Best Day Trips from Quito

Delve into the wonders near Quito with the best excursions and tours. Evaluate prices, advantages and disadvantages of each exciting activity.

Carla Yaquer

Carla Yaquer

10 min read

Best Day Trips from Quito

Volcán Cuicocha y sus domos |©Oscar Padilla Álvarez

The Ecuadorian capital is the starting point for countless adventures. From volcanoes to fascinating indigenous markets, the Andean country unfolds its splendor through a wide variety of day trips that stand out among the best things to do in Quito. This article is a guide to the best activities, plus I tell you about their advantages, disadvantages and prices so you can plan your perfect trip.

Immerse yourself in the majesty of Chimborazo. Discover the mystique of the Papallacta hot springs, or feel the energy of Cotopaxi and Quilotoa as you venture into their national parks. Explore Otavalo, Cotacachi and Cuicocha, or be dazzled by the beauty of Baños and the lush Upper Amazon. Explore beyond Quito, and get ready to discover Ecuador's diversity.

1. Mindo Cloud Forest Tour from Quito

Mindo Cloud Forest|©Sapchu Vallejo
Mindo Cloud Forest|©Sapchu Vallejo

The Mindo Nambillo Cloud Forest occupies an area of 22,000 hectares of nature reserve so it takes time to explore. A typical itinerary starts with an early morning pick-up from your accommodation and then takes you on a 2-hour ride to the park.

Once you arrive at the green Mindo destination you can start your tour and get lost among the streets lined with handicraft stores and a variety of wooden and bamboo houses.

Then, groups usually cross the 7 waterfalls of Mindo aboard the popular tarabitas, a kind of cable car located 150 meters high that transports you through the Sanctuary of Waterfalls. The ride is a blast, and the views justify the trip.

When you get off the cable car it will be time to take a hiking trail of about 45-50 minutes to have direct contact with this idyllic place. There you can splash around in the water or join one of the extra activities available depending on the Mindo Cloud Forest excursion you have booked before making the return trip back to your point of origin.

Details of interest

  • Price: from 97 € per person.
  • Duration: from 10 hours onwards.
  • What you need to know: you can book a 2-day excursion to the Mindo cloud forest or tour it on one of the full-day tours as described above. Take into consideration that activities available at the site include: zip-lining, tubing, rappelling and bird watching. They also offer visits to the orchid garden and the hummingbird garden. And if that's not enough, you can enjoy a coffee tour, or Latin chocolate excursions.
  • What the tour may include: transportation service to and from the lodge. Breakfast. Lunch. Ticket for the Mindo Tarabita. Professional guide service.
  • Pros: This type of tour is presented with options available for short or long itineraries in Ecuador. It is one of the most fun activities to explore nature, especially if you are looking for things to do from Quito with kids.
  • Cons: To enjoy the extra activities an additional supplement is usually required.

Book an excursion to the Mindo Cloud Forest

2. Excursion to Antisana from Quito

Antisana Volcano|©Gabriela Martínez
Antisana Volcano|©Gabriela Martínez

The Antisana Ecological Reserve tour is an incredible journey that takes you to an ecological sanctuary outlined by the reserve's namesake volcano, one of Ecuador's main volcanoes located about 50 kilometers from the capital.

The typical tour itinerary begins with a minibus ride from your accommodation directly to Antisana National Park. Here, you will have the opportunity to observe a wide variety of animals, including endangered species such as the Andean condor. You will also be able to tour the Andean páramo, as well as the swampy areas and rock formations surrounding the Antisana Volcano.

Often the next stop is La Mica Lagoon, where you can enjoy a hike along the nearby trails, often ending in the hot springs of the Tambo Valley, while capturing unforgettable photographic moments. Later you will have the opportunity to stop at a restaurant to recharge your batteries, with a condor sighting flying over the Peñon el Izco as a backdrop for lunch.

Finally, the stop that usually completes your Antisana excursion reservation is at the Las Secas lagoon, where you can hike some of the trails around the Muertepungo volcanic flow, among beautiful nestled cliffs.

Details of interest

  • Price: from 128 € per person.
  • Duration: 8-12 hours.
  • What you should know: the duration of this type of excursion varies considerably if the entrance to the hot springs is included.
  • What the tour may include: transportation service to and from the accommodation. Professional guide service. Condor watching. Lunch.
  • Pros: picturesque, photogenic and medium-low level hiking experiences.
  • Cons: drinks may not be included. Entrance to the hot springs is often at an additional supplement.

