Discover the Best Day Trips from Quito: Exploring Ecuador's Stunning Natural Wonders
Situated among the towering Andes Mountains, Quito is a city that truly has it all. Its breathtaking natural sights and incredible cultural experiences are a taste of what awaits you in this vibrant metropolis. The city’s rich history is palpable in its well-preserved historic sites, while its gastronomic scene is a feast for the senses. But what really sets Quito apart is its proximity to some of Ecuador’s most impressive natural wonders.
With several day trips from Quito, adventurous travelers can explore lush cloud forests, hike to majestic waterfalls and witness the breathtaking beauty of Ecuador’s volcanoes. To discover the best day trips from Quito and truly experience the wonders of this captivating city, look no further than this travel blog’s expert recommendations.
1. Mindo Cloud Forest
Located just 2.5 hours Northwest of Quito, Mindo Cloud Forest is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. This unique Cloud Forest ecosystem, situated at the lower slopes of the Pichincha Volcano, is famous for its natural beauty and rich variety of bird species.
With over five hundred different bird species, Mindo holds the world record for the most species counted in twenty-four hours. However, Mindo’s biodiversity extends beyond birds to include all sorts of flowers and plants. Orchids, butterflies, and bromeliads abound in the dense forest, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts. You can also catch a glimpse of capuchin monkeys and Andean bears, making it a perfect place for animal lovers.
Mindo Cloud Forest day trips offer a variety of activities, from adrenaline-pumped adventures to calmer tours. If you love adventure, you can enjoy ziplining, mountain biking, canyoning, and river tubing amid the gorgeous cloud forest backdrop.
If you prefer calmer activities, there are plenty of options to choose from. You can tour a chocolate factory, visit a butterfly farm, swim in a waterfall, go on a picturesque night walk, and take in the scenic views.
Many day trips from Quito head for Mindo multiple times during the day, giving you the flexibility to choose one that suits you. The best time to visit is between October and May when the birds are the most active, giving you the best chance to catch a glimpse of your favorite species.
Since Mindo is called the Cloud Forest, expect overcast days and plenty of rain during your trip. Pack your umbrellas and raincoats and get ready to enjoy a fantastic day trip from Quito to Mindo Cloud Forest.
2. Otavalo Market Day Trip from Quito
Otavalo market is one of the largest indigenous markets in Latin America. Home to the Kichwa Otavalo people and their world-famous crafts, immerse yourself in the brilliantly colored fabrics and crafts.
The choices at the Otavalo market are limitless. You can find a plethora of items, including paintings, artisan crafts, imitation jewelry, leather items, alpaca wool jumpers, scarves, ponchos, traditional clothing, musical instruments, kitchen items, straw hats, basically anything under the sun!
While shopping, you can also get a taste of Ecuadorian cuisine through dishes like yahuarlocro, hornado, locro de papas, and more. Along with local restaurants, there are also international food chains and cuisines waiting to be tried out.
You can visit the Otavalo market on a one–day trip from Quito since it is only a two-hour drive away. Try to plan your trip on a Saturday as most artisans prefer to display their products on this day of the week.
The market timings are 0700 – 1800 hours. Make sure you don’t get there during closing time, as many artisans start packing up by then, so you have a higher chance of missing it. You can purchase items using US dollars, but don’t forget to bring plenty of change. There are ATMs nearby, and some shops even accept card payments so you can still have an easy mode of payment.
3. Quilotoa Lagoon, Ecuador
The Quilotoa Lagoon is at an elevation of 3800 – 3900 meters amidst the rugged countryside and hiking trails of the Andes Mountains. You can view this stunning, turquoise-colored lake and hike around its rim from the town of Quilotoa.
The Quilotoa Loop trekking is a challenging one because some trails are poorly marked, so you will need well-informed guidance before you attempt it. But the good thing is that you can spend the night in hotels or local hostels if you plan on staying longer. These rest areas provide full-service amenities like hot meals and showers, so you won’t have to worry about good hospitality.
Apart from the hike, you can enjoy some downtime in this serene town tucked inside the Andes. It is home to many indigenous people who farm its lands for a living. You can see their farms on the hillsides and meet them on the trails to interact with their sheep and llamas.
