Quito Sightseeing

Quito is the capital of Ecuador which sits at an altitude of 2850 meters. Although the city is not far from the equator, it is still reasonable cold due to the altitude. But if the sky clears up, the heat from the sun can be very harsh.

Getting to Quito

We got to Quito from Otavalo in the north of Ecuador. The bus ride cost was USD 2.5 per person and plenty of buses leave Otavalo for Quito until late.

We had an unfortunate incident on the bus ride, though our amazing insurance company has compensated us for it. If you are traveling or planning to travel in South American countries, we highly recommend you to read our safety while traveling post.

Historic Centre

The Historic Centre of Quito is UNESCO heritage listed and is one of the most well preserved colonial cities in Latin America (I think I’ve written that sentence too many times!). While the entire old city is beautiful, there are a few must-sees: The Presidential Palace, Cathedral of Quito, Convento San Fransisco, Basílica del Voto Nacional and Iglesia Compañia Del Jesus.

Historical Centre, Quito

The Iglesia Compañia del Jesus in particular was mind blowing. The altar was huge and gilded with gold leaf. The entire roof and most of the pillars had been painted gold. In addition, the church was a museum of the jesuits order started by St Ignatius of Loyola. We paid $4 per person to enter which was a bit too much but the altar, museum and the paintings were absolutely stunning. There is a wall size painting of hell and heaven which is unbelievable.

Iglesia Compañia del Jesus, Quito

Basílica del Voto Nacional is another spectacular church. It is built on the hill and so is visible from various part of the city. Though we got to the church at closing time, we have only heard of an incredible interior. In fact, the church allows tourists to climb up to the spire for a great view. Definitely something we missed out on!

Basílica del Voto Nacional, Quito

Other than this, all the other mentioned churches and plazas are remarkable as well. During the day, most places are full of people and it is a joy to walk around the old city and take it all in.

Historical Centre, Quito

Mitad Del Mundo

Ecuador literally means the Equator. The equator line passes only a short distance from the city of Quito. Getting to it is quite easy on the MetrobusQ. $0.25 will get you to the Ofelia Terminal in the north of the city where there are lots of bus going to Mitad Del Mundo for $0.25. Whether it had the equator line or not, it was a magnificent area with mountains on all sides and the Volcano Cayambe nearby.

Mitad Del Mundo, Quito

Once we reached there, we were a little confused. The official equatorial monument was a huge precinct with museums, historical sites of the French expedition, restaurants, playing sites for kids and the monument itself. We had heard that this monument was actually inaccurate and there was another museum with the modern current line. However, we could not see it anywhere.

Mitad Del Mundo, Quito

Intiñan Museum, Mitad Del Mundo, QuitoAfter asking the gentleman at the entry, we were told its a little further up the road. We walked to the Intiñan Museum which was the native museum and right on the equator line as proven by GPS. Seen from a distance, the museum looked like a native village with little huts and totem poles from around South America. We paid $4 for the entry and tour in English.

Intiñan Museum, Mitad Del Mundo, Quito

Intiñan Museum, Mitad Del Mundo, QuitoThe tour involved some experiments showing the effects of the equator line and history of Ecuador, its native people and its crops such as coffee and cocoa which originated in Ecuador. Shruti even managed to balance an egg on a nail! After finishing the tour, we bought some post cards with an equator rubber stamp to send home.

Intiñan Museum, Mitad Del Mundo, Quito

Mitad Del Mundo, QuitoFollowing on, we bought entry to the government’s official monument area. It was huge, touristy and very historical. There was a gaint sun dial and the time shown was accurate, obviously! A French expedition in Ecuador found the equator line in the 18th century. While it was an accomplishment for the time, the actual line was 240 metres away. Despite this, the government’s official line is that the equator line is 5 km wide so all the equator memorials in the area are correct. We’ll always believe that we visited the correct line first!

Intiñan Museum, Mitad Del Mundo, Quito

La Mariscal

Our main aim in Quito was to apply for Peru Visa for Shruti. See this post for the outcome :( The Mariscal area was the closest to it. What we didn’t know was that it was a tourist area as well, similar to El Poblado in Medellin. On one hand, we had lots of restaurants to go to and lots of bars to drink in. However, the prices were way high.

