Beyond Quito in 2 Hours or Less

Advisor - Sarah Mills
Curated By

Sarah Mills

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  • Adventure Travel

  • Family Travel

  • Solo Travel

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Wellness Travel

  • Road Trip Travel

  • Couples Travel

  • Digital Nomad Travel

  • Sustainable Travel

  • Shopping

  • Local Culture

  • Local Food

An aerial view of city mountains at distance
Curator’s statement

Quito is a wonderful base for exploring the Andean Region of Ecuador. After visiting the cultural sights of Quito, it's time to get out of the city and experience the magic of the Andes. If you are up for an adventure, you can't miss Cotapaxi National Park. Whether you decide to summit all 19,347 feet of this active, snow-capped volcano or tour the park on horse-back, you will be blown away by the shear magnitude and beauty of this wild park. For a more culturally-focused, trip, head north from Quito to Otavalo, where you can shop in one of the largest artisan markets in all of of South America and sample traditional, Ecuadorian dishes. If it is peace and relaxation that you are seeking, head an hour east of Quito to the small town of Papallacta to soak in the hot springs and indulge in a massage at Termas Papallacta Resort and Spa.

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Where to stay in Ecuador - Cotapaxi, Otavalo, and Papallacta

Chilcabamba Mountain Lodge

A beautiful retreat just outside Cotapaxi National Park, with stunning views of its snow-capped namesake volcano.

Termas Papallacta Hotel Spa

A tranquil retreat in Papallacta, Ecuador, offering soothing thermal baths and spa treatments amidst the stunning Andean landscape.

Hacienda San Agustin de Callo

A historic Inca architecture-rich estate nestled in the heart of Ecuador's scenic Andean region, offering a unique blend of comfort, culture and adventure.

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Things to do in Ecuador - Cotapaxi, Otavalo, and Papallacta

fields with grazing brown and white alpaca


Plaza de los Ponchos Mercado - Shop for hand-woven artisan products at one of the largest markets in South America.

Peguche Waterfall - Wisit the waterfall and wander the trails through a refreshing eucalyptus forest, just minutes from the center of Otavalo.

Laguna Cuicocha - Hike around the stunning, bright, blue crater lake, 40 minutes from Otavalo.

Pro Tip - On the drive from Quito to Otavalo you will pass through a county called "Pedro Moncayo." This county is known for being one of the top rose-exporting areas in the world. You will see many vendors selling roses on the side of the road. Stop and buy the roses because you can buy 60 beautiful roses for $5! Buy them for your hotel room, it's the best $5 you will ever spend.


Visit the thermal baths and spa at Termas Papallacta Resort and Spa. As a hotel guest, you will have 24/7 access to the thermal pools just steps outside your room. There is also a full service spa, hiking trails and a cozy bar and restaurant located on-site.


Your hacienda or lodge will set up a guided hike through the National Park with an experienced, local guide. If hiking isn't for you, you can tour the park on horse-back or mountain bike.

Places to eat & drink in Ecuador - Cotapaxi, Otavalo, and Papallacta

hornado dish


Mercado Municipal 24 de Mayo - Try an authentic "hornado" from one of the food stalls in the market. My favorite dish in all of Ecuador consists of juicy slow-roasted pork, served over spiced potato patties (llapingachos) mote (hominy), and salad all for $3!

Puerto Lago Country Inn and Resort - Beautiful lake-front restaurant serving trout and other local dishes. This restaurant is best visited during day-light hours when you can really enjoy the view, the llamas and the installations.

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Local's Guide to the Best Beaches in Ecuador.

Advisor - Sarah Mills

Travel Advisor

Sarah Mills

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Ecuador.