Cotopaxi National Park
Located a couple of hours away from Quito, Cotopaxi National Park makes waking up on a sunny day in Quito a gift. It has one of the country’s highest volcanoes, also called Cotopaxi. It’s an active volcano, but it’s still possible to visit. It’s an easy distance for a day tour from Quito. If you don’t have a car, you can take a bus to Machachi, about an hour away from Quito, and arrange transport by truck from there.
Papallacta Hot Springs
These hot springs out in the mountains are the perfect way to relax, take a day off, and disconnect from the daily grind. A bus will leave you on the highway that connects the highlands and the Amazon region, and then there’s about a 30-minute walk. You can also arrange a car to drive you up to the hot springs. The best days to visit are weekdays, as the hot springs are not as crowded then, and you can relax.
This city, two hours away from Quito, has some impressive lakes, mountains, and a cute historic area known as the White City, after the many white colonial buildings in the area. Its parks, its perfect weather, and perhaps most of all, its famous helado de paila (a sherbet-like ice cream) will make this a very enjoyable day out. It’s much smaller and friendlier than the capital.
Otavalo has a famous market on Saturdays, and is a great location to go shopping and get your souvenirs, but Otavalo is much more than that. With good restaurants and cafés, and rich customs, traditions, and history, Otavalo is very much worth visiting. Walking around the streets will reveal a plethora of shops and the unique entrepreneurial spirit of this city.
Laguna San Pablo
A few miles away from Otavalo, this tranquil village surrounding the lake is a great place to disconnect. You can kayak in the lake, or sit by the lake while eating a traditional Ecuadorian meal. A number of hardcore swimming competitions are hosted in San Pablo. Despite the cold weather, this lake is popular with among triathletes. For the less active, there’s always the option of enjoying a gentle boat ride.
About two and a half hours away from Quito, this town has warmer weather and the atmosphere of a tiny Ecuadorian coastal community. It’s a quiet little spot where you can have a meal and walk by the river, swim, or just read a book.