We took a bus from Otavalo to Quito (2.5 hours, $2) and were dropped off waaay outside the city (yet again!) and had to catch a taxi ($8) to the old town. We stayed in a pretty basic hostel called La Guayunga in the San Blas area, a short walking distance to the centre of the old town (had to pay $1 to use the kitchen though. Seriously lads). We arrived on a Sunday and man was it quiet in Quito – everything was shut down! We managed to grab lunch at Hotel Plaza Grande (in Quito’s main plaza) but had a pretty odd experience – the table next to us ordered ice-cream and all the lights went down and random organ music came on and a dude in a purple hooded robe delivered it – it was honestly like the ku klux clan.
On Mondays at 11am the Plaza Grande hosts the changing of the guard at the Palacio del Gobierno where the government meets. It was hands down one of the coolest things we’ve seen on the trip – it goes on for about half an hour but there’s a band and horses and the president was even out watching and waving at the crowd in his Panama hat.
A lot of Quito’s sites are around the Plaza Grande (although museums aren’t open on Mondays so you can’t do those and the changing of the guards). The Cathedral, complete with painting of the last supper with a guinea pig or cuy (local specialty) as the main dish. Funny. There’s a cool museum at the back through a little door which houses some robes and religious art. The Cathedral also contains the tomb of President Gabriel Garcia Moreno who was assassinated in the Plaza Grande in 1875 and his body carried into the Cathedral. Right across the street (with the Ecuadorian flags in the Cathedral pic below) is the Centro Cultural Metropolitano (free entry) which had some Mexican Day of the Dead displays and some lovely courtyards with views over the Plaza Grande and the street below. Definitely worth a visit. Just next door is the La Compania de Jesus church which probably has the most gold you’ll ever see in a church ($4 entry). Further down the street is the Museo de la Ciudad ($3 entry) which chronicles life in Quito over the centuries. Definitely worth a visit. We walked out the back entrance down to the La Ronda area. There’s definitely more life here in the evenings but we happened upon a chocolate talk in Chez Tiff in Casa 989 during the afternoon and the chocolate was just scrumptious. The Plaza San Francisco is a lovely square which houses the Iglesia and Museo de San Francisco (museum $2; has some statues and paintings, a cool model of the church, a lovely courtyard and you can walk into the upper level of the church). There’s a little outdoor cafe with umbrellas just outside too (the green umbrellas in the third pic below) which has awesome cake. Great spot.
Our absolute favourite thing in Quito was the Basilica del Voto Nacional ($2 entry). It’s a towering gothic style cathedral with iguanas and tortoises adorning the outside (haha). You can climb up the tower at the back (slightly unnerving but awesome views). There’s even a cafe (with 1980s style decor; I’m talking peachy coloured fabric chair covers) and a shop selling souvenirs up the top. Ya, so there are a lot of churches to see in Quito!!
It rained every afternoon (like seriously heavy thundery downpours) so we took to the shopping centres. Quicentro is about a ten minute $3/$4 taxi ride from the historic centre AND IT HAS ZARA!! And Mango, Tiffanys, a huge Pull & Bear store, lots of sports stores (blah) and plenty of food spots. We ate in the Segafredo cafe here which was absolutely delicious. We also went to El Jardin shopping centre closeby. The shops aren’t as good as Quicentro but the food-court is better and there’s a Mr. Books store which is has a pretty good selection of English books.
New Town/La Mariscal
We walked out to the new town from the historical centre one evening (which took aaages and the walk felt dodgy as) but there are a lot of food spots and all the bars too. We went to the Northern Irish bar, Finn McCools for an Irish breakfast dinner one evening – so homely! We went to the Republica del Cacao chocolate shop and cafe a couple of times, super rich hot chocolate but a nice place to chill. Plaza Foch is the main square here and all the bars and restaurants are dotted around. We went to The English Bookshop (great selection of second hand books) and I purchased two books but they were quite expensive – $17 (which is definitely saucy for second hand books).
We took a taxi for $4 to Quito’s cable car system/Teleferico which takes you to 4,100metres in 15 minutes for $8.50. Bit pricey for a cable car but you get a pretty amazing view of the city if it’s not cloudy. There’s a little chapel at the top too. You can do a hike from the top up the volcano, Ruca Pichincha, which of course we had to do…have to confess I couldn’t make it all the way up but I managed the majority – the altitude really affects you up there – John continued on like a boss of course while I literally chilled my ass off waiting for him. The clouds rolled in in the 20 minutes he was gone and I couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of me – so freaky.
Mitad del Mundo/Middle of the World
We took the obligatory day trip to the Mitad del Mundo or Equatorial line which is about an hour and a half north of Quito. It’s two buses away but there’s a Subway sandwich shop out there for lunch before your visit! The heat was wicked so sun lotion is a necessity. The equatorial line is actually 240 metres away from the ol yellow line they’ve painted. It costs $3 to get in to see the line and monument. There’s a museum within the monument but we weren’t really bothered. There’s always Google.