Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, is a cultural, historical, and natural gem located in the heart of the Andes Mountains. The city boasts of an impressive array of colonial architecture, museums, churches, and markets. However, beyond the bustling city streets, Quito is surrounded by breathtaking natural landscapes, from snow-capped mountains and volcanoes to lush cloud forests and pristine lakes. If you’re planning a trip to Quito, make sure to take some time to explore the surrounding regions. Here are 10 options for unforgettable day trips from Quito:
Best day trips to do from Quito
1. Otavalo Market
Otavalo is a charming town located about 2 hours north of Quito. It’s famous for its vibrant indigenous market, where you can find handcrafted textiles, ceramics, and jewelry, among other goods. The market is held on Saturdays, but you can visit the town any day of the week and explore its narrow streets, colonial houses, and beautiful churches.
2. Cotopaxi National Park
Cotopaxi National Park is home to one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, and it’s a must-visit destination for adventure seekers. The park is about 2 hours south of Quito, and you can take a day trip to hike to the base or summit of the volcano, depending on your fitness level. Along the way, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the Andean landscape, including other volcanoes and snow-capped peaks.
3. Mindo Cloud Forest
Mindo is a small town located about 2 hours northwest of Quito, surrounded by a lush cloud forest. The forest is home to hundreds of bird species, including toucans and hummingbirds, as well as butterflies, frogs, and other wildlife. You can take a guided tour to explore the forest’s trails, waterfalls, and rivers, or try some adventure activities like ziplining and tubing.
4. Papallacta Hot Springs
Papallacta is a small village located about 1.5 hours east of Quito, famous for its natural hot springs. The springs are located in a beautiful mountain setting, and they offer several pools with different temperatures, perfect for relaxation and wellness. You can also enjoy some hiking in the area or try some local cuisine in the nearby restaurants.
5. Quilotoa Crater Lake
Quilotoa is a small village located about 3 hours south of Quito, home to a stunning crater lake of the same name. The lake’s turquoise waters are surrounded by steep cliffs, and you can hike to the rim to enjoy panoramic views of the area. You can also take a kayak or a mule ride to explore the lake’s shores and take some amazing pictures.
6. Baños de Agua Santa
Baños is a town located about 3 hours southeast of Quito, known for its adventure activities and beautiful scenery. You can take a day trip to Baños and try some activities like rafting, canyoning, or biking, or just relax in the town’s hot springs. You can also enjoy the views of the Tungurahua volcano and the nearby waterfalls.
7. Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve
Cotacachi-Cayapas is a vast ecological reserve located about 2 hours north of Quito, home to a diverse range of wildlife and ecosystems. You can take a guided tour to explore the reserve’s trails, waterfalls, and rivers, and spot animals like monkeys, jaguars, and tapirs. You can also visit the town of Cotacachi, known for its leather goods, and enjoy some local food.
8. Mitad del Mundo
Mitad del Mundo, or the Middle of the World, is a popular tourist destination located about 30 minutes north of Quito. The site marks the spot where the equator line passes through Ecuador, and you can stand with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one foot in the southern hemisphere. You can also visit the Intiñan Museum, which offers interactive exhibits and demonstrations on the equator’s science and culture.
9. Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve
Pululahua is a unique reserve located about 30 minutes north of Quito, home to a volcanic crater that’s now a geobotanical reserve. You can hike the trails around the crater to explore its flora and fauna, including orchids, bromeliads, and hummingbirds. You can also visit the nearby town of San Antonio de Pichincha, known for its pottery and handicrafts.
10. Cajas National Park
Cajas National Park is a natural gem located about 3 hours south of Quito, known for its high-altitude lakes, wetlands, and grasslands. You can take a guided tour to trek the park’s trails and enjoy the views of the Andean landscape, including glaciers and valleys. You can also spot wildlife like llamas, Andean foxes, and condors.