In the middle of the world in Quito

In the middle of the world in Quito

After the Galápagos islands, we made a 5 days stop in Quito. We were not too sure what to expect as we got positive and negative feed-back before getting to the capital of Ecuador. The positive ones were the proximity to many attractions in the the area such as the connexion to the Amazon, the nearby villages, Otavalo market, Laguna Quilotoa, middle of the world point and other nice places to visit. The down side was clearly the safety in the city. We heard stories about people that got robbed in the city center. All streets in the city at night should be avoid walking and taxis are most recommended. Well, it didn’t sound too good to us but we were sure that we some good precaution, we could enjoy Quito.

Our arrival in the city has been quite difficult in terms of climate change ! We were in the Galápagos islands at the sea level with 30 degrees on average and Quito lies at 2850 meters with an average of 15 degrees during the day from April and 9 degrees at night !!

In the Galápagos Islands, we have been lucky to meet 2 guys from Texas that we really got along with. We met them again in Quito as it happened they were in the capital at the same time. There are couple of nice visits to do in Quito which we recommend and needs no more than 3 days. The first thing we did with our new friends has been the middle of the world visit.

Mittad del Mundo:
This is actually a nice experience to do as it is the highest point in the world that is on the latitude 0;0;0. It is located about 30 minutes by bus from Quito city center. We can get there by bus from the Ofelia bus station and the ride cost 0.40 cents. The Ofelia bus station can be reached with the blue line bus for only 15./ cts!
The mitad del mundo has different museums and a planetarium to visit including the latitude line. The entrance costs 7.50$ for the full pass. There we could see the famous line of the middle of the world. We had fun taking pictures and “feeling” the effect of being in the middle of the world. To be honest with you, there is actually no physical difference to be there.
However, this line has been re-studied by the Ecuadorian army and it had been declared that the line was actually 300 meters south of the real 0;0;0 latitude point. The measurement back in the days were not that efficient or reliable. This being proved, they decided to open another museum called Intinan 300 meters further north to actually show the real line ;-). 
It has been actually the best museum in term of experiments and to straddle the hemispheres. The entrance cost 4.-$ and provide a guide to show the scientific proves of being in the middle of the world. We could experience this through the water reaction through a bucket, eggs and body balance and much more ! It has been a really cool activity to do with group 🙂

– The teleferico:
We said good-bye to our friends that headed further south towards Peru for more adventures. We went to visit the highest point of the city that is reachable by teleferico. It has been made in France and costs 8.50$ for 7 mns ride. At the arrival we can either take a small walk around the teleferico or hike further up around the nearby mountains. However, as it is the highest point, the temperature goes down and the wind is much stronger. It is actually not the best condition to hike around anyway. We took the next ride going back down after 20 mns, a bit disappointed. We wouldn’t do it again.

– The historic center:
We particularly liked the historic center due to the nice colonial churches and plazas. Quito was for more of 300 years of Spanish colonization. It is not surprising to see a lot churches, palaces or monasteries. The capital detains the biggest historic center and the most well preserved of Central America. It is worth the visit for an afternoon walk around the narrow streets and looking at the architecture. We enjoyed the view of the Basilica, which is beautiful and imposing with its 115 meters high and 140 meters long ! It costs 2.-$ to get in. Once inside, the gothic style and the different gargouille will surely tell you many stories.
An area that is also very nice to visit in the historic center is the Ronda, one of the oldest street of Quito. There it is possible to drink a good coffee or a Mora (typical fruit juice) in one of the small restaurants. It is well animated all day and give a good image of the local life. From 7 pm, it is advised to leave the place as the safety is a problem.

– Mariscal and the area:
During our 5 days in Quito, we stayed in the Mariscal district which is great at night to go out and have a drink. It is an animated place with tons of discotecas, coffee shops and restaurants. Our hotel was great for the proximity and quality of the service for only 30 dollars a night in a double room. Quito is surprisingly quite expensive in terms of lodging and we had to do a lot of research to find something good and cheap. However a lot of hotels and backpackers can be found in Mariscal.

The area at night is unfortunately not the safest place and a taxi should be use from 7pm on. During the day, it is safe to walk around. (without a big canon camera and Gucci sunglasses around the neck of course..! 😉 ) We went visiting the nearby streets and the local market de Artesana on the 18 de Septiembre street. This market is great for buying local crafts and souvenirs at low prices. We got some nice alpaca scarfs for 5.-$.

– Where to eat in Quito
Our Texas friends recommended us the cafe Mosaico for a drink. We have not been disappointed as the place has not only good cafes but a wonderful view of the city. It is accessible by taxi for 3$. It has been the best choice to enjoy Quito on a late afternoon along with a nice sunset.
To see the view of the city, many people go also the Panecillo which is the small hill in Quito having a Virgen in aluminum lying at 41 meters high. It is apparently a nice place to see the view as well. We however, didn’t go there. It is once again not too safe to walk there and a taxi must be taken to the top.

– The green touches of Quito
The city is unfortunately not the cleanest or most eco-friendly city in the world but has the advantages to have many parks where we can walk around or go jogging. We passed by the Parque Carolina in the city center or the Parque Metropolitano which the biggest park of the city located more in the north. The size represents 2x central park in New York ! They are many other parks that can be found on city maps.

– Outside Quito
As said previously, Quito is the perfect gateway for visiting the country side, villages, volcanos and so on. We took a day tour to go visit the fabulous crater Quilotoa lying at 3940 meters high. It is a beautiful place to observe this active volcano and go down toward the lake. The water color changes from turquoise to dark blue or purple. In some places we could observe natural geysers in the water forming bubbles. The water temperature is at 10 degrees though. Instead of taking a deep dive into the blue, people rent a kayak for 20 minutes, 10$.
We have been truly amaze by the beauty of the place. Along with our knowledgeable guide Juan Carlos, we went back up from the crater. We didn’t know it would have been that difficult to reach the top of the road again! After our 10 months travel hiking and waking around the planet, it has been the most difficult hike ever due to the altitude, dusty and stiff road. We highly recommend people to stop half way in case of knee or hearth problem. In the worst case, it is always possible to rent a horse to go back up for 10.-$. 😉

Along the way, we went visiting a lively animal market in a small village called Saquisilí. Being vegetarian, I never really enjoy seeing animals being exchanged for money ending up most of them in the slaughtering farms. However, these people handle that with respect as it used to be done in the past. The animals are well treated and in exchange for money. 250$ for a cow or 170$ for a veal.. Let’s the best deal win.

We also went to visit a typical house where people live like back in the days in a wooden house and no light. It has been interesting to see how here people live and earn money from. They actually raise Cuy (guinea pig) to sell and food :-(. Not only in Peru, the Cuy is a traditional dish with ancestral believes. People used to say that the Cuy removes the bad energy in the body and was also used for chamanic purposes. They say that if the Cuy make noise once we get in the room, a bad sprit is around us..!

– Otavalo Market
We heard a lot about this market but we unfortunately didn’t have time to go. It is one of the biggest market located 2 hours away from Quito. From food to art craft and souvenirs, everything can be found in Otavalo at good prices.

– Volcanos
Ecuador (main land) has 28 volcanos with 15 being around Quito. The biggest and most impressive is the Cotopaxi at 5897 meters. This volcano is still active and located only 60 km from Quito. It is possible to go for a day visit at 50-70$ or to hike to the summit. However, during the rainy season from November to May, the volcano is cloudy and make the hike kind of difficult. The best time to hike the volcano is from June to August where the sky is clear. It takes 2 days for around 250$ with a guide. There are other volcanos that can be visited such as the Cayambe, Chimborazo or the Pinchicha.

There are indeed a lot to see and do in Quito !! We would recommend anyone to go visit this city. It is a interesting city that can be enjoyed with some precautions to stay safe. We are know happy to leave the capital to finally get to Colombia and go visit Juan’s family 🙂

Hasta pronto chicos !

Useful information:

Where to stay: Travelers Inn, Mariscal district, 30.- $ double room, shared bathroom with very good breakfast.

Transportation: 3 buses lines deserve the city. They don’t reach all part of the city but a good part of it. The cost of a ticket is 0.25 cts. It is ok to take the buses during the day but unsafe at night. Taxis should be taken from 7 pm. Every taxi should have an identification number, camera of security and emergency red button inside the car.

When to go in Quito: all year the temperature is from 10 and 20 degrees. The wet season is from November to May with rain in the afternoon most of the time. The dry season start in June until October.

Security: it is the most important point for an enjoyable stay in Quito. As mentioned above, taxis must be taken to move in the city from 7 pm with official taxis. No valuable items such camera, jewelry etc should be visible or carried around. Passports and most of the money should be left in the hotel.