The Impactful Traveler’s Guide to Quito

Welcome to your ultimate traveler’s guide to Quito, a city where culture, nature, and impactful travel converge into an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re keen on exploring the city’s rich history, diving into its vibrant food scene, or taking a Quito day trip to discover the surrounding natural wonders, this guide has got you covered. We’ll walk you through everything from the must-see sights to hidden gems, all while highlighting ways to make your trip beneficial for both you and the local community.

So, if you’re ready to go beyond the typical tourist routes and experience Quito in a way that’s as enriching as it is responsible, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s embark on this impactful journey together!

In this Guide, we’ll take a look at:

cityscape of quito, ecuador

The Soul of Quito: History and Culture

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is a city that wears its rich history and vibrant culture like a badge of honor. Nestled high in the Andes, it’s one of the best-preserved historic centers in Latin America and a UNESCO World Heritage site. But Quito is not just about the past; it’s a city that beautifully blends tradition with modernity.

Colonial Architecture:

Quito’s historic center is a living museum of colonial architecture, with landmarks like the Basilica del Voto Nacional and La Compañía de Jesús church offering glimpses into the city’s Spanish colonial past.

Indigenous Influence:

Quito’s rich tapestry of culture is deeply influenced by its indigenous heritage, which is vividly displayed in local crafts, festivals, and traditional attire. The San Francisco Market in the heart of Quito offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in this cultural richness. From handwoven textiles to traditional Andean instruments, the market is a living testament to the city’s indigenous roots.

Art and Museums:

From the Casa del Alabado, dedicated to pre-Columbian art, to the contemporary art at the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Quito offers a range of artistic experiences that tell the story of its diverse cultural heritage.


Quito comes alive during its annual festivals like Fiestas de Quito and the Festival of San Juan, where the city’s streets fill with music, dance, and a sense of communal celebration.

Modern Quito:

Don’t miss the chance to explore the modern side of the city, with its burgeoning culinary scene, modern art galleries, and vibrant nightlife.

By engaging with Quito’s history and culture, you’re not just a tourist but an active participant in a story that stretches back centuries. It’s an enriching experience that aligns perfectly with the ethos of impactful travel.

Geography Unveiled: The Natural Landscape of Quito

Quito is a city of contrasts, geographically speaking. Situated at an altitude of 2,850 meters (9,350 ft) above sea level, it’s the second-highest capital city in the world. Nestled in the Andean highlands, the city is flanked by volcanic peaks, most notably the Pichincha volcano that looms over it.

Mountain Ranges:

The Andes mountains provide a stunning backdrop to the city, offering opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and bird-watching. The TelefériQo, a gondola ride, takes you up the Pichincha volcano for panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountains.

Valleys and Basins:

Quito is situated in a basin surrounded by hills and mountains. The Guayllabamba River flows through the valleys, nourishing the fertile lands that contribute to the region’s agriculture.

Climate Zones:

Despite its location near the Equator, Quito experiences a relatively mild climate due to its high altitude. The city has only two main seasons: wet and dry, making it a year-round destination.

Flora and Fauna:

The geography also contributes to a diverse range of flora and fauna. The nearby Maquipucuna Reserve and the Mindo Cloud Forest are biodiversity hotspots, home to a variety of bird species, orchids, and butterflies.

Urban and Rural:

Quito is not just its historic center and modern districts; the city extends into rural areas where traditional farming methods are still in use. These areas offer a different kind of beauty and are becoming increasingly popular for eco-tourism.

Understanding the geography of Quito adds another layer to your travel experience, allowing you to appreciate not just the culture but also the natural wonders that make this city so unique. It’s a holistic way to engage with your destination, in line with the principles of responsible and impactful travel.

Nature’s Bounty in Quito: Flora and Fauna

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is not just a hub of cultural and historical significance; it’s also a gateway to some of South America’s most diverse ecosystems. Whether you’re planning a Quito city tour or considering various Quito day tours, don’t overlook the opportunity to explore the city’s rich biodiversity. Here’s a closer look at what you can expect:

Birds of Quito

Quito is a paradise for birdwatchers. The city and its surrounding areas are home to more than 500 species of birds, including the Andean Condor, Ecuador’s national bird. Birdwatching tours are a great way to get up close and personal with these feathered friends.


While on a Quito trip, you might encounter mammals like the Andean fox or the Puma in the higher altitudes. The spectacled bear, South America’s only bear species, can also be found in the cloud forests near Quito.


Quito’s flora is as diverse as its fauna. From the orchids in the cloud forests to the hardy plants of the paramo, the plant life here is unique and fascinating. Don’t miss the chance to see the “chuquiragua,” also known as the flower of the Andes, which is known for its medicinal properties.

