On my first backpacking adventure through Latin America, I passed by Quito. It’s a big city with a beautiful historic center and it actually stretches along over 60 km. Because I had travel company while I was in Quito, I ended up just spending three days there. Luckily for me, I made local friends who showed me around, and I have every intention of going back someday! Following is a list of 11 things to do in Quito as a backpacker. It’s all low cost, and definitely points of interest if your planning to visit!
1. Visit Centro Historico
Stay in a hostel in this beautiful colonial part of town,. Walk the streets, explore all the viewpoints and beautiful architecture and churches. Some of which are for free and others that you’ll have to pay about 5 dollars to visit.
2. Visit the statue La Virgen de Quito
In the outer part of the historical center on a hill, there is a Virgin Mary statue called La Virgen de El Panecillo or the Virgin of Quito. The statue is 30 meters plus the 11-meter base and is with this one of the tallest statues in the world and the tallest aluminum sculpture in the world. At least according to the Ecuadorians. You can pay to enter the statue, one of Quito’s many viewpoints over the old town. It’s not recommended to go on foot to the statue, due to the fact that there supposedly tend to be robberies in the area. Therefore it’s more recommendable to take a taxi from the bottom of the hill.
Opening times and prices for the Virgin of Quito
Monday to Wednesday 9.00 to 17.00
Thursday to Sunday 9.00 to 21.00
The entrance price to go up into the statue is just 1 dollar
3. Spend a night partying in La Mariscal.
After a couple of days in the old town, change your hostel to one in the La Mariscal district. One of the things to do in Quito at night is definitely located here. There is a lot of bars and clubs in the are, and if you’re looking to party in Quito dont go anywhere else. By example most things in the olttown closes pretty early, youll be lucky to find a deserted bar around. This is where you should head if you want a real Ecuadorian Fiesta.
4. Take the teleferico and hike the volcano Pichincha
Take the teleferico from the safe grounds of Quitos 2950 meters all the way to 4100 meters above the sea level. The price for a roundtrip with the teleferico is $8.50. The view is just stunning from the top, and you can really see how long and “skinny” Quito is, remember, it’s about 60 km long.
If you feel adventures you can make a daytrip out of it and hike up to the summit of Vulcano Pichincha at 4784 meters. I would say the difficulty is moderate, so give yourself a couple of days of adjusting to the altitude in Quito, before you head up. Bring food, water, and warm clothes as it can be pretty windy up there. I headed up Volcano Pichincha with a thin jacket, a banana and half a liter of water as it was a spontaneous decision. We made it without problems, but I have to say I was super hungry when we got back down after approximately 5 hours haha. If it’s a good day and the volcano is cloud-free, you’ll be able to see the huge volcano crater of Pichincha on the opposite side of Quito.
5. Do the free walking tour of the old town.
I can highly recommend the free walking tour in Quito, if you travel alone it’s also a great way to meet people. I was Couchsurfing while in town and my host was at the university during the day, so I actually met people that I continued to travel with to Volcano Cotopaxi and Baños. A good option is to do the walking tour on one of your first days in town as they provide a lot of tips on how to spend the rest of your time in the capital. The Free Walking tour that I took hast two tours a day and meet at Community Hostel at 10.20am and 2.20pm.
6. See the change of guards in Plaza de Inteligencia from 10.30 every Monday.
Every Monday at the main square in the old town, you can see the presidents soldiers march across the square. They wear traditional uniforms, accompanied by horses and music. This is the only time you can see the guards during the week, and it’s definitely worth seeing if you happen to be in Quito on Monday. If you do the free walking tour on a monday morning they will also take you to see the change of guards, but you won’t be able to stay as long as you like.
7. Get a free guided tour of The Government Palace, Palacio de Carondelet.
You can get a free guided tour of The Government Palace every day during the week. It’s called Palacio de Carondelet and it’s located on the main square in the old town. I, unfortunately, didn’t have the time to do this, but its definitely on my to-do list, for my next visit to Quito. Like said you don’t have to pay anything to get the tour, but you do have to present your passport in a stand on the main square. The stand is located on the corner of stand located on the corner of calle Espejo and Calle García Moren. After presenting your ID document you’ll get a ticket.
The opening times for Palacio de Carondelet
Tuseday to friday 09.00 to 19.30, the latest time to enter is at 18.00.
Saurday from 09.00 to 21.30 with last time to enter being 20.00.
Sunday from 09.00 to 17.00, with last time to enter being at 16.00
These are the opening times at the time of writing, you can check for any changes at the Presidencia de la Republica del Ecuador’s webpage.
8. Visit Mitad del Mundo
Quito is famously called the center of the world because if its location, almost exactly on the equator. One of the things to do around Quito is to visit the Mitad del Mundo monument and museum. The monument that stands in the place where the Frenchs estimated the equator line years ago. In more recent time there have been more accurate measurements done with GPS. Because of this they now know the exact place where equator crosses and there is a museum on the exact location.
How to get to Mitad del Mundo
There are shuttles and tour that take you to Mitad del Mundo. I ended up taking the local bus as its about one dollar, instead of the tours or tourist buses. Bus E7 leaves from Estación Marin Central in Quito old town and you want to get off at Benalcazar. The busride will take you around 1 hour, depending on the traffic and the route of the bus you get on. When you get you’ll be able to see the monument.
Visit The Mitad del Mundo Monument and the Museo Solar Init Ñan
The entrance is 5 dollars. I skipped the monument and headed straight for the museum located on the exact spot measured with GPS. To get there you have to walk along a road going on the right side of the monument. The museum is called Museo Solar Inti Ñan and I really enjoyed my visit there. The entrance price is 4 dollars and it comes with a tour included. The tour shows you different artifact from the indigenous that used to live in Ecuador, among them the shrunken heads. The guides also demonstrate how the gravity works differently depending on which side of the equator you’re on. By example, the water goes down a drain, one way in Australia, and the opposite way in Norway. If you’re directly on the equator though, it kind of just goes straight down. If you don’t believe me, go see for your self.
9. Have lunch in the market and check out the herb selection on the first floor.
The market in the old town is a nice place to have lunch after a day of sightseeing. Be sure to check out the sea bass they sell there as it’s supposed to be a specialty in Ecuador. In the first floor among other things, you’ll find some herb stands. If you have any kind of pains or feel a bit sick they’ll give you a mix of herbs that will make you feel better. You can even buy a herbmix for good luck, and to get rid of bad luck or even to find love!
10. Go to a viewpoint by day, and by night!
So if you went up the volcano with the teleferico you already saw the city from above once. And the view from the Virgin Mary statue gave you another view of the city. Try to check out the city during the night too, from one of the viewpoints in the city. But you can also just do like I did and climb the streets of the old town until you find a good spot! You’re in for an amazing view!
11. Check out at least one of the may church in town!
I went to Basilica church and paid 2 dollars to get up in the tower. The church is located in Quitos Ols Town and has two entrances, so you’ll have to choose one or the other, or both if you want to pay double. I went for the towers on the front part of the church and can really recommend! On your way up the many stairs, you’ll walk past one of the huge windows with stained glass. Its covered in beautiful patterns in different colors. If you’re as lucky as I was the sun might shine through the colored glass. As a result, you’ll see the patterns even better. It really complements the beauty of the window art. If you continue up the spiraling stairs you’ll reach the clock tower where a stunning view awaits.
There are of course so much more to the city located in the middle of the earth, but these are some of the top things to do in Quito that will hopefully get you started!
If you’re traveling through Ecuador don’t miss out on beautiful Baños, the place for extreme sport and thermal baths. On your way maybe you should consider hiking Volcano Cotopaxi!