Natural Wonders Near Quito: Best Sightseeing and Excursions Outside Ecuador’s Capital

Ecuador is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth. Just outside Quito’s city limits, there is a world of gorgeous wildlife, stunning natural monuments, and scintillating discoveries waiting for you. While some might pass by Ecuador’s capital city without a second glance, we recommend taking your time to take in the view. In this article, we’ll tell you which natural wonders near Quito you can’t miss during your trip to Ecuador.

Best Sightseeing & natural wonders near Quito

We’ve compiled a list of the best and most breathtaking natural wonders near Quito for you to visit. In this article, you’ll read about various markets, landmarks, and conservation areas that will absolutely delight any outdoor enthusiast.

Otavalo Market

If you want to taste the full flavor of Otavalo Market, you’ll have to get there early.

Like many Ecuadorian markets, the vendors who come to the market to sell and exchange their animals arrive at dawn and leave for the mountains as soon as their business is over. This special hour provides an authentic opportunity to see guinea pig, llama, alpaca like goats, sheep, cow and horses in an intoxicating atmosphere of colors and movements. At the bottom of the market, mobile kitchens offer tasty cuisine, and at the fruit and vegetable stands you will discover the humble, sensual world of produce farmers.

The handicraft stalls cover a whole square, bursting with handmade goods traditionally made with wool by the indigenous skilled crafts people, Otavaleños. From ponchos, to blankets, to pullovers, to tapestries and felt hats, a multitude of artisans from other regions of Ecuador present their works in the adjacent streets. The grand collection of hardware, clothing and shoes are a spectacular part of this huge Saturday meeting in Otavalo that you don’t want to miss.

From there, you can visit the village of Cotacachi, whose inhabitants are specialized in leather crafting. You can visit a rose farm or take a walk to the majestic Cayambe volcano, Ecuador’s second highest peak at 18,996 feet.

Quilotoa Crater & Sigchos Loop

The Sigchos Loop runs over typically magnificent Ecuadorian plateaus and agrarian landscapes, passing under the Illiniza volcano, a stratovolcano, situated about 62 miles (100km) southwest of Quito and 20.5 miles (33 km) north of Latacunga. Illiniza, is a potentially active volcano and is a sight to behold with two snow-capped peaks: Illiniza Sur and Illiniza Norte. Through the loop, you can traverse deep canyons and finally gain altitude to arrive at the Quilotoa crater. This route will reveal several impressive natural wonders near Quito.

For experienced hikers, the route around the crater will provide an ample challenge. An often dizzying 7-mile trail, the path around Quilotoa Crater climbs and descends constantly at an altitude of 13,123ft (4000 meters). On the way back, depending on the time, your guide will invite you to discover some secret places off the beaten track.

Saquisilí Amazing Market

The Saquisilí Market is visited by very few tourists, even though it is certainly the most authentic in all of Ecuador – making it a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the daily life of the natives of the Sierra. Vegetables, tubers, fruits, braiding, ironwork or even guinea pigs and llamas… you will find a wide selection of local treasures, and over a dozen varieties of potatoes! You will find yourself here wanting to spend hours observing, discovering, feeling amazed at all the happenings and asking a thousand questions.

The Saquisilí Market is spread over seven sections where specific products are sold.

  • Plaza de las Papas: potatoes, vegetables, fruits, cereals and all types of typical dishes of the area.
  • Plaza 18 Octubre: traditional and handmade clothing, textiles, crafts.
  • Plaza de Rastro: cattle, horses, livestock, etc. To be able to explore the animal market during trading hours, we recommend you arrive early.
  • Plaza de las Gallinas: poultry, domestic animals, fish and mechanical tools.
  • Plaza Kennedy: Cereals, fruits and local foods.
  • Plaza Juan Montalvo: mainly shoes.
  • Plaza San Juan Bautista: Socks, underwear and other garmets.

Cotopaxi Volcano National Park

From the Quilotoa Crater and Sigchos hiking loop, you can observe the majestic and grandiose Mount Cotopaxi from different points of view when the weather is clear. The mountain will dazzle you with its graceful, nearly-perfect cone peak, in which the main crater measures approximately 550 to 800 meters in diameter. It is the highest active volcano in Ecuador. No matter where you plan to take in the view, leave early because very often the clouds cling to the summit.

There are many exciting ways to explore this impressive volcano more closely, whether you decide to ascend the mountain or take a lighter hike to the mountain refuge. You might also choose to tour the park and take in the sights by horseback or mountain bike. From Hotel Villa Colonna, it is a perfect day trip and as one of the most iconic natural wonders near Quito.

