Quito Itinerary for Culture, Food & History Lovers

by | Feb 20, 2024 | Ecuador, Itinerary, Travel

Are you planning a trip to Ecuador and thinking of spending some days in Quito? However, you’re not sure how to plan your time there.

I, too, struggled with planning my Quito itinerary. The city has a lot to offer culture, history, and food nerds like me. During my visit, I had a hard time squeezing everything I wanted to see into the three days I had before my Galapagos cruise.

In this itinerary guide, I’m going to share with you EXACTLY how to spend 3 days in Quito. You’ll also get ideas on where to eat, what tours to take, how to get to your hotel from the airport, where to find an ATM, and how to get a SIM card for Ecuador. If you’re wondering about where to stay, you can find ideas for all budgets in this guide to the BEST places to stay in Quito.

So, let’s begin!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate and a Bookshop.org Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  Please see this website’s Disclosure for more info.

Quito Itinerary Post Overview

Quito Itinerary: Day 0

  • Getting from the Airport to Your Hotel or Hostel in Quito
  • Checking into your accommodations
  • Finding an ATM
  • Finding a SIM card

Stop #1: Getting from the Airport to Your Accommodations in Quito

People sitting behind the taxi desk at Mariscal Sucre Airport
Book your taxi to your hotel at this Taxi Desk at the Mariscal Sucre Airport

For many visitors to Quito, the biggest worry is how to get from Mariscal Sucre International Airport to their accommodations. The airport is an hour away from the city center and you’ve probably heard that Quito is “dangerous.”

Yes, the airport is annoyingly far from the city and yes, crime is up in Quito. It’s up everywhere in Ecuador. But not to worry. I’ll tell you how to get to your hotel from the airport EASILY and SAFELY.

Here are all the SAFE ways you can get to your accommodation in Quito:

Airport Taxi

You’ll find the taxi desk in the Arrivals Hall of the Quito airport (after leaving customs). Tell the taxi desk where you want to go. They’ll tell you the price based on what zone you’re staying in. Pay at the taxi desk and they will arrange a taxi driver for you.  Luckily, they accept credit cards. I’ve used this service twice and had no problems. The last time I used it, it cost US$30 in October 2023.

Arrange an Airport Pickup Through your Hotel in Quito

This is what I did when I first arrived in Quito. Someone was waiting with a sign when I exited Customs. I paid my hotel directly in cash. (US$25 in April 2023). It cost me US$30 for a car from the historic center to the airport.

Take the Bus

The cheapest way to get from the airport to your hotel is by bus. You can take a bus (it’s supposed to be green) from the airport to three bus stations in Quito (the safe, clean, and well-organized Quitumbe Terminal, Rio Coca Terminal, and Carcelén Terminal). It costs US$2. However, it will take at least 1.5 hours because it’s a local bus that stops many times to pick up and drop off passengers along the way.

Check the airport’s website for more information.

Once you get to the bus stations, you’ll need to take a bus or taxi to your hotel. This may take another 45 to 60 minutes as Quitumbe is in the southernmost part of Quito.

However, the good thing is that Quitumbe Station is well connected by safe and clean public transportation to many parts of the city. It’s connected to the historic center via the new Metro subway line and the Trolebus Line C4.

For the Metro, get off at San Francisco Station in the historic center. For the Trolebus line C4, get off at Santo Domingo bus stop if you’re staying in the historic center. This bus stop is one block from Viajero Hostel and Traveler’s House. If you’re staying at The Secret Garden Hostel, get off at Hermano Miguel bus stop. The bus stop is 2.5 blocks from the popular hostel.

Trolebus C4 also goes to La Mariscal but it can be a long walk if you have a lot of bags. Get off at the last stop at La Colon Station.

To ride the trolebus, it costs 35 cents and it runs very frequently (every 4 to 10 minutes), so you won’t have to wait long.

It’s also safe to ride the Metro and Trolebus from Quitumbe because Quitumbe is at the beginning of the line, so you’re sure to get a seat, which allows you to put your bags down by your feet. Just hold onto your bags and don’t fall asleep.

Rio Coca Terminal is in the north part of the city and is connected by the Ecovia trolley bus line to La Mariscal (get off at the Baca Ortiz stop).

Private Transfer Service

You can arrange a driver and car through Get Your Guide (US$40 for 1 person or US$45 for 2 people) or Viator (US$36 for 1 person or US$40 for 2 people)

Rent a Car

You can book your rental with Discover Cars and pick up your car at the airport. This allows for maximum flexibility on your Quito itinerary but especially for your Ecuador itinerary. (US$77 – $100/day)

Stop #2: Checking into Your Hotel

If you’ve followed my recommendations for getting to your hotel in Quito, you should arrive there safe and sound.

