{10 Second Vacation} Quito, Ecuador (Plus a Few Side Trips)

We hit up Quito, the charming capital of Ecuador, last summer before heading to Machu Picchu. It totally exceeded expectations. Everywhere you look, there’s a beautiful view. It’s a lively small city with a lovely colonial center. The people are friendly and there is lots to do. Not only that, it’s a really cheap town – we rented a lovely 2 bedroom apartment for around 70 bucks. A far cry from paying $200 a night for a decent hotel room as you do in many places. Plus, Quito can be a jumping-off point for so many other adventures, like a visit to the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon, or the beach.


One of the coolest things (literally and figuratively speaking) you can find in Quito is ice cream vendors on the street who still make ice cream in a very old-fashioned way. They put a large metal bowl inside a block of ice and continuously stir the ice cream mixture to freeze it along the sides of the cold metal. Of course this usually means only one flavor is available, but it is absolutely delicious!


There are also a couple of day and overnight trips within close driving distance of Quito. We went to two that we loved. We spent 2 nights at Hacienda Zuleta north of Quito, and the only accurate word I can think of to describe it is “magical.” The hacienda, which is about a 2 hour drive from Quito, is a multi-thousand acre working farm and supports biologists studying the endangered Andean condors on site. It is owned by the children and grandchildren of a former president of Ecuador. The setting is not to be believed and everything is relaxed, friendly, and makes you feel right at home. The scenery can’t be beat.

On the way to Hacienda Zuleta, you can stop in the tiny town of Cayambe, which specializes in bizcochos and queso. These savory sweet biscuits don’t look like much, but when they’re fresh out of the oven, you’ll see what the fuss is all about. They come with a white cheese that’s kind of like string cheese, or you can opt for a sweeter dip of dulce de leche. There are about a million bizcocho places along the highway so you should be able to find one easily!

Then, continue on the road a few more miles for a second stop at the famous market town of Otavalo.


The second trip can be a day trip or an overnight trip. Papallacta is a town about an hour and 15 minutes from Quito by car, and they have gorgeous hot spring pools, hiking, and countryside views for days. The hot springs are run by a lovely hotel that has a good restaurant and cheap massages on offer.

On our way home from Papallacta, we got some freshly squeezed sugarcane juice from these young entrepreneurs.

Ecuador is a special place. If you have the chance to make a trip, don’t miss it!

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