Our time in Mariscal was mostly limited to the hostel as we had to plan our next moves post laptop theft and denial of Peru Visa. We did ended up going to a great Indian restaurant in Mariscal, Shere Punjab restaurant. The food was just like home and the tea was to die for. However, we noticed an oversupply of Indian restaurants and Indian bars. So far in South America, we hardly met any Indians so it was surprising. However, we put this down to the illegal immigration where agents make a promise of getting people to US or Europe but leave the potential migrants in a 3rd world country.

One of the nights was the night of Copa Libertadores and the local club, Liga de Quito was playing. Entire Mariscal looked like a Saturday night and it was full of people. We didn’t dare enter a pub but the atmosphere was nail biting and fans partied till late at night on a Wednesday. Go figure!


The absolute best thing about Quito is its transport system. There are 3 metro lines, Metrobus, Ecovia and Trolleybus. All of them run north to south and have dedicated lane in the middle for it. This makes them a fast option to travel and economical for only $0.25 cent per person per ride anywhere.

PS: sorry for the delay in posts. We didn’t have a laptop for too long and posting from mobile is really tedious. We are now back in the game with a pre-loved laptop. :)

Quilotoa Loop for Everyone?

If you Google ‘Things to do in Ecuador’ and Quilotoa Loop will be on the list. We read about it on various sites and blogs and then decided not to do it! We don’t think Quilotoa Loop is for everyone.

Here is our reasons:

  1. Doing the Quilotoa Loop means leaving your big backpack at a hostel and coming back to get it after doing the loop. The thought of leaving most of our belongings behind for few days not comforting. What if we needed something urgently (I know it doesn’t happen but yea!)
  2. We could do the Quilatoa Loop carrying the big backpack with us. It meant walking with it for 6 hours each day. As if we are fit enough for that!
  3. We are on a holiday and we didn’t see the point in over exerting ourselves. Doing the complete loop meant hiking for 4 days back to back. We would rather hike to our physical ability and relax when necessary.
  4. We are quite particular about some of our clothes, especially because we are only carrying 4-5 sets of socks and undies. So hiking 4 days would mean no clean clothes after the hike and the thought of it was not comfortable at all.
  5. We found plenty of day hike options from Chugchilan, including the Quilatoa Laguna. This option was comfortable and yet adventurous.

Look out for our post about spending 5 days in Chugchilan. There is plenty to do from one location! We saw various parts of the region, almost similar to the Quilatoa Loop experience.

Safety while traveling

Some of you must of realised that our blogging has reduced. There is one main reason for it – our laptop was stolen from us. It was definitely an unfortunate incident but we have learnt from it. Here is what happened and how you can ensure safety while traveling.


During our South America research we read a lot about thefts in Colombia. We were mentally prepared about keeping ourselves and our belongings safe. But I guess the recent economical development in Colombia provided us a much safer environment. We gradually let our guards down and that came to bite us in the bum in Ecuador.

The Realisation

The incident took place on the bus ride from Otavalo to Quito. The journey itself was uneventful till we reached Quito. We were heading towards our hostel in La Marsical when at the Quito metrobus connection Shruti realised that one of the bags was unusually light.

We quickly opened the zips of the bag to realise that the laptop was missing. Our initial thought was we thought we left the laptop in the hostel. However, further thinking through confirmed that it was not a possibility. As we had checked out early to do the hike around Otavalo, we had locked our bags and left them at the hostel. An email exchange with the hostel confirmed our fears.

We then tried to recall every incident since we left the hostel. The theft could not have occurred on the Quito metrobus as the daypacks were on our laps due to the evening peak time rush. The only situation left was the Otavalo to Quito bus ride.

Theft from under the feet

After our 5 hour hike in Otavalo, we had a decent meal and were ready to board the bus to Quito. Due to the hike and food coma, Shruti and I fell asleep as soon as the bus left the terminal. The daypacks were places next to our feet on the bus floor. Something we have been doing since Colombia.