Many budget and medium-priced hotels in Quito charge a transaction fee of 3% to 13% for using a credit card. Budget hotels often only accept cash.

I recommend staying in the historic center. The hotels here are charming and full of character. They have rooftop terraces and free breakfasts and are often in historic buildings. The major attractions of Quito are a short walk away. You also have lots of eating options.

If you do start to feel sick from the elevation (like I did), you can easily walk back to your hotel to rest. If you choose to stay farther away, you have to deal with using taxis or Ubers.

The best website for booking hotels in Quito is Booking.com but I also like Agoda. They usually have the best selection and the best rates. If you haven’t booked your hotel yet, you can check out this USEFUL guide on where to stay in Quito.

A QUICK guide to my favorite hotels in Quito:

BEST HOSTEL: Viajero Quito Hostel & The Secret Garden

BEST HOTELS UNDER US$40: Traveler’s HouseTERRA PREMIUM & Posada del Maple

BEST HOTELS US$40 – $100: Friends Hotel & Rooftop & Chakana Hotel Boutique

BEST HOTEL US$100 – $200: Casa Joaquin Boutique Hotel

BEST HOTEL US$200 – $300: Casa El Edén

BEST HOTELS OVER US$300:  Hotel Casa Gangotena & Illa Experience Hotel

Wherever you stay, try to get a place with a rooftop terrace with views of the city and mountains. You can check out my Quito accommodation guide for a list of the best hotels with rooftop terraces.

Stop #3: Finding an ATM

The next thing you might need to do on your first day in Quito is to get some U.S. dollars. If you’re from the U.S., you probably already have some, but it’s still not a good idea to carry thousands of dollars with you. It’s better to get money from the ATM every few days.

Another thing about money in Ecuador is that you should only have small bills. NOTHING bigger than a $20 bill. Businesses in Ecuador will often not accept $50 or $100 bills.

You should always have 2 debit cards with you in case one card gets lost or stolen or an ATM eats it like what happened to me in Nicaragua. Make sure your ATM card passcode is 4 digits.

One of those cards should be a Charles Schwab card because they reimburse you for all the ATM fees and exchange rate fees, which can be up to $10 every time you use an ATM.

There are 3 major banks in Quito:

  • Banco Pichincha – Transaction fee is US$4.50
  • Banco Guayaquil – It has the cheapest transaction fee of US$1.50
  • Banecuador

I had a lot of problems using ATMs when I first arrived in Ecuador. Many ATMs wouldn’t accept my debit card. I’d put the card into the machine but no money would come out. When I was in the Galapagos, an ATM didn’t spit out my money, but my bank still counted the transaction and withdrew $200 from my account. It took me months to get my bank to reverse the charge. So, my advice is to check your bank transactions online any time an ATM doesn’t give you your money.

I had the best luck getting money from this ATM at the Santa Maria Supermarket in the historic center and from Banco Pichincha in La Mariscal. The weird thing was that the ATM at Banco Pichincha in the historic center never worked for me.

Stop #4: Getting a SIM Card

Next, you’ll need to get hooked up with a SIM card. You can do it in one of two ways:

  • Buy an Ecuador SIM card when you arrive
  • Buy an eSIM (digital SIM) before your trip

Buying a SIM card in Ecuador

Three mobile phone companies sell SIM cards and data:

  • Claro
  • Movistar
  • CNT

I used Claro in Ecuador and got my SIM card from a mobile phone accessories shop in the historic center. The phone shop was across the street from the Santa Maria Supermarket.

According to the Claro website, this is the rate for prepaid SIMs:

  • US$5 for 15 days and 5 GB
  • US$10 for 30 days and 12 GB
  • US$15 for 30 days and 20 GB

Buying an eSIM BEFORE Your Trip

For convenience, you can get an eSIM instead. You don’t have to worry about physically changing SIM cards. Use Airalo to buy your eSIM. They have eSIMs for many different countries around the world. Their prices are pretty good and the quality of the connection is usually excellent.

Elevation Sickness: When you first arrive in Quito, you might have trouble with the high elevation. I sure did! I felt it for the first two days. I was tired and out of breath, I had a killer headache that wouldn’t go away, and my legs felt like lead. You might want to check with your doctor before arriving in Quito to get something for dealing with elevation sickness.

Quito Itinerary: Day 1

a church and convent next to a square in Quito Ecuador
On day 1 of your 3 days in Quito stop at Minka Chocolate Experience and get a table with views of San Francisco Plaza.

Don’t overdo it on day 1 especially if you’re suffering from elevation sickness.

This Quito itinerary is going to spend day 1 getting to know the historic center of Quito and getting used to the high elevation. The historic center is often referred to as Old Town.

