Nestled on the flanks of a valley, itself surrounded by sumptuous volcanoes summits, Quito will take your breath away. First of all, literally, because it is located at an average altitude of 2850 meters (9,350 feet) above sea level, then because it is one of the most beautiful Andean capitals. Thanks to a very well preserved colonial historical center, the city has been listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its 2 million inhabitants (nearly 3 million if we take into account its agglomeration), Quito is a huge city that stretches all the way into the valley between volcanoes Rucu Pichincha and Chichoca, but most of the time, you will just feel home.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

HOW TO GET THERE ?

I. FROM THE AEROPUERTO INTERNACIONAL MARISCAL SUGAR
You can reach the city center in many ways:

PUBLIC BUSES:
Buses serve the main terminals of the city.
Price: US$2.00
• To the north, the Rio Coca terminal: from 5:30AM to 10:00PM
• To the south, the Quitumbe terminal: from 05:30AM to 7:00PM

PRIVATE BUSES:
The company Aeroservicios transfers between the new airport and the old one, located on the current bicentennial park, close to the city center.
Price: US$8.00 each way
Reservations: www.aeroservicios.com.ec
Timetable:
From Monday to Friday
Quito – Airport: from 03:30AM to 10:00PM,
Airport – Quito: from 04:30AM to 11:00PM.
Every 30 minutes.
Buses can leave the airport after 23:30 if the occupancy rate is sufficient.
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays
Quito – Airport: from 04:00AM to 9:30PM,
Airport – Quito: 05:00AM to 11:30PM
Every 30 minutes.

BY TAXI:
The ride to downtown is at a fixed price of US$26.00.For other areas of the city, prices range from US$17.00 (Cumbaya) to US$47.50 (San Antonio de Pichincha).

RENTAL CARS:
You’ll find the major rental agencies (Hertz, Avis, Localiza, Budget and Thrifty) in the terminal’s arrivals hall.


II. FROM THE BUS TERMINALS
See below.

HOW TO CIRCULATE?

FAST BUSES:
The city has a highly developed, fast and extremely democratic public transport system (US$ 0.25). The Metrobus-Q network consists of three main circuits: Trolebus (trolleybus), Ecovía and Metrobus. All circulate along the north – south axis and have mostly their own bus lanes, making them fast and efficient.
http://www.trolebus.gob.ec/

Trolebus (trolleybus) are fast lines serving the city center along the highway E35, which breaks down during its passage through the capital in Avenida Diez de Agostos (north), Calle Guayaquil (center) and Avenida Pedro Vicente Maldonado (south). Night Buses: a large part of the lines are also serviced all night at the rate of a bus every 30 minutes.

Ecovía deserts the eastern part of the city. This network is notably composed of articulated buses. Buses transit between the Rio Coca terminal (north, from where you can reach the airport) and the terminals Sur Ecovía and Quitumbe. They pass along the Avenida 6 de Diciembre (north), Avenida Pichincha then the Avenida Pedro Vicente Maldonado (south).
The Metrobus mainly serves the western part of the city between La Ofelia Terminal (north) and the Quitumbe Terrestrial Terminal (south), passing along Avenida América.

LOCAL BUSES:
These buses (US$0.25) are ideal for short and medium distances. One of their main advantages is that you can virtually hop on and off anywhere you’d like to. Here, no line number, just the names of the departure and arrival terminals posted on a panel located under the windshield.

WALK:
It is easy and pleasant, when one manages to escape the black smoke’s plumes spewed by the buses going up the city’s slopes, to move on foot. Especially in the hollow of the valley and mainly between the historic center and the new center.

WHERE TO STAY?

Community Hostel
It’s probably the best hostel in town with an incredible family vibe. The included breakfasts (daily options are changing everyday) prepared by a chef are among the best I had in Latin America hostels. They have everyday activities like free morning Yoga on the panoramic rooftop, cheap & delicious family dinners (veggie options available; barbecue takes place once a week) also prepared by the chef, free Salsa classes, bar crowling on weekends and a travel agency as well.
Prices: dorm bed from US$10 to US$12.5, private room at US$30.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/communityhostel/
Booking.com: http://www.booking.com/Share-3emr41f

I can’t resist to share the breakfast pictures I took during my stay.

