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How to get to Baños?

From Quito, take the bus from the Terrestre Quitumbe terminal. The trip takes about 3-4 hours and costs about $4. Bus travel is super easy. Just go to the terminal and ask for the next bus to Baños, there are regular connections, so there is no need to book a ticket in advance.

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Best places to stay in Baños

Amazonas adventures

Ready to explore the Amazonian rainforest? You’ll find plenty of tour operators in Banos who will take you on a jungle day trip to Puyo and Lago Agrio. Make sure the trip goes as far as the lower Rio Napo so that you can experience the Amazonas’ biodiversity.

Go rafting

One of the highlights in Baños is rafting on the Rio Pastaza. Unfortunately, rafting is not cheap and costs about $30 for a half-day tour and about $100 for a full day. Transport, guide, equipment, and instruction are included in the price. If you want a little less action, try canyoning!

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
Granada, Nicaragua: market

The Quilotoa Loop – A hikers' haven

The Andean villages around the Quilota loop make you feel like you have arrived at the world’s end. The highlands are super quiet and peaceful. Most accommodations are owner-occupied, so don’t expect too much comfort or hot water. This is little fun considering the mountain’s cold climate, but the beautiful scenery and the turquoise lagoon make up for it. The Quota Lagoon crater lake lies in the middle of a caldera. You can either descend the crater or circle it completely. The walk downwards takes about 3 hours; the circular route takes about six hours. The lush landscape around the crater lake, grazing alpacas, and sometimes even a view up to the snow-covered peaks of the Cotopaxi volcano create spectacular scenery. Although many travelers and trekking enthusiasts have already discovered Quilotoa, the area maintains its genuine charm and tranquility. You can hike yourself if you don’t like joining a tour.

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How to get to Quilotoa?

Buses to Quilota leave from Quito’s Quitumbe bus terminal. You can buy the ticket on the day of your departure. For approx. 3 $ it goes then in 2 h only to Latacunga. Here you have to change buses and take a bus to one of the Andean communities around the Quilotoa Loop. The closest to the Quilotoa Lagoon is Zumbahua.

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The best time to hike Quilota crater

The temperatures in Quilotoa are almost constant throughout the year. It’s cold and has an average of 10 degrees. It feels a lot colder, though! Expect lots of rainfall, too!

The best time to travel is from June to August. The summer months see the fewest rainfalls (about ten days per month). During the rest of the year, expect up to 22 rainy days per month.

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Best places to stay around Quilotoa

Get ready to travel to Ecuador

Best time to travel to Ecuador:

The days are sunniest during June to September, but Ecuador is really an all year destination. 

Money

Exchange enough cash and always have cash on hand before you head out of Quito.

Safety in Ecuador

Ecuador is a pretty safe place to travel around. However, pay caution after sunset anywhere. make sure to have a copy of your passport on you. 

Tap water

You can not drink tap water in Ecuador. So make sure to bring your Lifestraw Go to enjoy cool water while avoiding having to buy plastic bottles. 

Challenges for the conscious traveler

Sunscreen: Protect marine life by wearing reef-friendly sunscreen.

 Trash: Bring your Lifestraw Go to keep your water cold, and avoid buying bottled water. A foldable food container and cutlery will go a long way, too!

Photography: The Indigenious communities are somewhat susceptible to photography, so be extra sensitive.

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Packing List Ecuador

You’re packing your bags for a trip to Ecuador – congratulations! You’re about to embark on an amazing journey into one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

Wondering what to pack? Check out our packing list to prepare for all Ecuador has to offer. You’ll find anything from clothing to travel gadgets and eco-friendly toiletries!

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