The day includes a guided walking tour as well as free time to wander around the historic center. You can do the guided walking tour in the morning or afternoon. Sometimes I like to wander around by myself before a guided tour. But other times I find that walking tours can point out places that I would never have known about if I hadn’t taken a tour or places that I can go back to after the tour’s over.

In this guide, I’ve decided to start with the guided walking tour because I remember feeling pretty good in the morning of my first day but feeling pretty awful from the elevation by the time the afternoon rolled around.

Stop #1: Breakfast:

a plate of tigrillo, traditional Ecuadorian food
Having a plate of tigrillo for breakfast is a must-do on any foodie’s Quito itinerary

Many medium-priced and luxury hotels in Quito include a free breakfast in the price of the room. Check out this guide to the best places to stay in Quito for a list of those hotels that offer breakfast.

Even if your hotel or hostel doesn’t have a free breakfast, they might still offer breakfast for a fee like at Viajero Hostel in Old Town charged US$5.

If not, here are my recommendations on where to grab a bite to eat in the morning:

  • Café Caribe – They have set breakfast meals that include a breakfast sandwich, juice, and coffee. Ecuador has a unique way of serving coffee that you can experience at this restaurant. (Map)
  • Fruteria Monserrate – Located in La Mariscal, this is a great restaurant with amazingly good bolons and empanadas and all the traditional Ecuadorian breakfast dishes. (Map)
  • Maria Cocina y Panaderia – This fabulous restaurant has uber-delicious and creative Western-style breakfasts and excellent coffee. It’s a bit out of the way, though. (Map)

Check out this guide to the most popular food in Ecuador for ideas on what Ecuadorians eat for breakfast.

Stop #2: Walking Tour of Quito

I recommend 2 options for a walking tour in Quito:

I did the free walking tour, which turned out to be wonderful – passionate and knowledgeable guide and great food! The itinerary is nearly the same as the paid walking tour, so it might matter which one you do.

However, I ran into a big problem with the free walking tour—the guide canceled my tour at the last minute and then for the rescheduled tour, changed the time also at the last minute. I was very flexible with my time and knew that I was returning to Quito after my Galapagos cruise, so it didn’t bother me. But if you’re limited on time, it could be a problem for you.

Walking Tour: Basilica

a side view of the Basilica, one of the stops on a Quito itinerary

Both tours start at the Basilica, the second-tallest church in Latin America. This Notre-Dame copy looks centuries old but it’s not. It was actually built in 1896. The church was also never finished because it’s believed that god’s work is never finished and if the church is completed, the world will end.

Even though it’s not that old, It’s still an architecturally fascinating church. One reason is for the Ecuadorian-style sculptures flying out. On most churches you’ll find gargoyles but not on this Basilica. Instead, you’ll find a variety of Ecuadorian native animals: fix, iguana, alpaca, and so on.

Before your tour, text the tour guide to find out whether the Basilica’s tower is part of the tour. If not, get to the Basilica an hour before the tour starts so that you can take the elevator to the top of the tower to see the highest viewpoint in the city. It costs US$4 to take the elevator to the tower. The elevator goes to the 10th floor, where you’ll see lovely views of the city. You can climb a spiral staircase to the 16th floor for even loftier views.

Walking Tour: Seven Crosses Road

Your tour will go down the steep road of Seven Crosses Road (not the official name). There are seven crosses on the road starting at the Basilica and ending at Plaza Grande.

Walking Tour: Plaza de Independencia

a man on a bike pointing at you in Independence Plaza on day 1 of a Quito itinerary
Plaza de Independencia in Quito’s historic district is a must stop on any Quito itinerary

As you tour the heart and soul of Quito, Plaza de Independencia (Plaza Grande), your guide will tell you the history of Colombia’s war of independence from Spain. This war is commemorated with a statue in the middle of the park.

Around Plaza Grande are some of the most important buildings of Quito. The Carandolet is the presidential palace. If you’re lucky to be in Quito on a Tuesday morning, you can watch the changing of the guards in front of the palace. One of Ecuador’s most controversial presidents was stabbed to death in front of the Carandolet.

Walking Tour: Archbishop’s Palace (Palacio Arzobispal)

an interior courtyard of a 3 story building lined with balconies on each floor

Flanking Independence Square is the former home of the archbishop of Quito, Palacio Arzobispal. The building is now an arcade full of souvenir shops and restaurants. The palace is also where you can sample and buy traditional Ecuadorian sweets and street food.

On my tour, the guide had us sample some sweets and then we all bought three popular street foods and had them for our lunch: empanada morocho, empanada de viento, and pristiños con miel.