Insects and Smaller Creatures

If you’re interested in the smaller critters, Quito won’t disappoint. The city is home to a variety of insects, including colorful butterflies and moths that add a dash of color to the landscape.

Day Trips for Nature Lovers

For those looking to explore beyond the city, day trips from Quito, Ecuador, offer a plethora of options. Consider a visit to the Mindo Cloud Forest, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, or the Cotopaxi National Park, known for its stunning landscapes and wildlife.

Responsible Tourism

As you explore the natural wonders around Quito, it’s crucial to travel responsibly. Stick to marked trails, don’t disturb the wildlife, and consider taking a guided tour from a responsible operator to minimize your environmental impact. Learn more about how to travel responsibly in Quito here. 

Unmissable Activities: Things To Do in Quito

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is a city that effortlessly blends history, culture, and natural beauty, offering a wide array of activities for every type of traveler. Whether you’re interested in a Quito Walking Tour, a culinary adventure, or a day trip to the surrounding natural wonders, here’s a curated list of things to do that will make your Quito vacation unforgettable.

Priority Activities

Walking City Tour: Explore the heart of Quito on foot, taking in the architectural wonders, historic sites, and local markets. This is the best way to feel the city’s pulse. Check our Impactful Quito Walking Tour here.

Mitad del Mundo: A must-visit landmark where you can stand on the equator line. It’s a unique experience that’s perfect for photo ops. We also have our own Impactful Mitad del Mundo experience; check it out! 

Street Food in Quito: As the sun sets, venture out to taste Quito’s vibrant street food scene. From grilled meats to local sweets, it’s a culinary adventure. Let us take you there!

Bike tour: Why not swap four wheels for two? Rent a bike and pedal your way through Quito’s lush parks and dedicated bike lanes. It’s not just a fun way to see the city; it’s also a nod to sustainable travel. So, hop on and let the adventure roll!.

Historical and Cultural Exploration

Quito Old Town: A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Old Town is a must-visit for its colonial architecture, historic churches, and vibrant street life.

La Capilla del Hombre: This museum is dedicated to the work of Oswaldo Guayasamín, one of Ecuador’s most famous artists.

Adventure and Nature

TelefériQo: Take this cable car ride for panoramic views of the city. It’s also the starting point for hikes to the Pichincha volcano.

Cotopaxi National Park: Just a day trip away, this park offers hiking, horseback riding, and the chance to see the stunning Cotopaxi volcano.

Culinary Delights

Mercado Central: Dive into Ecuadorian cuisine by visiting this bustling market. Try local dishes like ceviche or empanadas.

Quito Cooking Class: Learn how to prepare traditional Ecuadorian dishes in a fun, hands-on cooking class.

Art and Craftsmanship

La Ronda Street: Known for its artisan shops, this is the place to pick up handmade souvenirs, from textiles to wooden crafts.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Plaza Foch: The heart of Quito’s nightlife, here you’ll find a range of bars, clubs, and restaurants to suit all tastes.

Community and Sustainable Tourism

Community Tours: Engage with local communities through sustainable tourism initiatives, offering a deeper understanding of the region’s culture and traditions.

Day Trips from Quito

Mindo Cloud Forest: A paradise for birdwatchers and nature lovers, Mindo is a short drive from Quito and offers a range of outdoor activities.

Otavalo Market: One of South America’s largest indigenous markets, Otavalo is perfect for those looking to buy unique, handmade products. Learn more about Impactful’s options in the Otavalo region here. 

Whether you’re planning a short Quito trip or an extended vacation, the city and its surrounding areas offer a wealth of activities to keep you engaged and enriched. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your Quito adventure today!

Feel free to ask if you’d like to explore other aspects of your Quito travel guide! 

Travel with Purpose: How to Make a Positive Impact in Quito

Traveling is not just about seeing new places; it’s also about making a positive impact on the communities and environments we visit. In Quito, there are numerous ways to ensure your trip is as beneficial for the local community as it is enriching for you. Here’s how you can make your Quito trip impactful:

Sustainable Choices

Opt for Eco-Friendly Accommodations: Choose hotels or hostels that are committed to sustainable practices, from waste management to energy conservation. Here, you can find a few of our recommendations.

Use Public Transport or Bicycles: Minimize your carbon footprint by using the city’s public transport system or renting a bike.

Support Local Businesses

Shop Local: Whether you’re buying souvenirs or groceries, opt for local markets and artisans. This supports the local economy and often results in more unique finds.

