How to experience the best of Quito in five days?

Places to visit in Quito Ecuador

Situated over 2,800 meters above sea level and surrounded by the breathtaking Andes, Quito is a hidden gem of South America that captivates all its visitors.

It’s a melting pot of cultures, where indigenous, colonial, and modern elements merge seamlessly. The city hosts a vibrant artistic and cultural scene, with top-notch museums like the Central Bank Museum and the Contemporary Art Center.

Quito retains an authenticity and charm that can be hard to find in other more developed capitals. What should you visit before bidding farewell to the city? We’ll tell you in this article.

Exploring Quito’s Icons: A 5-Day Itinerary

The first question that may arise is… Can you get to know Quito in 5 days? The answer is yes, you can put together a comprehensive itinerary without going crazy. That’s why, from our hotel in Ecuador, we recommend a series of activities that never disappoint.

Day 1: Arrival and exploration of Quito’s Historic Center

The airport is located in Tababela, approximately a 40-minute drive from downtown Quito. You can take a taxi, a private shuttle service, or an airport bus to reach your accommodation. At our hotel, we offer shuttle services that you can book in advance.

Once you arrive at your accommodation, check-in and take some time to rest and acclimate to the altitude. If you booked boutique hotels in Quito, Ecuador, like ours, you’ll immerse yourself in Ecuadorian culture from the get-go as we are located in carefully restored historical buildings that maintain the charm and elegance of the colonial era.

Now it’s time to consider the things to do in Old Town Quito. If you want to start your visit with a touch of luxury, this elegant restaurant located in a restored mansion offers a menu that combines traditional Ecuadorian cuisine with a gourmet approach. It’s right on Plaza San Francisco, making it an excellent starting point for your exploration.

For a more authentic and local experience, visit the Central Market. Here, you can taste traditional dishes like ceviche, hornado (roast pork), and fresh fruit juice. It’s a vibrant and lively place that will give you a glimpse into the daily life of Quitenos.

After lunch, head to Independence Square, the heart of the Historic Center. Here, you can visit the Carondelet Palace, the seat of the Ecuadorian government. Located in the same square, you’ll also find the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito.

Don’t forget to visit the “Basílica del Voto Nacional”, the largest example of neo-Gothic architecture in Ecuador and one of the largest in Latin America. Its design mimics the style of European Gothic cathedrals but with a unique local touch. Unlike traditional gargoyles representing mythical creatures, the Basilica’s gargoyles are sculptures of Ecuadorian endemic animals like iguanas, Galapagos turtles, condors, and armadillos. This adds a distinctive and indigenous element to the structure.

At sunset, head to La Ronda, a picturesque colonial street filled with artisan workshops and souvenir shops. Here, you can purchase local crafts and watch artisans at work live. It’s also known for its traditional restaurants and cafes. Try delicacies like empanadas de viento, buñuelos, and hot chocolate with cheese!

Day 2: TelefériQo and Middle of the World

The Quito Teleferic, known as TelefériQo, is located on the slopes of Pichincha Volcano. You can reach it by taxi or private transportation from your hotel.

The TelefériQo opens early in the morning. It’s advisable to arrive early to avoid crowds and enjoy the best views. Purchase your tickets at the entrance or online in advance.

The Quito TelefériQo is a cable car operating in Quito, Ecuador, located on the foothills of Rucu Pichincha volcano. It ascends from the Motriz platform (or Departure Station) at 3,117 meters above sea level to Cruz Loma (Arrival Station) at 3,947 meters above sea level, making it one of the highest cable cars in the world!

The cable car ride lasts approximately 18 minutes and takes you from 2,950 meters to 4,050 meters above sea level. During the ascent, enjoy panoramic views of Quito and the Andes.

Once at the top, you’ll arrive at the Cruz Loma station. From here, you can hike along marked trails. The most popular hike is towards Rucu Pichincha, a challenging hike that takes you even higher, offering spectacular views.

There’s a café at the upper station where you can relax, have a coffee, and enjoy the views. Some lookout points offer unparalleled views of Quito and the surrounding volcanoes like Cotopaxi and Antisana.

For the afternoon, another adventure awaits. The Middle of the World City is about 45 minutes north of Quito. You can get there by taxi, private transportation, or tourist buses that offer regular trips to this destination.

The complex includes a monument marking the equator line, dividing the planet into two hemispheres. The monument is a 30-meter-high stone obelisk with a yellow line running along its equator. There’s also a museum in the complex showcasing exhibits about the equator line and its history. The museum also features a planetarium and a theater.

Within the Middle of the World complex, there are several restaurants and cafés offering ecuadorian food. Try traditional dishes like locro de papa, shrimp ceviche, and seco de chivo. After lunch, you can relax at one of the local cafés and explore souvenir shops selling crafts and unique souvenirs.

Day 3: Mindo and the Cloud Forest

The third day of your adventure in Quito takes you out of the city to Mindo, a charming town nestled in the cloud forest of the Andes. This ecological paradise is known for its biodiversity, lush landscapes, and a wide variety of outdoor activities.