Walking Tour: Ecuadorian Ice Cream

a person making helado paila
Trying helado de paila is another must-do on your 3 days in Quito

You’ll find shops and street vendors selling ice cream all around Quito, but especially in the historic center. They make a special kind of ice cream called helado de paila in these large copper bowls called paila. The bowls are placed in ice and fruit juice (blackberry (mora) is the most popular) is poured into the bowl. The fruit juice is then mixed with a spatula while the bowl is turned until the liquid becomes “ice cream.” It’s really quite delicious.

Walking Tour: Calle García Moreno

The walking tour then makes its way down one of the most important streets in Quito: Calle Garcia Moreno. You’ll pass by Quito’s most beautiful church, Iglesia de la Compania, whose interior is covered in gold leaf, Antiguo Banco Central del Ecuador, and the Municipal Library.

Walking Tour: San Francisco Plaza

people walking around Plaza de San Francisco on day 1 of a Quito itinerary

Your walking tour is coming to an end with a stop at the vast empty San Francisco Plaza, one of the top places to visit in Quito. The plaza is flanked by the massive San Francisco Church and Convent. Every time I step into this plaza, it feels like I’ve stepped back in time.

Walking Tour: Yumbos Chocolate Workshop

The final stop on both the paid or donation-based tour is Yumbos Chocolate Shop, where you will be treated to a mini chocolate workshop and tasting. You’ll learn how chocolate is produced, get to try a raw cacao bean, and then sample different kinds of chocolate. There’s a Yumbos Chocolateria in Mindo that has full hour-long workshops.

Stop #3: Lunch on Day 1

a bowl of cevichocho
Cevichocho with pork cost $3.30 at Doncho Chocho y Choclo

Quito’s historic center is the best place in the city to experience the traditional food of Ecuador. There are lots of restaurants for every kind of budget. Just know that most restaurants in Quito close at 4:00 or 6:00 pm. This is especially true in the historic center when pretty much that part of Quito becomes a ghost town. I would have a late lunch and skip dinner or have a light dinner.

Here is my guide to the most adventurous eaters:

  • DonCho Chocho y choclo – This is my favorite restaurant in the historic center, and it’s become a favorite of locals, too. They serve a dish called cevichocho—it’s a non-seafood version of ceviche. They also have a vegetarian version, but I prefer the one with pork. (Map)
  • Modelo – This popular restaurant serves traditional Ecuadorian dishes. I ate here and had the menu del día (a lunch set menu), which cost US$3. (Map)
  • Los Sanduches de la Plaza Grande –A very popular sandwich shop in Plaza Grande. Get the pernil sandwich—it’s sooooo good (Map). Another sandwich shop that’s just as good is Sanduche Meneses.
  • Café Caribe – Google Maps refers to Café Caribe as an ice cream shop. It’s much more than that! They also serve breakfasts, lunch, and lots of Ecuadorian street food like empanadas. The manager of my hotel, Traveler’s House, recommended this place and I had breakfast there.
  • Restaurante San Agustin – This highly-rated restaurant in the historic center serves traditional Ecuadorian dishes (Map).
  • Paula Valladolid – Located next to the Traveler’s House, this hueca (hole-in-the-wall restaurant) might not be fancy but the food is delicious, filling, and economical. You can get a set meal (menu del día) at lunch for US$1.50 to 2.50.

What is a Hueca? – A hueca is a small, family-run restaurant that sort of means “hole-in-the-wall.” They serve inexpensive breakfast and lunch set meals for US$1.50 – $5.00. The meals are very filling. They usually come with a soup, a protein (often chicken), rice, hominy, a small salad, juice, and sometimes dessert. The soup is called primero and the main dish is called segundo and both change daily. At the entrance of a hueca will be a sign with the primeros and segundos. You’ll often get two or three soups and two or three main dishes to choose from. Sit down at a table and a waiter will take your order. You pay after your meal. Huecas are rarely listed on Google Maps.

Stop #4: Wander Around the Historic Center on Your Own

a person walking down a narrow pedestrian-only street lined with colorful colonial buildings in Quito
Calle de La Ronda is a must-visit street during your 3 days in Quito

Now that your walking tour is done, you should have some ideas on what else to see in Quito’s historic center. Spend the rest of the first full day of your Quito itinerary exploring the rest of the city.