Eat Local: Skip the international fast-food chains and dine at local restaurants. Not only will you enjoy authentic Ecuadorian cuisine, but you’ll also be supporting local business owners.

Cultural Respect and Education

Learn Basic Spanish and Quechua Phrases: A little effort goes a long way in bridging cultural gaps.

Educate Yourself: Before visiting any cultural or historical sites, take some time to learn about their significance. This will make your visit more meaningful and respectful.

Community Engagement

Volunteer: If you have more time, consider volunteering with local organizations that focus on social or environmental issues.

Attend Local Events or Workshops: Participate in community events or workshops that interest you. It’s a great way to understand local culture and contribute to community initiatives.

Responsible Tourism

Book Tours with Responsible Operators: Whether it’s a city tour or a day trip, choose operators who are committed to responsible tourism.

Leave No Trace: Always clean up after yourself, whether you’re on a mountain trail or in a city park.

Donate Wisely

Support Local NGOs: If you wish to make a financial contribution, ensure that you’re donating to reputable local NGOs that align with your values.

By making these mindful choices, you’re not just a tourist but a responsible global citizen making a positive impact. So, as you plan your Quito vacation package or your next Quito day tour, remember that every little bit helps in making travel more sustainable and beneficial for everyone involved.

Be Prepared: Practical Information for Your Trip to Quito

Whether you’re planning a Quito city tour, a day trip, or a longer vacation package, being well-prepared can make your experience smoother and more enjoyable. Here’s some practical information to consider before you embark on your Quito adventure:

How Much Time to Spend in Quito

  • Short Stay: A 3-day trip can cover the essentials like the historic center and Mitad del Mundo.
  • Extended Stay: A week or more allows for day trips and deeper exploration of the city and its surroundings.

When is the Best Time to Visit Quito

  • Dry Season: June to September are the driest months, ideal for outdoor activities.
  • Wet Season: October to May is wetter but also less crowded.

What’s the Weather like in Quito

  • Variable: Due to its elevation, Quito experiences cool nights and warm days. Always carry layers.
  • Altitude: At 2,850 meters, altitude sickness can be a concern. Take it easy on your first day.

For general information about the Best Time to Travel to Ecuador, follow the link to our practical guide.

How to Get to Quito

  • By Air: Mariscal Sucre International Airport is well-connected to various international destinations, as well as domestic airports and the Galapagos Islands.
  • By Bus: Interprovincial buses connect Quito to other major cities in Ecuador.

What to Pack when Traveling to Quito

  • Layers: Due to variable weather, layers are key.
  • Sun Protection: The equatorial sun is strong; bring sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.
  • Walking Shoes: Comfortable shoes are a must, especially if you plan to take a Quito walking tour.

Read more about What to Pack when Traveling to Ecuador.

How to Stay Safe and Healthy in Guayaquil

  • Water: Stick to bottled or boiled water.
  • Vaccinations: No specific vaccinations are required, but it’s always good to be up-to-date on routine shots.
  • Safety: While Quito is generally safe, always exercise caution, especially in crowded places.

Savor the Flavors: A Culinary Journey Through Quito

Ready to embark on a gastronomic adventure that’s as rich and diverse as Quito itself? Whether you’re a foodie on a Quito day trip or a culinary explorer on an extended vacation, the city’s vibrant food scene is a feast for the senses. From bustling markets to innovative restaurants, here’s how to eat your way through Quito responsibly and deliciously.

Savor the Flavors: Street Food and Local Markets in Quito

Begin your gastronomic journey at Mercado Central, a feast for all your senses. From the invigorating aromas to the vibrant colors, it’s more than a market—it’s a cultural experience. Quench your thirst with exotic, freshly-squeezed juices and treat yourself to mouthwatering empanadas and the soul-soothing “colada de avena.” As night falls, make your way to La Ronda. Here, the streets come alive with culinary delights like “llapingachos” and “hornado,” perfectly complemented by a steaming cup of “canelazo.”

Fine Dining with a Local Twist

Craving something upscale? Zazu offers a modern take on Ecuadorian classics like “ceviche de corvina” and “seco de chivo.” It’s traditional, yet innovative—a culinary paradox you’ll love exploring.

Our Top Restaurant Picks

Chez Jérôme: A beautiful blend of French technique and Ecuadorian flavors, set in a historic house with lush gardens.

El Salnés Gastro-Picantería: A modern twist on traditional Ecuadorian fare, featuring homemade cold cuts like spicy chorizo.

Nuema: A culinary journey through Ecuador in a seven-course tasting menu.

Somos: A playful menu that combines Ecuadorian roots with French culinary flair.

Shibumi: Your go-to spot for sushi in Quito, offering a unique blend of Japanese tradition and Ecuadorian ingredients.

