Quito, our first taste of Ecuador, became all about long walks and beautiful mountain and city views. It’s a massive place, being the country’s capital with a population over 2.6 million. It happens to be the highest capital city in the world at 2850 metres above sea level and is also the closest to the equator. We spent our time in “Old City” and the neighbouring districts of La Mariscal and La Floresta. These areas being the most popular with travellers.
We heard rumours about the presidential elections currently happening in Ecuador. However we didn’t pay much attention to it. Turns out we arrived the weekend of the elections. Apparently there was no ideal outcome as the population is split on the two candidates. A win for either one could mean protests in the streets, potentially getting violent and posing issues for travellers. Just to be safe the government placed a city wide ban on alcohol….nice.
As soon as we left the airport and caught some glimpses of the city we were pretty excited about the exploring that laid ahead of us. Quito is a stunning city, nestled in the Andes, featuring amazing architecture. Quito proudly possesses one of the most extensive and best-preserved historic centres of Spanish America.
The walking and the views got better each of the three short days we stayed. Day one the view was from the rooftop terrace of our new temporary home, Quito Backpacker Guesthouse. The rooftop offered 360 degree views of the Old City, highlighting La Virgin del Panecillo, a massive aluminum statue overlooking the city and a dark looking gothic cathedral, we agreed we would get a closer look tomorrow. Quito Backpacker Guesthouse was easily one of the coolest places we’ve stayed. It’s like an old colonial mansion, with four floors full of rooms and plenty of common areas to hang. The staff is amazing. $20 got us a private room with a bathroom and a decent breakfast each morning.
Day two boasted views from that gothic cathedral we spotted the day before from our rooftop. We learned the proper name too, Basílica del Voto Nacional. What ended up being really cool about this place is that for $2 we could explore the whole church, we climbed to its highest point, across a plank bridge above the main hall and up steep metal stairs to the tower. We took in the views and spent the rest of the day walking around the Old City, which eventually led to our crazy pickpocket story you can read here.
As if Quito wasn’t high enough from sea level, on day three we went another 2000 metres high on the Teleferico, a cable car that ascends to one of the highest mountain tops, just a few kilometers out of the Old City. This is a must do for visitors to Quito. The views are awesome and you can do a hike while at the top, downhill bike the trails to the bottom or just spend a few minutes wondering around and catch the next car down like we did. We took a cab to the base of the Teleferico but we decided to walk around ourselves after. We zig zagged through the city streets for hours until we literally got shin splints and our feet were too sore to continue.
To top off our final night in Quito, we joined a couple other guests and staff on the rooftop for an amazing BBQ feast. We had unlimited amounts of marinated chicken, pork, beef and sausages and some tasty sides prepared by the staff.
The good thing was the elections didn’t effect our time in Quito, things stayed safe overall, no new president was announced during our stay. We may have even enjoyed the odd illicit drink, thanks to the locals that hooked us up!