I recommend visiting these places, most of which are in the same area of the historic center:

  • La Ronda Street – If you love beautiful and colorful architecture, wander along the narrow and colorful Calle de La Ronda lined with restored historic buildings.
  • Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus – The most beautiful church in Quito – everything (walls, ceiling, pillars, altar) is covered in gold leaf, there’s an entrance fee and no photos!
  • Catedral Metropolitana – Head to the rooftop for great views of Plaza Grande and the Quito skyline
  • Casa Museo Maria Augusta Urrutia –This well-preserved historic home is the home of a wealthy Quiteño woman is the perfect place for the history enthusiast.
  • Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco – There’s a brewery in this convent (REALLY!) – entrance fee includes a free beer in the brewery
  • Casa del Alabado – This pre-Colombian museum with archeological artifacts from all over Ecuador is my favorite museum in Quito
  • Monasterio Museo del Carmen Alto – This convent for cloistered nuns commemorates the only saint in Ecuador, Marianita de Jesus.
  • Museum of the City – This beautiful museum on the history of Quito is located in a former hospital that’s one of the oldest buildings in the city.

Stop #4: Hot Chocolate

a cup of hot chocolate

Don’t leave Quito without trying its hot chocolate drinks. In the San Francisco Plaza is a chocolate shop called Minka Chocolate Experience that has the most divine hot chocolate in the city. Get the hot chocolate with egg (I know sounds weird but it’s uber delicious). If you’re lucky try to snag one of the two tables at the window for the best views of San Francisco Plaza and Church and Convent. It’s a great way to rest your feet on the first full day of your Quito itinerary.

Stop #5: Dinner

a plate of seco de chivo, rice, potatoes, and salad
Seco de chivo is a popular dish made of a goat.

As I mentioned before, a lot of restaurants close at 4:00 pm or 6:00 pm. That’s because Quiteños usually eat a heavy lunch but a light dinner. However, there are a few high-end or touristy restaurants that are open in the evenings. Here are my recommendations:

  • Casa Los Geranios Restaurante – On Calle La Ronda in the historic center is this beautiful restaurant with 10/10 service and 10/10 food. It’s a great place to go for traditional Ecuadorian cuisine. Get the locro de papa—it comes to your table on fire! (Map)
  • Nuema – This restaurant was named the 11th best restaurant in Latin America for 2023. They have a tasting menu. Expect to pay an arm and a leg.
  • Somos – This restaurant serves modern Ecuadorian cuisine. Another restaurant that is very delicious AND very expensive.

Quito Itinerary: Day 2

I hope you’re not suffering too much from the elevation on day two of this Quito itinerary. On this day of your itinerary, you’re going on one of my favorite tours in Quito: the Street Food Essentials Tour (Viator or Get Your Guide). This jampacked foodie tour takes you outside of the historic center to some less touristy neighborhoods and local markets of Quito.

If your travels don’t revolve around food as much as mine do, then try this bike tour of Quito. It, too, will take you to more off-the-beaten-path areas of Quito.

The day ends with a jaunt up to the hill that is hard to ignore as it looms over Old Town—El Panecillo.

Stop #1: Street Food Tour

fruit stand

I always like to do a food tour at the beginning of my trips. Food tour guides usually teach you where to eat, how to order food, and what foods to order. After taking one, the rest of my trip goes so much more smoothly, and I feel more confident ordering in a restaurant.

I also love this food tour because it takes you to parts of Quito that tourists don’t usually go to. Plus! You get to visit local markets and try exotic fruits that you’ve probably never had before.

I’ll give you a rundown of where you’ll go on this street food tour. However, for a full description, check out this review of the Quito Street Food Tour, It’s not cheap but it’s so worth it!

The tour lasts from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

Here’s the itinerary for the tour and the food I ate:

Stop #1: Plaza Arenas – fritada

Stop #2: Quesadillas de San Juan – quesadillas (not the same as Mexico!)

Stop #3: Mercado America – tortilla de yuca, tree tomato juice, & sour sop juice – Ecuador has the best natural fruit juices I’ve ever tasted!

Stop #4: Street Art

Stop #5: Puente de Guambra – seafood dishes such as viche and pescado encocado; plus two juices: babao juice, and naranjilla juice

Stop #6: Mercado Santa Clara – lots of exotic fruit

Stop #7: Marina Cocina y Panaderia – Ecuadorian coffee, chocolate, and butterfly and pea tea (the best drink I have EVER had in my life)

Read reviews and check the price for this street food tour from Viator and Get Your Guide.

Stop #2: Panecillo

a hill with statue on top in Quito

A hill topped with a giant statue of the Virgin Mary, El Panecillo is the last stop on day two of this Quito itinerary. It is also one of the most popular places to visit in Quito.

From the top of the hill are stunning views of the city and surrounding mountains. You can even climb to the top of the Virgin Mary statue for even more soaring views.

Try timing your visit later in the afternoon so you can see the sunset.

There’s a restaurant on the hilltop called Pim’s with great but pricey food (both Ecuadorian and international) and great views of Quito.