WHAT TO DO?

IN QUITO

Old City

Prized by locals and tourists, one of the jewels of Quito is its historic center, its pretty squares, its narrow streets framed by its beautiful buildings with 17th century facades, its many churches, monasteries and basilica.

Plaza de la Independencia (Plaza Grande)
This majestic popular square is surrounded by sumptuous buildings including the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito, the Palacio de Carondelet (the Presidential Palace) and the Municipio (City Hall) of Quito. In its center, stands the monument to the heroes of August 10, 1809, date considered as the first popular uprising, called the « First Cry of Independence. » In the arcades of the Palacio Arzobispal, go mingle with the locals at Los Sánduches. Like them, eat at the bar one of the delicious sandwiches of the of Plaza Grande.

Basílica del Sagrado Voto Nacional
Often compared to the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, this massive but no less magnificent Neo-Gothic church is the largest building of its kind in Latin America. It still measures 150 meters (492 ft.) long and 35 meters (115 ft.) wide, and its nave also rises to 35 meters. Standing on a hill to the northeast of the old city, the church is a prominent architectural feature of the urban landscape, visible from almost any point, and is very useful as a reference point for navigating in the city. This particular situation also makes it a privileged place to admire the city panoramic view from its towers. The first level is accessible by elevator. To reach the top of the tower, you will continue climbing through a steep staircase, but the magnificent panoramic view is well worth it.
Schedule: 9:00AM-5:00PM
Price: US$2.00

El Panecillo
This 200 meter (656 ft.) high volcanic hill that rises to 3016 meters (6,614 ft.) above sea level is the most visited place in the city. At the top of it, the statue of the Virgin of Quito, itself 41 meters (134,5 ft) high, is composed of 7000 pieces of aluminum. It is also the only world representation of the virgin with wings. Inside these, different levels offer spectacular views of the city. Located south of the historic center, you can reach the summit by climbing the stairs but they have a bad reputation (although nothing happened to me), a taxi from the center is probably the safest option. The best time to have an unobstructed view is early in the morning before clouds cover the sky, but the best light will definitely be at the end of the day.
Opening hours: 9:00AM-1:30PM / 2:30PM-5PM
Entry: US$1.00

The Church and Monastery of San Francisco
This imposing building, whose construction began a few weeks after the founding of the city in 1534 and completed in 1604, is the largest colonial-style architectural ensemble in Latin America. Together, its church and monastery cover 3 hectares on which there are 13 cloisters, 3 churches and a large courtyard. The rigor of its facade contrasts with the refinement of the interior church’s ornamentation. The courtyard of the monastery is a wonderful haven of peace outside the city’s hustle and bustle.
Admission: US$2.5 (Monastery)

Mercado Mayor de San Roque
Gigantic anthill where locals from the entire country gather, including the native Indians, the daily market of San Roque is the largest of the capital. There are 2800 vendors and the neighborhood brews weekly about 200.000 people who come to shop here. On the market stalls and on the adjacent streets, there is absolutely everything: fruits, vegetables, spices, clothes, etc. Unfortunately, many children and young adolescents, mostly girls, accompany their parents at dawn in the market and work there every day from 6:00AM to 2:00PM. But fortunately the « Casa del Ninez » carries out a long-term work to gradually bring these children back to school benches.

