QUITO AND AROUND

Best for: cul­ture, land­scapes, mar­kets, wildlife

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - ECUADOR & THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS -

DU­RA­TION: 7–10 days ROUTE: Quito • Otavalo • Mindo • Pa­pal­lacta WHY GO? To binge on colo­nial ar­chi­tec­ture and day­time and night­time cul­ture; to strad­dle two hemi­spheres and to visit mar­kets, cloud for­est and hot springs. WHEN TO GO? All year; rainy sea­son Oct to May Quito, one of UNESCO’S first ever World Her­itage Sites, has a split per­son­al­ity. The Cen­tro Histórico’s steep, nar­row streets link colo­nial churches, mu­se­ums, mar­kets and grand houses, sev­eral of which have been con­verted into ho­tels. Calle La Ronda is typ­i­cal: a maze of craft shops by day and buzzing with nightlife af­ter dark. On the other hand, mod­ern Quito, a bus or taxi ride away, is the busi­ness, ho­tel and en­ter­tain­ment quar­ter and stretches north al­most to the Mi­tad del Mundo, a monument mark­ing the equa­tor.

Two hours north, Otavalo is home to Ecuador’s premier market. Ev­ery day the Plaza de Pon­chos fills with stalls sell­ing tex­tiles and other crafts – Satur­days are nor­mally busiest. It’s worth spend­ing three or four days in the area to visit weavers’ vil­lages, lakes and the north­ern high­lands.

To the north-west of Quito lies the ac­tive Pich­in­cha Vol­cano. From the city, the Tele­fériqo ca­ble car takes you up to the 4,000m Cruz Loma view­point, while the western flanks are a bird-rich cloud for­est. You can overnight in wildlife­ori­ented or com­mu­nity-based lodges, or stay a few days in the lit­tle town of Mindo, a play­ground for Quiteños at week­ends but quiet the rest of the week.

East of Quito are the Pa­pal­lacta ther­mal springs, with pub­lic pools and an ex­clu­sive spa and ho­tel. It makes a good day trip, but also a re­lax­ing base for the start or end of your Ecuado­rian jour­ney.

Twi­light zone Quito beds down for the night; (top) the bustling market at Saquisilí; (left) tra­di­tional cu­cu­ru­chos take part in a Quito Holy Week pro­ces­sion

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