Antisana National Park

The stratovolcano Antisana is a looming marvel from its 18,870 feet (5,753 meters), nestled within the bounds of the awe-inspiring Antisana Ecological Reserve. The national park is a vibrant ecosystem of 300,000 acres, and a unique habitat for thousands of species of fauna and flora, and is one of the many awe-inspiring natural wonders near Quito. A trek in the meadow-like alpine tundra called páramo will enchant you; you can observe mammals like the Andean fox, white-tailed deer, spectacled bears, and mountain tapirs along the path. If you keep your eyes towards the sky, you’ll see lots of birds like the Andean gulls, caracaras, ducks, hummingbirds, black-faced ibis, and brown-speckled teal, and of course, the Andean condor who rules the scene.

The Antisana Volcano is confined to the Eastern Cordillera of Ecuador, its summit is closer to the Amazon and therefore more subject to bad weather and sudden changes in weather. The Antisana Volcano is also renowned for being one of Ecuador’s toughest peaks. If you wish to climb the volcano, we can organize your ascent. As with the rest of the Ecuadorian Cordillera, the best season to attempt a climb is December and January, then July and August.

The Antisana volcano formed southeast of the huge Chacana caldera, a large volcanic crater, and the top formed as a double cone. The most recent cone has a breach and partly overhangs the older cone, which is also composed of two calderas. Located 62 miles from Villa Colonna Quito, the trip to Antisana National Park will provide a satisfyingly intense excursion from the city center. Our guests can expect a hearty, authentically Ecuadorian meal on their return.

Bird Watching in Mindo Cloud Forest

Mindo Valley is renowned for its protected ecological reserve, its lush forest, and the incredible diversity of its fauna and flora. Here, lovers of nature, birds, butterflies and waterfalls, can plunge into paradise.

For our guests, we offer an extraordinary itinerary in this area complete with a visit to an orchid garden, butterfly farm, canopy cable car or jungle walk – there are many options here to create a full and fulfilling day trip.

Some other natural wonders near Quito in this area include:

  • Pululahua Crater: one of the few inhabited craters in the world.
  • Mirador de Ventanillas: get a fantastic view of the Pululahua crater here.
  • Pondonia Dome: located in the central part of the volcano, its name is derived from the Kichwa words – Pondo, which means pitcher, and Ña, which means mountain. The volcanic lava inflated the earth in such a way that it created an elevation resulting in this dome.

Papallacta Hot Springs

One of the natural wonders near Quito is just 37 miles east at 10,826 feet above sea level, the origin of the Papallacta Hot Springs – found between the Cayambe and Antisana volcanoes. The hot springs are rich in sulphate, sodium, magnesium, chlorides, typically bubbling between 86F and 158F. The waters are clear and odorless with a slight taste of salt. These thermal baths relieve respiratory and kidney problems, arthritis and sinusitis.

Papallacta is a rustic village in the eastern cordillera of the Andes. Here, you’ll see a magnificent view of the Antisana volcano which reaches its peak at 18,700 feet. It is a beautiful place to spend a day out adventuring on the edge of Amazonia, searching for condors and spectacled bears on long hikes in the alpine meadows, or páramo – then slipping into the hot springs for a deeply relaxing soak. Nearby, you can also visit a local rose farm.

Take in the incredible natural wonders near Quito

There is no shortage of natural wonders near Quito, just the beginning of the many astonishing sights and adventures to experience in Ecuador. Beyond the impressive Galapagos and Ecuadorian Amazon, you will find lush wild habitat, thrilling challenges, and captivating landscapes right outside Quito. It’s well worth any traveller’s time to take advantage of all there is to see and do, only a short distance from this historic city!

50+ Club Discovery Week

Our desire is to help our guests spend an ideal week in and outside Ecuador’s captivating capital city. If you’re interested in exploring the natural wonders near Quito, the 50+ Club Discovery Week package could be the perfect way to get around in style. Below is our recommended day-by-day itinerary:

Read more about this exclusive offer here.

  • Tuesday: your personal guide collects you from the airport and brings you to Hotel Villa Colonna.
  • Wednesday: tour Quito’s the historical, San Fransisco Church, Gold Church and the Alabado Museum.
  • Thursday: Saquisili Market, Quilotoa Crater, via the beautiful Sigchos Loop
  • Friday: Cable car to Mitad del Mundo, bird watching.
  • Saturday: Otavalo Market
  • Sunday: Antisana National Park, rose gardens.
  • Monday: Papallacta hot springs
  • Tuesday: Airport transfer or departure to Galapagos or Amazonia

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