Quito sits at 9,350′ elevation, making it the highest city capital in the world. This is precisely why we began our two-week Ecuador travels in Mindo at a much lower elevation. We made our way in a loop around the country, slowly acclimatizing to the high altitudes to culminate our experience in Quito.
While in Quito, go for lunch at Govinda’s, an excellent vegan restaurant in the city. This is a chain (there was also one in Cuenca where we dined as well.) For $3, you get a full lunch buffet consisting of soup, arroz integral (brown rice), three sides and a juice (usually tomate del arbol – tomato of the tree, which is sweeter than a normal bush tomato and frequently used in juices.) Food in Quito is extremely affordable.
After full bellies, join a free walking tour through Community Hostel. This was my very first free walking tour (and our first out of 8 over the course of our six-month international travels.) Free walking tours are an excellent way to orient yourself with a location and get some good local recommendations from your guide. Tours typically last around 2 – 3 hours and guides earn their income off of tips.
How much should you tip my guide for a free walking tour?
Recommended tip is between $5 – $10 a person, or more if they were really excellent.
We visited during an interesting time politically, as Lenin had just been elected (not to be confused with the Russian Vladimir or the famous Beatle John (different spelling)). There were “vote for” signs all over the city, though the country’s opinion seemed to be split 50/50. Lenin replaced Rafael Correa and was sworn into office in August of 2017. Many of Ecuador’s past Presidents have been assassinated, and in terribly tortuous ways. It was a powerful feeling to stand on the porch of the Presidential Palace and think about all the history that has happened there.
Ecuador’s markets are so much fun to walk through and sample all the local fruits (there are hundreds!) We tried gooseberry, maracuya and chirimoya.
Pay $2 per person to ascend the Torre (tower) atop the Gothic Basilica. The views of Quito were spectacular, and the stairs were a challenge at such high altitude!
Quito has no shortages of places to eat, but for brekkie we usually tried to eat at a hostel so that we could meet other travelers (and the food can be really good!) The photo below was from Community Hostel (you are welcome to dine there even if you are not a guest) Here we met lots of other people traveling just like us! Some couples, some singles, some friends and even some families with teenage daughters!
We were extremely fortunate to have our first destination of our world travels go so smoothly and set the pace for the next six months to come. We enjoyed our time in Ecuador and would recommend it to other travelers. We made some friends along the way and learned a lot about a country I couldn’t even locate on a map a few years ago. I have to admit, though I love the mountains, by the end of our high-altitude trip, I was ready to be at lower elevations and see the coast of this beautiful continent! Thankfully, our next destination following Ecuador, was the beautiful and vibrant Colombia!