The thief/ves must have been sitting behind us on the bus. They would have realised that we were fast asleep giving them the opportunity to carry out the theft. At one point in the journey, probably 40 mins after we left the terminal, I woke up for a few minutes to realise the bag was not against the side but halfway under the seat. I thought that the bag had moved due to the rash bus driving along the mountains.

Once we got to our hostel in Quito, we went through the chain of events and realized that we had been robbed by some skillful thieves. The bag was dragged from under the seat, the laptop taken and pushed back to close to our feet.

What Next?

The next 2 hours revolved around changing passwords, estimating the damage and the plan of action. As we had specified the laptop when we bought our travel insurance, we had to file a police report as soon as possible to claim the theft. The tourist police station in La Mariscal area of Quito had an officer who could manage some English and helped us file a police report. In the next couple of days we filled our claim to the insurance and are currently waiting to hear from them.

UPDATE: Our travel insurance replied and they have reimbursed us for the lost laptop! I must say we have the best travel insurance and highly recommend Southern Cross Insurance for everyone! They have only been understanding :)

How to be Vigilant

There are a lot of lessons we learnt from this event. Here are some of our tips for ensuring safety while traveling.

  1. The time on the road is when we have to be most careful. The focus must be to arrive at the destination safe and sound. If you are distracted thats when an incident could occur.
  2. Always board the bus after decent rest. Sleeping on the bus is not an option unless you are hugging your belongings. This incident occurred because both of us were tired and fast asleep. Even when I woke up for couple of minutes during the journey, my tired brain accepted the easiest possibility of bag moving due to the bus ride. I did not think twice or consider other possibilities.
  3. Always lock all your bags, especially the zips with the money and passport.
  4. Never place anything on the top shelf of the bus because if you cannot see it, it is likely to be gone. Under certain circumstances if you have to place some of your belongings on the top, either place it on the opposite side so you can always see it or leave some part of the belonging hanging so it is still within your sight.

Take all the necessary precautions to avoid any damage. If an incident occurs, it ruins the next couple of days and possibly even your overall experience in the country.

Also, always remember that some people are constantly struggling to make ends meet. They are possibly in a situation where taking a chance is their best option. If they get caught, they could probably get away because most tourists do not get involved in pressing charges or taking action. It is almost a win-win situation for them.

In any case, we still count ourselves lucky as the thieves could have taken the entire bag and got off at the next stop. We would have been left with no passports and money then!

Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo is a small Ecuadorian town in about 3 hours away from the border. It is well-known for its indigenous Saturday Market where plenty of people flock together to buy, sell, eat and enjoy the day. The town is quite picturesque and upon getting there we realised there is lot to do around it.

Saturday Market

Shruti timed our border crossing and getting to Otavalo alongside the market. On Saturday morning we managed to visit the market and we were not disappointed to the slightest. Otavalo has been the market town of the native people in this area for centuries. It was amazing stepping out of the hostel to see men and women dressed up in their traditional attire. What was even more brilliant was that this was our first sight of native people all around us. We finally felt we were in the Inca Land!

Native woman, Otavalo Market

The market took up nearly half of the town centre. Everywhere there were stalls with women selling handicrafts, clothing and art. Sometimes many native women were making handicrafts right there in front of us. The colors of the woven bags, clothes and carpets were phenomenal. We haven’t regretted backpacking many times but this was definitely one of those days. There was so much stuff we wanted to take with us but had no space in the bag whatsoever.

Llama, Otavalo, Ecuador

A little away from the handicraft market was the fruit and veg market. There were lots of butchered pigs, fish and small eateries selling native food. There were plenty of green leafy veges, corn and spices. We wanted to try the food but almost all of it was pork based. Therefore, we did a bit of a mixture.

Otavalo Market, Ecuador

Shruti bought some mora fruits for 50 cents while I decided to try a paella like dish with rice, noodles, veges, pork, eggs and potatoes. It only cost $1 and it was very filling. Later on, we both had a fried banana cake which was fresh and sweet for 30 cents. Finally, Shruti ordered a mix of corn, beans, tomato salsa, tomato bits, onions, coriander and lemon juice. Here in Ecuador the dish is called Choclo but in India they would call it chaat. It was very very tasty!

