Quito is a starting point for many great day tours since all roads lead to Quito. In fact, some of the best day trips in Ecuador start in Quito, so this may be a great place to base yourself for a few days, to get to see a lot of what this Andean country has to offer. From hot springs, to cloud forests, to active volcanoes, there is certainly a lot to do with day tours from Quito. Here are some of the day trips from Quito that we recommend:
One of our favorites for a fabulously relaxing day tour from Quito is a trip to the Papallacta Hot Springs. A drive of about 1.5 hours from Quito, this can even be done in a few hours, but a day trip is worthwhile for the full relaxing effects. Papallacta Hot Springs has a public pools area, which you will pay a few dollars to get into, as well as a more expensive spa pools area. In the public pools area there are several pools of varying temperatures, and the pools can get pretty busy, especially on a Sunday. The spa pools area is a little pricier, but there are pools with jets that allow you to work away the tension on your back, neck and so on. There is also a spa with a full range of treatments available, though it is best to ask your tour operator to book these in advance for you if you want to be sure of getting a treatment. The hot springs are in an idyllic setting with a backdrop of jagged mountains. When the pools are quieter you may see a variety of hummingbirds visiting the flowers around the area.
Talking of hummingbirds, Mindo makes for one of the best day trips in Ecuador as there is a ton to do there to suit a variety of tastes and interests. Wildlife lovers and birdwatchers will enjoy the chance to do some bird spotting, or even watch hummingbirds of many types at the feeders in cafes and at other observation spots. There is also a delightful butterfly observation center. Meanwhile, adrenalin junkies will enjoy the chance to take part in various different activities. Some of the best include ziplining across the cloud forest with the valley gaping far below, or tubing in the fast-flowing river nearby to town. If that is too exciting for you, there are also pleasant walks to waterfalls, or the chance to see Ecuadorian chocolate being made. This is truly one of the best day tours from Quito, just two hours away from the capital.
Popular with old and young alike, the large indigenous market at Otavalo is the biggest in Latin America. The best day to go for number of stalls is a Saturday, but some might prefer quieter days when there is still a large variety of vendors selling different products. Here there is an excellent opportunity to pick up inexpensive souvenirs from the colorful stalls in the square. People here are dressed in traditional garb, and no, they do not do this for the tourists. Nearby Otavalo there are also pretty lakes to visit, and local indigenous communities such as that at Peguche.
A trip to the Equatorial line is another of the best day trips from Quito. On this day tour you will usually get to visit the site and monument that was built several decades ago, before GPS technology, which supposedly marks where the Equator is. A few hundred meters away there is also a museum and site to mark where the Equator was later found to be. At this spot you can watch and take part in various experiments that demonstrate that you are on the Equator, such as balancing an egg, and watching water swirling in different directions. You can go to the Equator on our Quito day tour, or we can organize a trip just to the Equator for you if you wish.
The Cotopaxi volcano is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, and it chose to let off some steam in its most recent eruption in 2015. One of the most superb day trips from Quito is to the Cotopaxi National Park. There are various ways to do this. Some like to mountain bike their way down the mountain, which is exhilarating, but not for the faint of heart. Other visitors climb up the mountain to the car park, which is at an altitude of 4,400 meters, just down from the Refuge. They can then choose to walk up the volcano a further 400 meters to the refuge, from where it is possible to get a stunning view of the Cotopaxi National Park and beyond on a clear day. They may then be rewarded for their efforts with a mug of steaming hot chocolate before descending again. It may only be 400 meters, but due to the altitude, this is a walk that can be quite challenging for some, and should be taken slowly by every visitor to avoid being impacted by the altitude. The moonscape scenery of the National Park is also very unusual, and there are chances to see unusual birds too, such as the Cara Cara.
A bit further afield, the Quilotoa Crater Lake can still be reached on a day trip. This jewel is surely one of the most beautiful sights in the Andes. While driving to the lake you will get the chance to observe indigenous people living and going about their business largely as they have for centuries while dressed in traditional costume. Once at the lake, if feeling energetic you might have time to circumnavigate it, but this is a hike of several hours. If not, you can walk down to the bottom of the crater towards the lake itself, and then either hike up out again, or take a mule ride back up. The latter can be very entertaining!
Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders offers a wide range of different day tours from Quito, including those listed above. If there is some place you would like to visit that is not on this list, let us know and we will be happy to customize a package for you.