During my 18 month bike tour from Alaska to Argentina, I took a week off in Quito, Ecuador. Here's what I got up to in Quito whilst resting.
Taking time off in Quito
Blog post written 13th June 2010
After the big rush of having to cycle through Colombia in 30 days due to a visa problem, I was looking forward to some time off the bike in Quito.
Although the mountains of both Colombia and Ecuador have been absolutely stunning, its also been quite challenging cycling at times, and my legs certainly needed a rest !
With the bike locked away in Hostal Chicago's storage room, I had every intention of switching off from cycling completely for a week.
However, on Sundays, the north / south road is blocked to all traffic except for cyclists, so it was a little difficult to ignore hundreds of cyclists pedalling along.
On the main plaza, there was even a water station to keep everyone hydrated!
Is Quito safe?
Quito has a somewhat unsavoury reputation among backpackers, as a place where its almost a certainty to either get robbed or have something stolen.
I had no problems whatsoever on my last visit here, and again on this visit, have only met friendly, helpful people.
I feel that sometimes, if you approach a city, or even problem in life with a negative mindset, then it will attract negativity to it.
That said, if you are a dumbass backpacker, drunk at 02.00 in the morning and flashing an I-phone around, you may as well paint a target on your back!
Maybe you should read this: Common Travel Mistakes And What Not To Do When Traveling
Cycling gives a different perspective
I’ve felt more and more I have less in common with backpackers over the years. Maybe its an age thing, or just simply the fact that cycling through a country gives me more of a unique insight than simply catching a bus from one big dot city or tourist sight to the next.
The main backpacker area in Quito is El Mariscal, which by all accounts is a huge tourist trap. The area that I stayed in was about one km away, closer to the old town.
There were no inflated prices here, and a desayuno, and almuerzo could be had for the usual price of one dollar fifty. A beer was a dollar twenty five for a big bottle, and there was even a KFC !!
Sightseeing in Quito in a week
So whilst I was in Quito, what did I do?? Well, there was sight seeing of course.
Quito has some wonderful colonial style architecture.
And the most enormous basilica.
A “trolley” system runs through the city, costing just 25 cents to get on each line.
And whilst not doing that, there was laundry (my trousers hadn’t been washed in 5 weeks), repairs to the bike (minor), website updating (my other sites) and sorting out a small package to send home.
In addition, as well as spending some time online gaming with friends, I also downloaded and watched maybe a dozen films, saw the England game (hmmmm) and generally just relaxed.
With the route ahead to Cuenca (the next big city) planned, and a half decent map purchased, I aim to cycle out of Quito on Tuesday morning.
If you are looking at things to see and do in Quito for a week, here's some suggestions:
Quito, Ecuador Itinerary
Quito is the capital of Ecuador, and it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South America. The city is located in the Andes Mountains, and it is home to a number of historical and cultural attractions.
1. Visit the Middle of the World Monument
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Quito is the Middle of the World Monument. The monument is located on the equator line, and it consists of a large sundial and a globe. Visitors can take photos with their feet in both hemispheres, and there is also a museum on-site that provides information about the Ecuadorian culture.
Here's me in front of it in 2005 on a different backpacking trip to Ecuador!
2. Explore Old Town Quito
Old Town Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is one of the best places to go if you want to learn about the history and culture of Ecuador. The area is filled with colonial-style buildings, plazas, and churches. You can also find a number of museums in Old Town Quito, including the Museum of Anthropology and Contemporary Art.
3. Take a Cable Car ride up Pichincha Volcano
For breathtaking views of Quito and the surrounding area, take a cable car ride up Pichincha Volcano. The ride takes about 30 minutes, and at the top, you can explore hiking trails or visit the Interpretation Center to learn more about the volcano.
4. Shop at Otavalo Market
Otavalo Market is one of the largest indigenous markets in South America, and it is a great place to find souvenirs and handmade goods. You can find everything from clothing to jewelry to traditional Ecuadorian food at Otavalo Market.
5. Go on a Day Trip to Cotopaxi National Park
Cotopaxi National Park is located just outside of Quito, and it is home to Cotopaxi Volcano—one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. The park also has numerous hiking trails, lakes, and waterfalls. You can even go horseback riding or whitewater rafting in Cotopaxi National Park.
6. Explore La Mariscal
If you're looking for a more modern side to Quito, head to La Mariscal, also known as “New Town.” This bustling neighborhood is filled with hotels, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, making it the perfect place to unwind after a long day of sightseeing. La Mariscal is also home to many of Quito's best museums, including the Museo Nacional del Banco Central del Ecuador and the Museo de la Ciudad.