Mindo is about a two-hour drive northwest of Quito. You can rent a car, hire private transportation, or join an organized tour. Leave early to make the most of the day.

The journey itself is an experience, as you will travel through mountainous landscapes, forests, and small Andean villages. Be sure to have your camera ready to capture the stunning views.

If you didn’t have breakfast in Quito, stop by one of the local cafes to enjoy a traditional Ecuadorian breakfast with fresh fruit juices, artisanal breads, and regional coffee.

One of Mindo’s main attractions is its waterfall sanctuary. You can hike or take a tarabita (cable car) that will take you through the forest to a trail that connects several waterfalls. The most popular are the Nambillo Waterfall and the Reina Waterfall.

The trails are well-marked and will take you through the lush rainforest. Bring your swimsuit if you want to swim in the natural pools formed by the waterfalls. The coolness of the water is refreshing after the hike.

Visit the Mindo Butterfly Garden to see up close some of the most beautiful and colorful butterfly species in Ecuador. Learn about their life cycle and the importance of conserving their habitat. In addition to butterflies, the butterfly garden is home to hummingbirds and other native insects that can be observed in their natural environment.

For adrenaline seekers, Mindo offers exciting canopy tours that take you through the treetops of the cloud forest. Local companies offer safe tours with different levels of difficulty. From the heights, you will have panoramic views of the forest and the opportunity to see the region’s biodiversity from a unique perspective.

If you decide to return to Quito, be sure to have your transportation arranged in advance. The return trip is approximately two hours and it is recommended to return before nightfall.

Day 4: A short trip to Otavalo

Otavalo is a city located in the Ecuadorian Andes, two hours north of Quito. It is known for its indigenous market, which is held every Saturday. The market is a great place to buy handicrafts, textiles, and other local products.

Upon arrival in Otavalo, head to the local market where you will find a variety of stalls offering traditional Ecuadorian breakfasts. Try the colada morada (a hot drink made from purple corn) with empanadas or tamales.

The Plaza de Ponchos is the heart of the market and the place where you will find the largest concentration of stalls. Here you can admire the vibrant indigenous textiles, including the famous alpaca wool ponchos and other traditional fabrics.

After exploring the market, enjoy lunch at one of the local restaurants offering typical food from the region. Try dishes such as roasted guinea pig (cuy asado), pork fritada (fritada), or fresh trout from nearby rivers.

Take some time to stroll through the picturesque streets of the town, where you will find colonial houses, historic churches, and colorful murals. Do not miss the church of San Luis de Otavalo, a beautiful example of Baroque architecture.

Day 5: Museums and neighborhoods full of culture

The fifth and final day of your trip to Quito is reserved for exploring the city’s cultural and artistic richness.

Start your day by exploring the National Museum of Ecuador, located in the city’s historic center. Here you will find an impressive collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, colonial art, and exhibitions on the country’s history and culture. Don’t miss the room dedicated to the La Tolita Culture, which exhibits unique archaeological pieces, as well as the section dedicated to Ecuador’s republican history.

Continue your tour by visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art, which houses a diverse collection of works by contemporary Ecuadorian artists. Explore the different galleries and enjoy the variety of artistic expressions that this cultural space offers.

Conclude your morning visit to the Guayasamín Museum, dedicated to the famous Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamín. Here you can admire some of his most outstanding works, which reflect his commitment to social justice and human rights. The museum also has a collection of pre-Columbian and colonial art.

Head to the La Floresta neighborhood, known for its bohemian atmosphere and varied gastronomic offerings. Explore the streets full of art galleries, charming cafes, and restaurants. Choose a local restaurant to enjoy a traditional Ecuadorian or international lunch.

After lunch, stroll through the picturesque San Marcos neighborhood, known for its narrow cobblestone streets and artistic atmosphere. Visit the numerous art galleries and craft shops that display the work of local artists.

To end your day, visit Plaza Foch, the epicenter of Quito’s nightlife. Here you will find a wide variety of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants where you can enjoy live music, cocktails, and the lively atmosphere of this popular destination among locals and tourists.

Quito’s traditional neighborhoods are ideal for exploring on foot, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk.

Rest and relax in one of the best hotels in Quito

Hotel Ecuatreasures provides the perfect refuge to rest after a day full of adventures in Quito. Strategically located in the heart of the Old Town Quito, it offers easy access to main tourist attractions such as Independence Square, museums, and colonial churches.

Our complimentary services are designed to enhance your experience and ensure your comfort during your stay. Enjoy a delicious complimentary local breakfast, where you can savor authentic Andean cuisine dishes that will delight you with their unique flavors.

Furthermore, our highly personalized concierge service is at your disposal to provide recommendations and assistance with anything you may need. From tourist information to restaurant reservations and activities, we are here to make your stay as enjoyable as possible.

For those seeking a bit more luxury and relaxation, we offer additional services such as Andean energy massages, food tours, and Andean cooking classes. Additionally, you can opt for our round-trip private transfer services, private transportation, and personalized tours to explore Quito at your own pace. That’s why we are known as one of the best boutique hotels in Quito, Ecuador.