A day trip to Quilotoa is a three-hour drive from Quito. It includes unbeatable crater lake views, free time to trek into the crater, a visit to an artisan´s family workshop, and free time at a local indigenous market (depending on the day of the week)
4. Cotopaxi Volcano Day Trip from Quito
No tour to Ecuador would be complete without visiting the Cotopaxi volcano. Surrounded by the Cotopaxi National Park, this mighty volcano stands at 5,897 meters, dominating Quito’s landscape.
You can partake in multiple activities during your time here. Birdwatching at Laguna Limpiopungo is a popular activity among nature lovers, for example. You can find a shallow lake at the base of the volcano, walk around this lake, and view the rich birdlife found in the lagoon. You can photograph the landscape and enjoy a delicious cup of hot chocolate 4,800 meters above sea level.
For adventure lovers, you can climb the active volcano. But it is recommended you do so with a guide due to the crevasses. You can also mountain bike down the volcano if you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Those not looking for a high-altitude adventure can take a short hike to the refuge and revel in the lunar landscape.
Since it’s close to Quito, you can go there on a day tour. Cotopaxi is not easily accessible through public transport, so this day tour from Quito is a convenient option. The weather at Cotopaxi can be unpredictable, so make sure you pack warm and waterproof clothing.
Cotopaxi is situated at a high altitude, which means you must take steps to prevent altitude sickness. Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol so that you are physically healthy and active during your trip.
5. Antisana Volcano
Antisana is Ecuador’s fourth-highest volcano and offers a beautiful nature hike with views from the volcano. Just 31 miles south of Quito, you can make your way to the Antisana Ecological Reserve and get a view of the majestic volcano.
Antisana reaches a staggering height of 18,870 feet. Along with hikes, you can get immersed in the mesmerizing flora and fauna of the area. Rare birds like the black-faced ibis, Andean gulls, silvery grebe, and brown-speckled teal reside in the reserve so you can see photograph them without worrying about losing them.
The climatic conditions are harsh in the area due to low oxygen levels, low temperatures, and strong winds are typical. Make sure you have warm clothing, hiking gear, and sunblock on your trip.
6. Termas de Papallacta Spa
Suppose adventure activities have worn you out during your trip to Ecuador. If so, you can rejuvenate at the Termas de Papallacta Spa, only forty-five minutes from Quito. This day tour from Quito is ideal for the exhausted traveler to relax and enjoy a peaceful day.
The hot springs in the spa were created by a mixture of natural heat and volcanic activity. You can spend the day soaking in the thermal waters of these natural pools to unwind. Moreover, you can also visit the Papallacta Lagoon and admire its beautiful landscape. There is also a walk along the La Isla path for those interested in the flora and fauna of the area.
7. Quito City Tour, Equator Line & Teleferico
One unique experience you can avail of while in Ecuador is a trip to the equator line. Located near San Antonia De Pichincha, the equator is just fourteen miles north of Quito. You can find plenty of half-day or day tours in Quito due to its convenient location.
What’s interesting is that there are two equators in this area. Charles-Marie de La Condamine assigned the original location in 1,736. However, with the advent of GPS systems, geologists found he was off by two hundred meters. The true equator was two hundred and forty meters north of the line. But since there was already a monument set up at the former place, they built another museum at the right site.
The “fake equator” is called the Mitad Del Mundo, translating into ‘the middle of the world’, characterized by a hundred-foot-tall monument and a yellow line dividing the hemispheres. This spot makes for an excellent photograph. The “real equator” is at the Museo Intiñan where you can take a tour, go around the museum, and check out their interactive displays.
Furthermore, if you want to experience some breathtaking views over Quito’s landscape, hop aboard the Teleferico or sky cable car. It is one of the highest aerial lifts in the world, taking passengers on a ten-minute ride up the Volcan Pichincha to the Cruz Loma. Once at the top, you can take a 4-km hike to Rucu Pichincha. However, make sure you’re acclimatized to the high altitude and take a guide on your walk.
These are some of the best activities offered by our Quito day tours guide. Not only is Quito a great city to explore, but you can catch some of these best day trips from Quito to discover more of what Ecuador has to offer!
For more information about Day trips from Quito, contact us by WhatsApp (+593) 997677662 or visit our website https://latinadventures.com.ec/ – Your next trip can also easily be customized, by combining with the Galapagos Islands, and Ecuador mainland.