Don’t walk up to the Panecillo or back down to Old Town. One of my tour guides told me that thieves hang out on the road that snakes up the hill waiting to rob tourists. Instead, take an Uber (or taxi) or one of the blue public buses on Avenida Mariscal Sucre heading to the Panecillo. That same bus goes to Mitad del Mundo. When you’re ready to leave, take an Uber or taxi back to your hotel. The Panecillo is usually full of tourists so you should have no problems finding a taxi for a ride back to your hotel.

Quito Itinerary: Day 3

On the morning of day three, you’re going to be exploring the city from up high by visiting one of the most popular tourist attractions in Quito, the TeleferiQo, and then spending the afternoon, standing on the Equator at El Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World).

Hopefully, by day three, you’ve become accustomed to the elevation and your body can handle the even higher altitudes the morning’s attraction has to offer.

You can do today’s Quito itinerary in three ways:

I’ll describe how to do day 3’s itinerary without a tour.

Stop #1: TeleferiQo

Day three’s itinerary starts with the TeleferiQo. Morning is the best time to visit. In the afternoon, the clouds roll in and you can’t see much. Plus! It’s less crowded in the morning, making the wait times to get on the cable car and use the swing less long.

How to get to the TeleferiQo

The best way to get to TeleferiQo is by Uber or taxi. From the historic center, it should take 18 minutes and cost around US$5. It cost me US$4 from La Mariscal. You can also take a bus from Western Avenue (Avenida Mariscal Sucre) before the tunnel. But you’ll have a steep climb up the road to the start of the cable car.

What’s the entrance fee of TeleferiQo?

The entrance fee to the TeleferiQo is US$9 for adults, $6.50 for seniors, $7.00 for anyone under 18, and $6.50 for people with disabilities. They accept credit cards BUT you must bring your passport and your name on the ID must match your name on your credit card. It’s open from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm (M – Th), 8:00 am – 6:00 pm (F), and 8:00 am – 7:00 pm (Sa & Su).

What can you do at TeleferiQo?

You’ll take a sky tram, which is called the TeleferiQo, up 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) to the side of Volcano Pichincha. You are now at 4,050 meters (13,287 feet).

The uber-ambitious can hike to the volcano’s summit, Rucu Pichincha. I’ve heard that it’s best to hire a guide because it’s easy to get lost when the fog rolls in (very common), but I’ve also heard that lots of people do the hike so you’re bound to not be alone. Everyone says to be careful of lightning strikes if it starts raining (common). It’ll take at least five hours round-trip.

For us mere mortals, just do shorter hikes along the many trails, admiring the views of Quito below and the mountains surrounding the city. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see Cotopaxi Volcano in the distance. I wasn’t lucky.

One of the most popular things to do is to take your turn on the giant swing overlooking the city below.

There are also horses for you to ride–$5 – 25 minutes and $10 – 45 minutes. If you get hungry or thirsty, you’ll find plenty of places to buy food and drinks.

To get back to the next stop on this itinerary, call an Uber or hop in one of the taxis that’s dropping people off. I called an Uber and only needed to wait 6 minutes. It cost me US$6 for the drive to the La Mariscal neighborhood.

Stop #2: Lunch

a bowl of ceviche with crab and shrimp
A bowl of ceviche with crab and shrimp at Ecuaviche Veintimilla Restaurant

Head to the La Mariscal neighborhood for lunch and a chance to explore another neighborhood in Quito.

These two amazingly good seafood restaurants (price is around US$10) are very popular in Quito and very, very delicious:

  • Cevicheria Siete Mares (Map)
  • Equaviche Veintimilla (Map)

I recommend getting the ceviche or a seafood soup called encebollado. Prices for both restaurants is between US$6 and $10.

If you want something less pricey than those seafood restaurants, head to Mercado Santa Clara. This is the same market you went to on the street food tour, where you tried the fruit. On the top floor is a food court that serves inexpensive and authentic Ecuadorian cuisine. I recommend trying the hornado, roast pork. It’s one of my favorite dishes in Ecuador.

Want to buy souvenirs? The Mercado Artesanal in Mariscal is a market for handicrafts and souvenirs in La Mariscal.

Stop #3: Middle of the World (El Mitad del Mundo)

a tall monument of Mitad del Muno in Quito

The last stop of the day is at the top of most visitors’ lists of things to do in Quito: the Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the World). Here you can experience standing on the Equator.

El Mitad del Mundo is a park that marks the equator and commemorates the French-Spanish mission that identified the location of the Equator in Ecuador.

The park is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (M-F) and 9:00 am – 6:00 pm (Sa & Su).