TelefériQo
Probably the city’s most popular attraction, the cable car of Quito will take you in about fifteen minutes to the foot of the volcano Pichincha. Located at 3945 meters (12,943 feet) altitude, the tourist site of Cruz Loma offers a breathtaking view on the capital and its surroundings. Get warm clothes to cover you up because it is significantly colder than in the valley, all accentuated by a very strong wind. It is also the starting point for the ascent of the active Pichincha volcano.
Price: US$8.5 (ID required)
Hours: Mo-Th 9:00AM-8:00PM; Fr-Su 8:00AM-8:00PM

Sendero of Humboldt
Hiking lovers will prefer to reach La Cruz Loma on foot. To join the path that leaves from the end of Calle El Pinar, you will cross the favela of La Chilena. I was advised not to go there but I did not have the slightest problem. If you prefer to play safe, take a taxi (official) to the waterfall La Chorrera. The trail has no difficulty except the altitude. Arrived at the Cruz Loma, normally it shouldn’t be possible to go down by cable car if you didn’t buy your ticket beforehand.
Distance: 6 km (3.75 miles)
Duration: ~ 2h30 of ascent
Altitude difference: ↗️ 1100 meters (3,609 feet)

Volcan Rucu Pichincha
It is from the TelefériQo station that the path (5.1 km/16,732 feet) leads to the top of the volcano, which is culminating at 4680 meters (15,354 feet). Allow about 5 hours to make the round trip. Weather conditions are generally better in the morning; therefore it is strongly advised to start your ascent early in the morning and at the latest before 10 am.

Make sure you acclimatised yourself to the altitude before heading to this hike as many had to return before reaching the summit due to heavy headaches.

Going out

The district of Mariscal is without any doubt the most westernized of the capital. Which explains why the locals call it « Gringolandia » (the country of tourists). There you will find many shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Therefore it’s definitely the Quito’s nightlife hotspot. Unfortunately, it is also the playground for (very) young delinquents who will not hesitate to take advantage of your drunkenness state to rob you (sometimes under the threat of a knife or with the complicity of a taxi driver) when it is time for you to reach your hostel. So as always, go out with the bare essentials (copy of your passport), stay always accompanied, and be especially vigilant in the late evening. Try to get the number of a trusted taxi or use an Uber (even if I do not endorse this company). This way, nothing should happened to you.

OUTSIDE QUITO

The Otavalo market
The city surrounded by volcanoes is known for its large Saturday colorful market. Weekly, local indigenous people are coming from the entire province to sell textiles but also a host of other objects and of course foodstuffs as well. On the busiest days of the market, it’s one-third of the city streets that are covered with stalls. But you will find vendors throughout the week, especially in « Plaza de los Ponchos ». Due to the fast expending tourist market, most textiles sold on the market are no longer hand-made but made in neighboring textile industries. Also, prices can be up to four times higher than their normal selling price. But keep in mind that most of these people live well below the poverty line and that the sale of these fabrics is a substantial income for these indigenous families. You will find handmade crafts by visiting the surrounding communities.
To get there, take a bus to the Carcelén North Terminal. Then a bus goes directly to Otavalo. Count around 3h in all.

Mitad del Mundo Monument
Being in the middle of the world or more exactly, on the equator, this imaginary line that separates the southern northern hemisphere has something exhilarating. But do not expect something impressive. The place has more symbolic value because it is here that was conducted the geodesic mission carried out by the French Academy of Sciences to measure the length of a meridian arc of one degree, from the equator thus. Meridians are imaginary lines of constant longitude passing through a given place on Earth’s Surface and the terrestrial poles. Think of the Greenwich Meridian. The scientific mission, together with an expedition sent near the North Pole in Lapland, confirmed Isaac Newton’s hypothesis that the globe is not a perfect sphere, but is swollen near the equator and flattened at the poles.

You will be given some fun experiments about rotation force effects on the equator line and on both sides of it, but (spoiler) they do not have any scientific value. This is because the Coriolis force (which is responsible for the rotation of fluids moving on the surface of the Earth) is zero at the equator and only begins to have effects at latitudes of more than 5 to 10 degrees. This is also the reason why there are no cyclones at the equator. In addition, the Coriolis force is totally negligible on small amounts of water like those involved in the flow of your sink.
To get there, take a Metrobus to the Ofelia terminal and then the bus to Mitad del Mundo.