So, before we talk about Quito we have a bit of a disclaimer. We absolutely LOVED Ecuador. I realise that Quito was only our first stop after the Galápagos (and what an introduction to Ecuador the Galápagos was!) but I am writing this from the perspective of having finished our travels through Ecuador, so I can safely say that it was without a doubt one of our favourite countries on the trip so far. The people are some of the friendliest we have met, accommodation and activities are very budget backpacker friendly, the landscape is beautiful, and the Spanish spoken there is slow and neutrally accented, making communication easy. We feel that Ecuador isn’t given enough attention or credit on the South American backpacking circuit, so we heartily encourage anyone thinking of travelling this part of the world to pay the country a visit. It is well worth it.
We were all feeling a little glum at the end of our Galápagos adventure, so we arrived in Quito feeling a bit heavy hearted. However, when we checked into our hostel in the historic centre of the city and were immediately made to feel right at home by the hostel manager, we started to cheer up a bit. We had booked private rooms at Hostal Juana De Arco, located in the Plaza de Santo Domingo and right next door to the popular La Ronda, a street lined with great bars and restaurants. Juana De Arco is more like a budget hotel than a hostel, as it only has cheap private rooms and no dorms. It also includes a tasty breakfast each morning and has information about tours and things to do in and around Quito. The hostel itself is also really grand and quirky – it almost feels like an old haunted mansion!
On our first full day in Quito we decided to do a free walking tour, to get ourselves better acquainted with the city. After doing a bit of research we picked Free Walking Tour Ecuador, which meets twice a day, six days a week at Community Hostel. We certainly weren’t disappointed! Our guide, Andrea, was extremely knowledgeable about the city and took us to some really interesting places – not to mention a few typical Ecuadorian food spots where we were able to buy traditional snacks and treats! If you have yet to try the Ecuadorian equivalent of fudge I really recommend it.
Another great activity to do when staying in Quito is visiting the equator, or the Mitad Del Mundo. It’s fairly easy to get there by public bus, but once you arrive you are presented with the dilemma of which equator you’re actually going to visit! It turns out that there are two main equator sites – the first features a large monument and is where most of the iconic “straddling the equator” photos are taken. The second features a smaller exhibition and slightly less impressive line to straddle, but in the end we went for this one as it was cheaper than the “official” monument, and also claims to be the more accurate equator site. In reality however, neither site is really correct as the equator is constantly shifting in location. We still got our photos though, so we came away happy!
Luckily for us some of our friends from the Galápagos, Keith and Belinda, were in Quito at the same time as us and we got to meet up with them twice for dinner and drinks. The first night we went to a bar and local restaurant in La Ronda where we were treated to what the roughly translated menu described as “wind patties” – which turned out to be delicious! The next night we went to Bandido Brewing Co, a bar next door to Community hostel that had great beer and even greater pizzas. We spent both nights reminiscing about our amazing Galápagos experience (all of us still feeling sad that it was over) and chatting about travels. It turned out that Keith and Belinda were following a similar schedule as us through the rest of Ecuador, so we made plans to meet up and hike the Quilotoa Loop together a few days afterwards.
Dan and Michelle had one more activity to complete in Quito: hiking up Cotopaxi volcano. In order to summit the 5,897m volcano you need crampons, ice axes and some good climbing experience, but fortunately there are tours that will take you to a lookout point below all the ice and snow. Fortunately for Dan and Michelle they found a company that not only showed them up to the lookout point, but then gave them mountain bikes and let them cycle back down! It was an exhilarating experience and they came back to Quito buzzing. Unfortunately for me I had spent the day on the phone to Peru Rail, aka the most frustrating company on earth, trying to change the dates for our train tickets to Machu Picchu – so I didn’t finish the day on quite the same high. I did however get an extra special breakfast that day – the hostel cook felt so sorry for me being on my own that she gave me extra food!
After their adventure Dan and Michelle didn’t have much time to recover we embarked on our next hiking expedition: the Quilotoa Loop.