8 Best Things to do around Quito for a day or two – perfect 1 and 2 Day Trips Outside Quito
So, you are now in Quito, Ecuador’s thrilling capital city. You’ve already traveled to the Historical Center, the museums, the Middle of the World site, etc. If you are still thinking about hitting the road for one day or two, think no more! Here you will find some of the best things to do around Quito
Quito is uniquely the perfect base location to arrange trips to the surrounding landmarks. So, to save you some time in research, here we present a short list on the 8 Best Things to do around Quito. It includes the perfect 1-day and 2-day trips to arrange form the city.
1. Take a dip in Papallacta Hot Springs (1 or 2-day trip)
You can ask anyone who has visited Ecuador before, Papallacta is a must visit site. It takes less than a 2-hour drive from Quito to reach this lovely site between the mountains. Located at an altitude of 3,300m (10,827 ft.), and adorned by a wonderful lush green scenery, this site is home of natural Hot Springs coming directly from Antisana Volcano.
Papallacta is a great option for a relaxed day-trip from Quito, or the perfect stop-off spot when traveling to or from the Amazon Jungle. Far from the capital’s hustle and bustle, Papallacta offers lovely treks and horseback riding trips. The mineral-rich baths coming from Antisana Volcano are believed to possess healing powers. The perfect spot to relax after a long hike in the Andean Páramo.
2. Do some shopping at Otavalo Artisanal Market (1 or 2-day trip)
Forget about Saturday, Otavalo is perfect for shopping and window shopping regardless the day of the week. Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest days, though. There’s also a lot to see and do around the town. Imbabura province offers the pretties landscapes in Ecuador.
A visit to Otavalo from Quito will last a full day, and in must have a stop at the artisans market, of course, as well as visits to its nearby landmarks. Cuicocha Lake, Peguche Waterfall, Mojanda Lakes, and Condor Park are some of the perfect complement to the standard visit to the Market. You can visit Otavalo on your own, buses depart form Quito daily. However, personalized guided tours to Otavalo from Quito are not that expensive and will help ypu optimize your time as much as possible.
3. Get lost in the green beauty of the Mindo Cloud Forest (1 or 2-day trip)
Located at only 2.5 hours from Quito, this cloud forest and bird paradise is the perfect weekend getaway. Activities include bird-watching, visiting butterfly gardens, hiking to waterfalls, tubing and zip lining. Because it is so close to Quito, most travelers make it a 1-day trip, leaving early in the morning and returning in the late afternoon. However, if you are nature enthusiast a 2 day stay in any of Mindo’s eco-lodges will just do for you.
The cloud forest is gorgeous, with green landscapes and a milder climate and a laid-back vibe.
Chocolate is a big thing in Mindo too. There are specialized tours to see the whole chocolate-making process at one of an artisan chocolate business. This visit will also include a taste of Mindo’s super delicious chocolates. Mindo has a lot to offer, so give it a search before going for a tour.
4. A bike ride or a hike in the Antisana Reserve Moorlands
Antisana Ecological Reserve is located at a 2-hour drive from Quito. This almost unknown gem is one of the most beautiful volcanoes on the western mountain range of Ecuador, and you will surely notice it on the road. Volcanic activity, glacial processes, and evolution have created amazing moorlands scenery along the way and a very diverse wildlife.
The terrain and the lovely landscape make this spot ideal for mountain biking. Not a biking expert? You should still give it a try, no pro experience is required and the road to the Reserve is one to remember. Mica lagoon found at one of the tails of the Reserve mirrors the volcano and is perfect for photography. BTW, this spot is also perfect for observation of the Andean Condor, and iconic bird species of the Andean Paramo. What’s not lo like!
5. A Bike ride at Cotopaxi Volcano National Park, of course…
Cotopaxi National Park is one of the most impressive ecological reserves in Ecuador. The beauty of this spot is that the volcano, the second highest peak in Ecuador, suddenly emerges out of relatively flat terrain and offerrs spectacular views from all directions. Cotopaxi National Park has plenty of activities such as biking, hiking, climbing and trekking. Stunning panoramas and an ecosystem home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, wolves, pumas, bears, rabbits, condors, wild horses, and foxes.
If you don’t feel like organizing a day trip on your own, almost every travel agency in Quito offers some sort of personalized day-trip to Cotopaxi. Most trips here are only moderately strenuous and feature a hike from the parking lot to the refugee. However, hiking up to the summit requires advanced mountaineering skills. Be sure to ask your trip arranger what exactly the tour includes.
6. A hike to jaw-dropping Quilotoa Lagoon
If you are planning a trip to Ecuador, you’ve probably already read of Quilotoa Volcanic Lagoon. In fact, pictures don’t even really do it justice. Quilotoa is one of those jaw-dropping places you have to see in person. Traveling to Quilotoa from Quito takes around 3 hours driving southward. Most guided tours will help break the drive by stopping at a local market or historic church on the way to Quilotoa. The villages surrounding the lagoon are colorful and filled with local traditions.
Once at the bottom of Laguna Quilotoa, you can have kayak around the Crater Lake. However, do take in mind that it’s a tough hike back up to the top. For those that don’t quite have the energy, there are some men with some mules who will be happy to offer their services.
7. A 2-day Trip to the Moorlands at Polylepis and Frailejones Forest
The Polylepis and Frailejones Forests are also one of those forgotten gems found at the northern Ecuadorian moorlands. If you got a few days at Quito, you must take trip to discover the millenary Polylepis Forest, an almost surreal and isolated spot at the heart of the Andean paramo. This is the only spot for which I would recommend a two day trip from Quito, as the journey here takes up to 5 hours
At El Ángel Ecological Reserve (Carchi), you will find Polylepis Lodge, located just in the meeting point of two of the most unique Ecuadorian ecosystems: Polylepis Forest and the Frailejones Moorlands. Moreover. This spot offers hikes in the world’s last remnant of a millenary and primary Polylepis forest while lodging in panoramic, classy and spacious rooms harmonizing with the unique surroundings.
BTW, your visit to the areas will support the local community as most food and resources are trades with the farms of the area.
8. A ride on the iconic Tren de los Volcanes
Tren Ecuador is an innovative concept in Ecuador which consists of a series of short routes between different stations reconstructed and remodeled of the legendary Ecuador Train system. Tren de los Volcanes (Train of the Volcanoes) day trip is one of the many routes and it departs from Quito almost daily. It is the combination of the colorful Andean landscapes, snow-capped mountains, volcanoes and culture make this trip a totaly worth it experience, indeed.
A ride aboard the legendary Tren de los Volcanoes takes you to a mountain scenery where you can catch sight Pichincha, Atacazo, Pasochoa, the Viudita, Rumiñahui volcanoes, among others flank the railway. In Tambillo and Machachi you’ll also get a taste of the local cuisine and learn about the chagras (the Ecuadorian cowboys) culture. At El Boliche, at the foothills of Cotopaxi, a mild trek will intoduce you to the flora and fauna. You will be back at Quito around 5 pm.
So, here’s our list of the 8 best things to do around Quito. Do you agree or do you have any other recommendations?