How to get to the Middle of the World

The park is located 50 minutes by car from Quito’s historic center. You have several ways to get to the park:

  • Uber or taxi (expect to pay between US$13-$20)
  • Bus from Terminal La Ofelia – Take an Uber or taxi to Terminal La Ofelia or if you’re eating at Santa Clara Market, take Metrobus Line O (Corredor Occidental) from Universidad Central bus stop to La Ofelia. Then catch a bus going to El Mitad de Mundo. The bus should say “MITAD DEL MUNDO” or “CALACALI.” Get off the bus at “Redondel Mitad del Mundo” just in front of the Park.
  • Take a tourThis inexpensive tour starts at 2:00 pm and can pick you up in La Mariscal and take you to El Mitad del Mundo for US$19. This is how I got to Mitad del Mundo.

Once you pay the Park’s entrance fee of US$5, you’ve now entered what I think is one of the kitschiest tourist attractions in Quito. Lots of people like this place, but I felt it was a bit average. Still, standing on the equator is a must-do item on many people’s bucket lists.

What to do at the Middle of the World

an egg standing on the head of a nail
The highlight of a trip to Quito’s top tourist attraction, El Mitad del Mundo, is to try to balance an egg on a nail.

In the middle of Mitad del Mundo is a 30-meter-high monument. You can climb to the top for panoramic views of the outskirts of Quito. As you climb the top, you’ll see interesting displays on each floor telling you the story of the various indigenous peoples of Ecuador.

What else is there to do at Mitad del Mundo?

There are lots of souvenir shops and touristy cacao and craft beer museums that were just meh.

The other highlight is an outdoor museum next to Mitad del Mundo, Museo Solar Inti Ñan. It costs US$4. The museum has exhibits explaining the importance of the Equator. Check out the solar chronometer that can tell the precise time using the rays of the sun. There are also some demonstrations with water and energy showing the unique features of the equator.

Don’t leave Mitad del Mundo without trying to balance an egg on the head of a nail. Due to magnetic forces found at the equator, it’s supposed to be easier to balance. I never got it to balance but other people did.

How to get back to your hotel:

  • Uber or taxi
  • Bus to La Ofelia Terminal. Then take Metro Bus Line O to Universidad Central Station, where you’ll change to the Metro (subway) that can take you to the historic center or north to La Carolina.
  • Blue bus that travels along Western Avenue (Avenida Mariscal Sucre) that goes to the historic center and even to El Panecillo.

Stop #4: Pululahua Volcano (Optional)

Pupulahua Volcano crater

If you were really on the ball the morning of day 3 and started uber early or took this tour, you might still have time to make it to another attraction near Quito—Pululahua Volcano.

Exit El Mitad del Mundo and catch a bus going north of Quito to Pululahua. It’s then a 1-kilometer walk to the Pululahua Volcano crater viewing platform where you can look down on the inside of the crater at the farmland below. It’s beautiful BUT…it’s common for fog to roll in, especially in the afternoon, and for you to have no view at all.

Stop #5: Dinner and/or Drinks at a Rooftop Terrace

End your Quito itinerary with dinner (or just drinks) at one of the many rooftop terrace restaurants around the city. You’ll get spectacular views of Old Town and the surrounding hills. Try to do it before the sun sets.

It’ll probably be chilly at night so order a canelazo, a warm alcoholic drink made of rum or aguardiente (sugar cane alcohol), panela (sugar), and canela (cinnamon).

Here’s a list of a few popular rooftop terrace restaurants:

  • The Secret Garden – This is one of the most popular rooftop restaurants in the city for foreign visitors; when I stayed there (it’s also a hostel), they were all booked up for dinner; international food. (Map)
  • Vista Hermosa – This is another top rooftop restaurant that has great ambiance and views; international and traditional Ecuadorian dishes. (Map)
  • Café Mosaico – This is a very popular rooftop restaurant with amazing views; it’s located in the San Blas Neighborhood (not the safest area); they serve international food and even have a vegan menu; their bar menu serves cocktails, wine, beer, and traditional Ecuadorian drinks like canelazo and ponche (Map)
  • Casa Gagontena – This terrace restaurant has great views of San Francisco Plaza; a  mix of international and Ecuadorian food; very expensive. (Map)

Extending Your Quito Itinerary

A visit to Casa del Alabado Museum is a must on any history and archaeology nerds’ Quito itinerary

There are still so many terrific things to do in Quito that you could extend your itinerary for another day or two. If you do, I would do this cooking class and market tour (I really love food!) or you can check out more of these museums and historic buildings in Quito.

  • La Ronda Street – If you love beautiful and colorful architecture, wander along the narrow and colorful Calle de La Ronda lined with restored historic buildings.
  • Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus – The most beautiful church in Quito – everything is covered in gold, there’s an entrance fee but no photos—don’t do as I did and get in trouble for taking photos (I didn’t see the no photo sign)!
  • Catedral Metropolitana – Head to the rooftop for great views of Plaza Grande and the Quito skyline
  • Casa del Alabado – This beautiful pre-Colombian museum with archeological artifacts from all over Ecuador is my favorite museum in Quito. The artifacts and the design of the building are 10/10.
  • Casa Museo Maria Augusta Urrutia –This well-preserved historic home belonged to a wealthy Quiteño woman. It’s an interesting place to visit for the history enthusiast.
  • Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco – There’s a brewery in this convent (REALLY!) – entrance fee includes a free beer in the brewery. For those who don’t drink beer, the museum is full of religious art.
  • Monasterio Museo del Carmen Alto – This convent for cloistered nuns commemorates the only saint in Ecuador, Marianita de Jesus. It’s an interesting museum with reproductions of the rooms the nuns used long ago as well as some beautiful, old murals.
  • Museum of the City – This beautiful museum on the history of Quito is located in a former hospital from the year 1563. There are no English explanations, unfortunately, and the museum paints an overly rosy history of Quito, so it’s not as interesting as it could be.

Quito Day Trips

smoke coming out of the top of Cotopaxi Volcano
Add a trip to Cotopaxi National Park to your Quito itinerary

You can also use Quito as a base for taking day trips to some of the best places in Ecuador like Papallacta, Otavalo, Cotopaxi, and Quilotoa.

This is what I would do for day trips from Quito:

Day 4: Visit the Saturday market in Otavalo on this tour which includes stops in Cayambe and Cuicocha Lagoon. I did this tour and thought the price was good for what you did and the guide was passionate nad knowledgeable.

Day 5: Do this tour to Cotopaxi and Quilotoa. However, I think staying overnight in Cotopaxi is a real treat.

Day 6: Another fabulous day trip from Quito is to the Papallacta Hot Springs Resort and the Cayambe-Coca National Park. I think it’s better to stay overnight, but if you don’t have time a day trip is doable. Check out this guide on how to visit Papallacta.

Day 7: If you’re into nature, hiking, and wildlife, you can do this once-in-a-lifetime tour to Ashitana to see more volcanos and one of the largest birds in the world, the Andean Condor. For more ideas, check out this guide to the best day trips from Quito

Final Thoughts: Quito Itinerary

I hope you found this Quito itinerary helpful. With 3 days, you’ll be able to see most of Quito’s main attractions. However, if you really want to get to know the city and visit its wonderful museums and historic buildings, you should add one or two more days to your itinerary.

I’ve got lots more articles on visiting Quito:

For more travel information on this amazing country, check out my Ecuador Travel Guide. You’ll find lots of inspiration, travel tips, and advice for Ecuador.

Best Resources for Your Trip to Ecuador

Book Your Flight:

Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights to Ecuador. They will turn up results for all airlines including major ones and local airlines. You’re guaranteed to find EVERYTHING that’s available and thus get the cheapest price.

Book Your Accommodations:

The best hotel booking sites are Booking.com and Agoda. They have the most choices and they consistently churn out hotels and hostels with the lowest prices. Another site for backpackers and budget travelers is Hostel World.

Book Your Tours:

Viator has the most tour choices of any site in Ecuador. They’re reliable and trustworthy. I also like using Get Your Guide for Ecuador for their excellent service. Both booking sites are reliable and trustworthy, and if you have trouble with your tour, they’ll quickly help you.

Get an eSIM

The most convenient way to stay connected to the internet is with an eSIM. I like to use Airalo for their excellent prices.

Want More Ecuador Travel Info?

Check out my Ecuador Travel Guide for more ideas, inspiration, and tips on traveling in Ecuador.

Are you on Pinterest?

Hey! How about saving one of these pins to Pinterest to read for later?

And feel free to follow me on Pinterest, where you’ll find lots of travel articles for everywhere around the world.

Quito Itinerary 3 Days in Quito pin with a photo of Plaza Grande
Quito Itinerary 3 Days Pin with photos of Plaza de San Francisco and towers of the Basilica


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

About the Bamboo Traveler

The Bamboo Traveler

Welcome to The Bamboo Traveler, a travel blog dedicated to helping those travelers who want to dig deeply into the history, heritage, and culture of a place. Whether it’s through the pages of your passport or the pages of a book, I’ll help you travel the world and uncover the history, culture, food, architecture, and natural beauty of some of the world’s most fascinating places.

Get Your FREE Japan Itinerary Guide Here!

Subscribe to my newsletter to receive the latest travel tips for Asia and get a free 4-page PDF version of my 3-Week Japan Itinerary.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest