Although I’m sure the suspense is killing you, I have to admit — Quito just wasn’t my favorite. Although it’s no secret to me, I’m just really not a city girl. That being said, I did enjoy my time in this culture-laden capital, doing some seriously typical tourist activities.
Michelle and I arrived in Quito on two separate flights from Panama, which led to a plethora of stress on my part — How would I find her when she got there? Where would I wait? What if I got hungry? — among other essential concerns. Although there was a mix up in our luggage, where hers was labeled as mine and mine was labeled as hers (thanks, La Chinita International Airport) this was actually extremely painless. The lovely people from Ecuador let me just walk right back through customs, pick up my travel buddy, and then go claim my luggage through baggage claim and security. I was so relieved by how much easier this made everything, I literally uttered the phrase “thank you luggage gods and the Maracaibo airport”. That was a thing.
After getting to our teensy-tiny room at the Traveller’s Inn, we promptly fell into an unrestful night’s sleep. The next morning, after our insanely early wake-up (due to nothing other than who I am as a person) we decided that we were off to the Old Town and The Virgin for some good tourist trapping and some good views. Despite being confused by our taxi driver, Carlos (read: swindled into a “city tour”), we were able to photograph the Virgin and climb up to the viewing platform at the top, overlooking all of Quito.
I loved the views from the Virgin, and this was the first time that it started to hit me just how huge Quito was. At 50 kilometers long, it goes on seemingly forever. One thing I didn’t love from the Virgin? The inescapable electrical wires in every panorama.
From there, our taxi-driver-turned-tour-guide brought us to the Old Town, which was hopping. The Old Town was packed by both tourists and locals, which was refreshing to see in such a touristy area. Although I seriously hate overcrowded destinations with people screaming at you to buy things, I enjoyed walking around the Old Town and catching several ceremonies to kick off Semana Santa, or Holy Week. From there, we had a mediocre-at-best lunch that came with an excellent milkshake and an old-diner theme and we were off to explore the Basilica del Voto Nacional.
Despite the fact that everything is relatively close in the Old Town, we got helplessly lost and spent the better part of 45 minutes getting to the actual Basilica. From there, we had difficulties finding where to buy tickets to climb the towers. Once tickets were purchased, I couldn’t wait to climb over 300 steps to get to the top (not even joking; I was ecstatic). Michelle, the more fitness-oriented and the more in-shape half of our duo, announced that she would take the elevator. I tried to politely hide my confusion and disapproval (I’m a judgmental traveler sometimes, too, okay?) and we both proceeded on our merry way.
When I met her at the third floor gift shop huffing and puffing (let’s blame it on the altitude, shall we?), we decided to cross the sketchy bridge at what I thought would be the way down. It turns out that it brought us even higher, up a sketchy metal staircase inside and an even more terrifying metal staircase further up the tower. We both passed on that, because she was “high enough” and I was trying not to imagine my skull splitting open as I slipped off the “staircase” in my sandals (thanks for that, fear of heights).
After a very restful evening where we gorged on serious delicacy food (read: Papa John’s) we decided to go to bed early. The next day was all about staying on that tourist trap grind and hitting up the Teleferiqo and Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World).
I adored the Teleferiqo and could not have been happier that we chose to ride it, even though it was one of the most expensive activities we did, in terms of ticket price ($8.50 per person). To my astonishment, even my aforementioned fear of heights didn’t set in. My only complaint is that we were with two other people on our ride up and he was the most obnoxious local tour guide I could have ever imagined. He made me want to scream, which was unfortunate because I was trying to enjoy the insanely beautiful panoramas. For me, this was the highlight of Quito (other than maybe that pizza at Papa John’s. So good.).
From there, we decided to take a cab to Mitad del Mundo — a whopping $15 apiece. We could have taken the .40 cent bus, but we thought that the cab wouldn’t be that expensive, so why not splurge? Spoiler alert: we were wrong. All that I can console myself with is that I got less motion sick in the cab than I would have in the bus (which was verified later that day when we actually took the bus). Mitad del Mundo was tourist trap heaven and we didn’t even pay for tickets to go inside the museums, since we were looking forward to napping at that point. I did enjoy the photo ops, and that alone was worth seeing the inaccurate destination for me. We chose to repeat the previous day’s afternoon itinerary almost exactly and eat more chain food, nap, and go to sleep early. The next day, we were off to the place I planned this whole Ecuador trip around: Banos!
Helpful Information about Quito
- Take taxis at night, although walking during the day is safe.
- I didn’t feel unsafe at all during my time there, although I was rather protective of my purse, especially in all of the crowds in the Old Town.
- My hostel informed me that the yellow cabs with orange plates are always safe — they even had cameras in them for safety!
- Altitude adjustment really is no joke — even walking up stairs (something that doesn’t usually make me feel winded) was exhausting — plan accordingly!