In this article, I will share with you the best day trips from Quito!
Quito is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, thanks to its stunning views and unmatched historical architecture, but I never realized how much there is to do around Quito. So in this article, you will find some good ideas for a day or weekend trip around Quito.
The best day trips from Quito:
Quilotoa Lagoon And Volcano
Papallacta Hot Springs
Cotopaxi is located in the Andes Mountains and is an active stratovolcano offering the second highest summit in Ecuador. With a height of 13,347 feet (5,897 m), it is one of the tallest active volcanoes globally, with its last eruption occurring from August 14, 2015, to January 24, 2016. A short 31 miles (50 km) south of Quito, Cotopaxi is an excellent day trip destination.
Cotopaxi is visible from Quito when skies are clear, its snowcapped peaks towering mightily in the distance. Climbing the towering peak is a popular weekend hobby for those living around and visiting Quito. Hikers make their way up along the official route on belay and use aluminum ladders to make their way across one or both of the crevasses. Mountain guides are available to accompany you on your trek, providing interesting tips and historical facts about the region. Once you reach the Jose F. Ribas Refuge, a stone hut, you can spend the night and head out onto the trail fresh and ready to tackle the summit. Summit tours begin around 12:30 am and arrive at their destination by 7:30 am.
There are glacier skills classes available where tour operators drive hikers to the top of the designated track. After the course is over, you can spend time eating dinner and resting before beginning your climb to the summit around midnight. There are also biking trails and horseback riding where you can spot the incredible and diverse wildlife living in the area like llama, rabbits, wild horses, Andean bears, and more.
For those who enjoy less intense trips, Otavalo, about a two-hour drive from Quito, is an excellent option. A market town nestled within the Andes Mountains and surrounded by lakes and waterfalls, Otavalo offers stunning scenery with small-town charm. There are over 40,000 residents that call the city home, many of whom still wear their indigenous clothing, creating an authentic experience. Thanks to the city's compact nature, it is easy to explore in one day with traditional and historic architecture everywhere you turn.
Otavalo boasts the largest traditional indigenous market in all of South America, with an extensive selection of handcrafted goods like shawls, ponchos, sweaters, and arts and crafts. Your senses will ignite with the brightly colored wares at every booth, lovingly crafted by locals using techniques passed down through the ages. Although the market is open every day, Saturday is when it comes alive. Stretching from the main square, Plaza de Ponchos, through the surrounding streets and filling up the entirety of the central part of town, it's a treasure hunt tourists can't get enough of.
Be sure to bring a camera as all the booths are beautiful and photogenic, and feel free to haggle on price; it's expected! For the most authentic experience, make your way to the market areas around Latacunga or those around the Quilotoa Loop Trek.
Quilotoa Lagoon And Volcano
Quilotoa is the home of a massive volcanic crater lake, also known as the Laguna Quilotoa. With the stunning scenery surrounding the area, it's an excellent day trip for those who enjoy hiking and exploring. The strikingly green water gets its color from volcanic sediment and is 820 feet (250 m) at its deepest point.
The top three hiking routes include the Quilotoa Loop, crater hike, and rim hike, each with beautiful natural views and wildlife roaming free. The crater hike is ideal for day-trippers as you go deep inside the crater itself or hike around its rim.
The crater hike can be a challenge if you haven't adjusted to the altitude but should only take one to two hours to complete. There are donkey rentals available at the bottom of the crater, which allow you to ride back for only $10 to $15, making the hike more manageable and exciting.
The rim hike is another popular option for day-trippers and offers extraordinary views of the lake and countryside. Plan to spend around four hours on the easily maneuverable trail, which is about 3 km in length. Those with private transportation have more flexibility to roam around the lake, while those using a bus should plan their time accordingly.
Mindo is home to one of the most stunning destinations in the world, the Mindo Cloud Forest. This small town is the perfect spot to kick back and relax or participate in hiking, birdwatching, ziplining, or coffee or chocolate tours. Only a short two-hour drive from Quito, tourists can walk around the town and eat the delicious local cuisine.
The cloud forest is home to a diverse bio-ecosystem, with a large hummingbird population and the Andean cock-of-the-rock plants and other unique foliage. Bus transport from Quito is less than $4 for a one-way ticket and around $7 to $10 for a taxi.
Papallacta Hot Springs
The Papallacta Hot Springs is an ideal day trip for tourists looking to spend the day relaxing. Located high in the Andes Mountains on the way to the Amazon, the trip offers fantastic views and winding roads. The thermal pools are a short walk from the Papallacta village, which has restaurants and shops to roam through. Basic tickets include a long soak in the warm waters or upscale ticket options that include more pampering options. Buses are available from Quito, or you can use private transportation for more flexibility.
Quito and the surrounding areas offer stunning views and excellent day trip options. Whether you enjoy hiking in the great outdoors or strolling through beautiful towns, there is something for everyone to enjoy. When planning your next trip, be sure to include one or more of the ideal destinations above!
If you are looking for some ideas within Quito city, make sure to check out my QUITO CITY TRAVEL GUIDE and watch this video: