Tips for Independent Travelers in Ecuador

travel advice Ecuador

Traveling alone can be one of the most enriching and transformative experiences a person can have. South America offers a rich experience in cultural, natural, and historical diversity. Each country has its own unique blend of traditions, music, dance, and cuisine. And Ecuador is definitely no exception.

Our country is an ideal destination for solo travelers seeking adventures, discoveries, and moments of introspection. Do you dream of exploring this degree of freedom at your own pace? This type of trip also requires careful planning to ensure that your experience is safe and hassle-free.

Fortunately, Ecuador is known for its hospitality and the kindness of its people, making it easier and more enjoyable to navigate the country, even if you’re traveling on your own.

Best places to visit in Ecuador

Ecuador, with its rich geographical and cultural diversity, offers a wide range of destinations that captivate any traveler.

The Amazon region of Ecuador, known as the Oriente, is a paradise for nature lovers and ecotourism enthusiasts. Areas like the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve and the Cuyabeno Faunistic Production Reserve are ideal for exploring the rainforest and observing an impressive variety of flora and fauna. Visitors can embark on canoe excursions, jungle hikes, and visits to indigenous communities to learn about their traditions and ways of life.

The Ecuadorian coast is a diverse region that combines paradisiacal beaches, dry forests, and vibrant fishing villages. Areas like Machalilla National Park, home to the famous Los Frailes beach, and Isla de la Plata are ideal for sea lovers.

The Ecuadorian Andes are an impressive mountain range that traverses the country from north to south. This region is home to majestic volcanoes, lagoons, and national parks.

Finally, no visit to Ecuador would be complete without exploring its vibrant capital, Quito and its surroundings. Located in the heart of the Andes, Quito is a city of contrasts where history and modernity intertwine in a unique way.

The Ecuadorian capital, Quito, is famous for its well-preserved historic center. With its cobblestone streets, colonial squares, baroque churches, and ancient monasteries, walking through the center of Quito is like stepping back in time. The Church of the Society of Jesus, with its impressive golden interior, and Independence Square, surrounded by historic buildings, are just some of the many places that reflect the rich history and culture of the city.

Transportation tips in Ecuador

When it comes to travel tips for Ecuador, transportation is often the first thing that comes to mind. Choosing wisely can save you money during your trip. Knowing the fares and options for affordable transportation allows you to adjust your travel budget and avoid unnecessary expenses on taxis or other expensive means of transport.

The good thing about traveling to Quito is that you’ll have a wide variety of transportation options at your disposal, making it easy to get around and reach the areas you want to explore.

Quito has a well-developed public transportation system:

  • Buses: The most economical way to get around Quito. The bus network is extensive and reaches most neighborhoods in the city.
  • Metro: The fastest way to get around Quito. The metro has a single line that connects the north with the south of the city.
  • Trolleybus: An electric transportation system that operates in the historic center of the city, cheaper than the metro.

All of these options are the most viable if your goal is to save a few dollars during your trip.

Taxis are a convenient and reliable option for getting around Quito, especially in areas where public transportation may be limited or infrequent. Official taxis are easily recognizable by their yellow license plates and visible license numbers.

In addition to conventional taxis, ride-sharing services like Uber and Cabify are also available in the city, offering a safe and modern alternative for getting around.

If you prefer to explore the city and its surroundings at your own pace, renting a vehicle is an excellent option. With numerous car rental companies available in Quito, you can rent a vehicle and enjoy the freedom to travel at your own pace and according to your own schedule.

But beware! Many of the attractions, such as the Historic Center, are easily accessible on foot, and walking allows you to discover unique corners and details that might be overlooked otherwise.

Hence the importance of choosing hotels in Quito that are located directly in the center of Quito, as is the case with Hotel Ecuatreasures.

Places and activities to immerse yourself in Quito’s Culture

La Floresta

La Floresta is famous for its rich cultural life and dynamic artistic scene. The streets are adorned with colorful murals that tell local stories and reflect the creative spirit of the neighborhood. Additionally, numerous cultural centers and art galleries offer regular exhibitions by Ecuadorian and international artists.

It is a neighborhood located about 3 kilometers from the historic center of Quito. What can we do there?

El Ocho y Medio is an iconic independent cinema and cultural center in La Floresta. This space is a meeting point for filmmakers, actors, and film enthusiasts, offering a varied program that includes art house cinema, documentaries, short films, and independent films from around the world.

La Floresta is a paradise for food lovers, with a wide variety of restaurants and cafes offering everything from traditional Ecuadorian dishes to innovative international cuisine. The gastronomic diversity of the neighborhood reflects its cosmopolitan character and its openness to new culinary trends.

Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana

The Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana (CCE) is an emblematic institution and a cultural cornerstone in Quito. Founded in 1944 by the distinguished Ecuadorian writer Benjamín Carrión, the CCE’s mission is to promote and disseminate Ecuadorian culture in all its forms.

Located in the north center of the city, in the Itchimbía parish, about 4 kilometers from Quito Old Town, it has several facilities that host various cultural activities:

  • National Museum of Ecuador (MuNa): This museum, located within the CCE, offers permanent and temporary exhibitions that showcase the rich history and culture of Ecuador, from pre-Columbian artifacts to contemporary art.
  • Teatro Nacional Sucre: An impressive theater where plays, concerts, operas, and other high-quality artistic events are presented.
  • Eugenio Espejo National Library: One of the most important libraries in the country, with a vast collection of books, historical documents, and research material.
  • Art Galleries: Several galleries within the CCE exhibit works by contemporary and classic Ecuadorian artists, providing a platform for the dissemination of national art.

The CCE is open to the public, and many of its exhibitions and events are free or have an accessible cost: festivals, plays, concerts, art exhibitions, and more.

Quito Old Town

The Historic Center of Quito is a place full of history, culture, and beauty. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 and is one of the best-preserved historic centers in Latin America.

What can’t you miss here? Let’s see.

Plaza de la Independencia

Also known as Plaza Grande, it is the main square of Quito and the heart of the historic center. It houses the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Carondelet Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace, and the Independence Monument.

The Metropolitan Cathedral is the largest church in Quito and one of the most important in Ecuador. Its construction began in 1535 and lasted for two centuries.

The Carondelet Palace is the seat of the government of Ecuador. The palace was built in the 18th century and has been the residence of several Ecuadorian presidents.

The Archbishop’s Palace is the residence of the Archbishop of Quito. The palace was built in the 16th century and is one of the oldest buildings in the city.

Plaza de San Francisco

This square is another important landmark in the Historic Center. The impressive Church and Convent of San Francisco, with its blend of Gothic, Mudéjar, and Baroque architecture, dominates the square.

As you stroll through the square, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The colonial architecture surrounding it, with its volcanic stone houses, carved balconies, and cobblestone streets, will captivate you with its timeless charm.

San Francisco Market

Quito’s local markets are a window into the everyday life and rich culture of the city. Here, visitors can experience firsthand the traditions, flavors, and customs that make the Ecuadorian capital unique. Two of the most prominent markets are the San Francisco Market and the Otavalo Market, which we’ll discuss below.

The San Francisco Market is one of the oldest and most traditional in Quito. Founded in the 16th century, it is located in the heart of the Historic Center, near San Francisco Square. This market has been a central point of trade and community life for centuries.

City Museum

This museum offers a deep insight into the history and culture of Quito from pre-Columbian times to the present day. It is located in a colonial building that was a hospital in the 16th century.

Through a carefully curated collection of objects, artworks, and archaeological pieces, the museum narrates the evolution of Quito over the centuries. You will discover the ancestral cultures that inhabited the region, the impact of the Spanish conquest, the development of the colonial city, and the shaping of modern Quito.

The museum features permanent exhibitions covering various themes, such as daily life in colonial Quito, the city’s architecture, popular traditions, and urban culture. Additionally, temporary exhibitions are organized to delve into specific aspects of Quito’s history and culture.

It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday!

What places are more accessible to visit on the outskirts of Quito?

Middle of the World

Located on the outskirts of Quito, the Middle of the World is one of Ecuador’s most emblematic and fascinating destinations. This site marks the equator line, the exact point where the northern hemisphere meets the southern hemisphere.

The central monument is an impressive structure marking the 0°0’0” latitude. This iconic obelisk has a sphere on top and is surrounded by a park with exhibits and souvenir shops. Climbing to the top of the monument offers panoramic views of the Andes and the surrounding region. The monument is aligned with a painted line on the ground representing the equator, allowing visitors to stand with one foot in each hemisphere.

Near the main monument is the Intiñan Museum, an interactive place that offers a more detailed and practical experience about life on the equator line. For example, you can see how water flows in different directions in each hemisphere due to the Coriolis effect, observe the demonstration of weight loss due to lower gravity, and experience the difficulty of balancing an egg on a nail, something that is easier to do exactly on the equator.

TelefériQo

The Quito Teleférico is a quick and convenient way to reach the heights of the city. Rising to over 4,000 meters above sea level, it offers stunning views of Quito and its surroundings, including the Pichincha volcano. It’s a great spot for short hikes and enjoying the fresh mountain air.

Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi National Park, home to the world’s highest active volcano, is located approximately 50 kilometers south of Quito. It’s a popular destination for day trips from the city. There’s an accessible visitor center with exhibits about the volcano and the surrounding region. Short hikes to Limpiopungo Lagoon, which offers breathtaking views of Cotopaxi, are also possible.

Papallacta Hot Springs

Located approximately 67 kilometers east of Quito, the Papallacta Hot Springs are a haven of relaxation and well-being. Surrounded by cloud forests and lush landscapes, these natural thermal waters offer the perfect opportunity to rejuvenate body and mind. It’s an ideal place to enjoy a spa day and disconnect from the city.

Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve

This protected natural reserve hosts a variety of ecosystems, including cloud forests, páramos, and volcanoes. It is located in the northern Andes of Ecuador, approximately 17 kilometers from Quito, in the Calacalí and San Antonio de Pichincha parishes.

From Quito, you’ll need to take a bus to Mitad del Mundo. From Mitad del Mundo, take a taxi or minibus to the reserve.

For those who want to explore the reserve on foot, there are accessible trails that lead to strategically located viewpoints. These viewpoints offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes, allowing visitors to admire the magnificence of the volcanoes, valleys, and green fields.

Otavalo Market

This is perhaps an interesting destination that can be done with a short two-hour trip from Quito. It is one of the largest and most famous artisan markets in Latin America. It is located in the city of Otavalo, in the province of Imbabura, Ecuador, about a two-hour drive north of Quito. The market is open every day, but it is busiest on Saturdays when indigenous people from the region come to sell their products.

It’s a maze of stalls selling a wide variety of crafts, including textiles, jewelry, ceramics, leather, and wood. Prices are generally very reasonable, and you can haggle with the vendors. In addition to buying souvenirs, you can also enjoy people-watching, try local food, and learn about the culture of Ecuador’s indigenous peoples.

You’ll do a lot of walking, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes!

There are several ways to get to the Otavalo Market from Quito, depending on your budget, available time, and preferences. The most economical and popular option is buses that depart from the Carcelén Bus Terminal in Quito frequently, approximately every 20 minutes.

Connecting with the Traveler Community

If you already have experience traveling solo, you surely know the importance of connecting with other travelers along the way. Connecting with the traveler community can greatly enrich your experience and offer you unique perspectives on destinations, activities, and practical advice.

Join traveler groups and communities on platforms like Facebook, Reddit, or Instagram. These groups are often very active and provide a space to ask questions, share experiences, and meet other travelers with similar interests.

Participate in guided tours, excursions, or group activities organized at your destination. These activities not only allow you to explore the place more deeply but also offer the opportunity to meet other travelers with whom to share experiences and make new friends.

Use apps specifically designed for travelers, such as Couchsurfing, Meetup, or Travello. These apps allow you to connect with locals and other travelers who are in the same area.

The best way to meet other travelers? Stay in the best hotels in Quito historic district. These are none other than boutique hotels.

Find your ideal room at our hotel in Quito

Boutique hotels in Quito often offer a cozy and personalized atmosphere that facilitates interaction among guests. Additionally, as smaller establishments, you’re more likely to have the opportunity to strike up conversations with other travelers in common areas such as lounges, dining areas, or the courtyard.

One standout example is Ecuatreasures Hotel, an eco-friendly hotel in Quito that blends the elegance of a colonial house with the authenticity of Ecuadorian Andean identity. This hotel offers impeccably clean and extremely comfortable rooms, decorated with exquisite taste that reflects the rich local culture.

You can take advantage of our complimentary concierge service, which provides recommendations on local activities. We’re located in Quito Old Town, just meters away from points of interest!