Urko: A seasonal menu that pays tribute to Ecuador’s diverse ecosystems.

ZFood: A haven for seafood lovers committed to sustainability and fair trade.

So, whether you’re planning a Quito walking tour with food stops or a dedicated culinary day trip, the city offers a wide array of options that are as responsible as they are delicious. Ready to take your taste buds on a Quito adventure? Let’s make it happen!

Shop Like a Local: A Curated Guide to Quito’s Best Finds

Ready to discover the hidden gems of Quito’s shopping scene? Whether you’re on a Quito city tour or enjoying an extended vacation, the city’s vibrant markets and unique shops offer something for everyone. From artisanal chocolates to spiritual keepsakes, here’s your guide to shopping responsibly and delightfully in Quito.

Sweet Indulgences

For the cocoa connoisseurs among us, Quito is a paradise. Don’t miss Chez Tiff’s for their imaginative homemade treats, or Pacari for a taste of premium organic chocolate. It’s not just a treat; it’s a journey through Ecuador’s rich cacao culture.

Artisanal Crafts

Step into Tienda el Quinde to explore a diverse range of local arts and crafts. For wooden wonders, Madera Noble is your go-to. If Indigenous artifacts catch your eye, Tianguez offers a curated selection that’s both intriguing and impactful.

Spiritual Keepsakes

Rosario Incarnación is a sanctuary of religious art, offering icons and statues that are more than just objects—they’re pieces of devotion. For more spiritual finds, visit Carmen Alto’s convent shop or check out La Vela Mágica for ceremonial candles.

Market Wonders

Immerse yourself in local life at Mercado San Francisco, a bustling hub where you can also explore the Ancestral Medicine section. For thrift lovers, Mercado Plaza Arenas offers second-hand treasures that tell their own stories.

One-of-a-Kind Shops

Travel back in time with Humberto Silva’s tin plate toys in La Ronda or explore the astonishing 550 natural ice-cream flavors at Heladería Dulce Placer. For party supplies, Calle Cuenca has you covered, and for a dash of local art, don’t miss Sirka, a pub-cum-gallery.

So, whether you’re planning a Quito day trip focused on shopping or simply looking to pick up some souvenirs, this guide has you covered. Ready to shop till you drop, Quito style? ¡Vamos!

(Note: Shop details are based on available information and may change. Always check operating hours and availability before visiting.)

Rest Easy: Where to Stay in Quito for a Responsible Retreat

Looking for a place to lay your head that aligns with your values? You’re in luck! Quito offers a range of hotels that not only provide comfort but also contribute to social and environmental well-being. Here’s our curated list of hotels that make your stay in Quito not just memorable but meaningful.

Artistic Vibes in the Floresta Neighborhood:

This area is a hub for art galleries, graffiti, health-conscious eateries, and artisanal coffee shops. Our top picks here are:

Casa Aliso: A cozy, locally-owned gem that feels like a home away from home.

Ikala Hotel: Known for its modern amenities and commitment to sustainability.

Historic Charm in the Colonial Center:

For those who want to be close to the historic heart of Quito:

San Francisco: This hotel offers a blend of colonial charm and modern comfort.

Rest in Nature’s Lap in Tumbaco & Pifo:

If you’re looking to escape the city’s hustle and bustle:

Ilatoa Lodge: A serene retreat set amidst nature, perfect for relaxation.

Hacienda Jimenita: Offers a rustic experience with a focus on sustainability.

San Jose de Puembo: A hacienda-style hotel that offers a blend of luxury and local culture.

Hidden Gem

Vieja Cuba Hotel: A charming hotel that caught our eye, worth checking out for its unique offerings.

So, whether you’re planning a Quito trip focused on art, history, or nature, these hotels offer something for every responsible traveler. Ready to make your Quito stay a transformative experience? Book now!

Customize Your Adventure: Plan a Custom Trip to Quito

Ready to experience Quito like never before? Our team of expert travel designers is eager to create a journey that’s tailored just for you. While our website offers a glimpse into the incredible experiences that await you in Quito, we have so much more to share. From specialized Quito city tours to immersive multi-day trips, we can design an itinerary that aligns perfectly with your unique interests and values.

Why It’s Impactful:

Choosing a custom trip isn’t just about personalizing your travel experience; it’s also about making a positive impact on the local community. It’s travel that enriches both the traveler and the destination.

So, why settle for a standard itinerary when you can have an adventure that’s uniquely yours? Contact us today, and let’s bring your dream Quito experience to life. Your next impactful journey starts here!

Discover Quito Impactfully with these experiences

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