Book an excursion to Antisana

3. Tour to Baños and the Upper Amazon from Quito

Baños Tungurahua Ecuador|©Oscar Padilla Álvarez
Baños Tungurahua Ecuador|©Oscar Padilla Álvarez

This type of day trip takes you to Baños de Agua Santa, the town where the " swing at the end of the world " is located at 1,820 meters above sea level on the northeastern flanks of Tungurahua. During the ride you will be able to enjoy views of the Ecuadorian volcanic zone, along with waterfalls, cloud forests and Amazon jungle during the approximately 3 hours of road travel.

The typical itinerary of the tour begins with the pick up at your accommodation to embark to Baños, while enjoying the views of Antisana, Los Illinizas, Cotopaxi and Tungurahua in the distance. Once you arrive in the lands of Agua Santa, you can explore the streets of the city and visit the Basilica of the Queen of the Rosary of Agua Santa where different eruptions of the Tungurahua Volcano are depicted on the walls of 3 semi-gothic style naves.

The tour can also take you through the route of the waterfalls, where the Agoyán hydroelectric plant is located, until you reach the local community of Rio Blanco to appreciate the beauty of the cloud forest. Also, in this area you will cross the Pastaza River Canyon in a 500-meter cable car to visit the Manto de la Novia Waterfall and the Agoyán waterfall.

The experience usually ends at the world famous Pailón del Diablo de Río Verde Waterfall, where you can observe part of the Amazonian vegetation while taking a therapeutic bath. By the end, you will have experienced more than four different microclimates in a single day.

Details of interest

  • Price: from 136 € per person.
  • Duration: 10 - 12 hours.
  • What you need to know: you can go white water rafting or canyoning in the Baños rapids. There is also a zip line available. On October 7th is celebrated the Day of the Virgin of Agua Santa, doing this tour on that date will allow you to participate in the event.
  • What the tour may include: transportation service to and from the lodge. Professional guide service. Entrance to Baños.
  • Pros: this is one of the most complete day tours because it allows you to take a look at the best attractions around this South American capital. If you visit Quito in 3 days or your time is tight, do not hesitate to schedule it.
  • Cons: Activities not mentioned in the itinerary are usually optional. Food and beverages are not usually included.

Book an excursion to Baños and the Upper Amazon.

4. Excursion to Otavalo, Cotacachi and Cuicocha from Quito

Ecuador - Otavalo|©jmblum
Ecuador - Otavalo|©jmblum

This is a tour through two of **Ecuador'**s main handicraft markets. This type of ride takes you through breathtaking landscapes until you reach the charming canton of Cayambe, where you will have the opportunity to taste its famous biscuits while the mountain range serves as a backdrop.

The next stop is often at the Miralago viewpoint, a perfect place to contemplate the best views ofLake San Pablo de Peguche and the Imbabura volcano. Next, the group usually moves on to Otavalo and its world-famous indigenous market. Here you also visit the Plaza de los Ponchos and experience the cultural diversity of the area. There is also free time in Cotacachi to have lunch on your own, visit the town or explore the leather and wool handicraft stores.

The last stop is usually at a volcanic caldera located at an altitude of more than 3,000 meters: the Cuicocha Lagoon, where the tour ends just before taking you back to your point of origin.

Details of interest

  • Price: from 51 € per person.
  • Duration: 9-10 hours.
  • What you should know: this is a tour mainly for shopping for handicrafts and handmade products.
  • What the tour may include: transportation service to and from the lodging. Professional guide service.
  • Pros: it is a comfortable tour to get lost among the flea markets, meet the artisans behind the products and learn about the culture and traditions behind them.
  • Cons: groups can be large.

Book a tour to Otavalo, Cotacachi and Cuicocha

5. Excursion to Cotopaxi National Park from Quito

Cotopaxi|©Elias Rovielo
Cotopaxi|©Elias Rovielo

The Cotopaxi National Park tours are unique adventures that take you through the Avenue of the Volcanoes to admire the Andean landscapes.

The tour starts in Quito, where you will be met with transportation to take you along the Panamerican Highway until you reach Cotopaxi. Once there, you visit places like its museum, walk around the Limpiopungo Lagoon and hike or trek to the Chuquirahuas Forest at about 4,200 meters (depending on the weather).

Next, guides usually take you to the base of the Cotopaxi volcano, where you will begin a hike to the Rivas Refuge at 4,864 meters. After a short rest, you ascend to 5,100 meters to enjoy the views of the Cotopaxi glacier. At the end you will be taken back to your lodging.

Details of interest

  • Price: from 61 € per person.
  • Duration: 11-12 hours approximately.
  • What you should know: because of the proximity between the Limpiopungo and Quilotoa lakes, the Cotopaxi and Quilotoa experience is often combined.
  • What the tour may include: round trip transportation service. Professional guide service.
  • Pros: it is a national park that can be enjoyed through various trails allowing you to hike at medium or high level, depending on your preferences.
  • Cons: food is not included.

Book an excursion to Cotopaxi and Quilotoa National Park.

6. Day trip to Papallacta hot springs from Quito

Papallacta Hot Springs|© /
Papallacta Hot Springs|© /

A tour to the Papallacta hot springs from Quito is an excellent way to spend a full day surrounded by the natural Ecuadorian landscape. This type of tour has as its first destination the viewpoint of the Papallacta Lagoon, which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

Afterwards, you can move to the Papallacta Hot Springs station, and then continue with a hiking route around the island, in which the company of an expert guide is always recommended. At the end of the exercise you will have the opportunity to soak in the hot springs in the mountains.

Finally and to complete the experience, you can relax for the rest of the day resting in the resort's spa or spa.

Details of interest

  • Price: from 97 € per person.
  • Duration: 7-8 hours approximately.
  • What you should know: this type of tour allows you to enjoy hot springs, sauna, hiking and the best activities in Quito in one place.
  • What the tour may include: transportation service to and from your hotel. Entrance to the Papallacta hot springs and visit to its lagoon. Entrance ticket to the hot springs. Light lunch. Local guide service.
  • Pros: It is a one-day getaway from Quito to relax. Groups can be small.
  • Cons: Although you can visit the hot springs with the kids, the place is ideal for adults.

7. Chimborazo Day Trip from Quito

chimborazo ecuador|©Esteban Monar
chimborazo ecuador|©Esteban Monar

A day trip to Chimborazo from Quito takes you to explore the farthest point from the center of the Earth, the highest mountain in Ecuador and the world, taking as a starting point the land and not the sea, in which case Everest is still ahead.

The itinerary starts with the pick up at the hotel, and then drive you through the trails of the volcano, after a 3 hour drive by road. You will be able to enjoy dreamlike landscapes and reach 5,100 meters above sea level in Riobamba, where the mystical Condor Cocha lagoon is located.

This is a very nice ride during which you can appreciate the flora and fauna of the area, including the vicuña while getting the best panoramic views of the country.

Details of interest

  • Price: from 146 € per person.
  • Duration: 10-12 hours approximately.
  • What you need to know: this is a very beautiful but demanding hike, it is recommended for people familiar with medium-high level of hiking.
  • What the tour may include: transportation service to and from the accommodation. Expert guide service. Breakfast. Lunch.
  • Pros: You walk through one of the emblems of Ecuador with the confidence of being accompanied by an expert. In addition, the comfort of the transportation and the food at your disposal allow you to enjoy nature without worries.
  • Cons: Not recommended for everyone.

Tips for an excursion from Quito

ecuador excursion|©Kristen Helmsdoerfer
ecuador excursion|©Kristen Helmsdoerfer
  • Consider the altitude. Remember that Ecuador is the great adventure destination in South America located at the highest point in the region. Treks often take you to more than 2,500 meters above sea level.
  • Quick-drying clothes. Take light clothing, appropriate sneakers and a raincoat. Humidity is a constant, especially if you plan your trip between January and May.
  • The schedule of excursions. Often the pick-up time at your hotel will be around 05:30 hours. Keep in mind that you want to make the most of your visit.
  • Be prepared for hiking. Excursions from Quito are usually immersive walks in the local nature. To achieve this, most of the time is spent walking. The ideal is to have a certain physical condition that allows you to enjoy hiking at ease. Don't worry, you will be compensated with beautiful panoramic views among the flora and fauna of the Andean mountain range.