Choclo, Otavalo Market, Ecuador

Ofcourse, the point of a market is to shop and we only had limited space. Therefore, we made a mental rule of buying only from native sellers so we are benifiting a less well off family and buying small so there’s not a problem with space. We bargained a little where we could and ended up buying some little things that we be with us for years to come.

Imbaburra Volcano

We decided to take a bus to Lago San Pablo which was one of the highlights of the area. The bus ride would have been a 15 minute uneventful ride if a native young lady hadn’t started talking to Shruti. We somehow communicated with the lady and found out a little about her home and culture. She told us a little about her town and things to do. At the end,  she told us where to get off the bus and we went our separate ways.

The view from the lake had mountains on 3 sides. All the mountains had little villages and farms up their sides mostly growing corn which is the staple of the area. Set against the lake, it was a postcard view. The Imamburra Volcano looked picturesque as the clouds rolled over the top. The dark green color of the grass on the volcano at the top, the lighter green of the farms in the middle,  the villages at the base and the lake below that was as pretty sight as we have seen on this trip.

Imbaburra Volcano, Otavalo, Ecuador

We walked around longer noticing the village life going on around us. Sheep, pigs and cows were tied up or grazing on the pastures next to the lake. As we walked, the villagers were herding the cows back and dragging the pigs and sheep back to their pens. It was heartening to see the simple life of the villagers. We asked a native man about the bus stop and he told us to wave it down. We did and that was the end of our visit to San Pablo.

Imbaburra Volcano, Otavalo, Ecuador

Cuicocha Lake

Otavalo region is famous for high mountain lakes and we decided to check out one of them, Cuicocha Lake. The lake is in a crater of a volcano which last blew up 3,000 years ago and sits at 3068 metres in altitude. We arrived there from Otavalo after taking a bus and then a collectivo. A few of the other backpackers from the hostel decided to hike the crater trail. We chose not to as my hiking shoes were wet and Shruti’s tattoo was still relatively new on the foot.

We were wowed by the lake as soon as we arrived. The mountains around it rise a few hundred metres above it making the view simply amazing. Moreover, as with the rest of Ecuador, the weather was cloudy and rainy. The clouds at the top of the mountain were moving at a rapid pace. We would see the peaks and then they would vanish again in the clouds.

Cuicocha Lake, Otavalo, Ecuador

The lake itself was circular more or less with two islands within the lake. In fact, the name of the lake derives from one of the islands which roughly resembles a guinea pig. In the information provided, it said that the lake was 200 feet deep at certain points. The water was quite clear with grasses at the bottom. We walked a small trail around the lake which showed us the inca solar calendar, lunar calendar, the offerings area and the bathing ritual area. The natives in the area continue to perform the offering rituals related to the lake from ancient times.

Leather Products Village

We arrived in Cotacachi from Cuicocha Lake. The town itself is quite lower than the lake and the surrounding mountains. Our first impression of the town wasn’t significant, it looked like any other native village in the area just bigger. However, we then started noticing all the Americans around. We asked around for the center and were pointed to the leather shops street.

Fancy our surprise when we saw over 30-40 shops selling all types of fashion products made from leather. Some even resembled like high-end shops selling leather fashion in the west. Shruti fell head over heels for the jackets and I admit even I liked the quality for the price. The price was a bargain at around USD 110. I found some nice shoes I could use back in Australia, but we soon realised we didn’t have our debit card on us. What a shame!

Hike Around Otavalo

On our final day, we decided to do some walking around Otavalo. Our first stop was El Lechero for which we had to walk literally to the top of the town. Our hostel owner had told us to walk a trail along the farms but at some point we lost our way. After asking a few native people, we figured we were on an alternate path.

Hiking around Otavalo, Ecuador

However, being lost allowed us to enjoy amazing scenery in the area with corn farms high above the city and the cloudy mountains in the background. Finally, we made it to the Lechero which is a lone tree on a hill meant to be holy for the locals in the area. We spent some more time taking in the view and then headed towards the waterfall.

El Lechero, Otavalo, Ecuador

Our hostel owner had drawn us a map of the whole area but that was proving to be useless. Maybe we just can’t read maps! He drew a little trail next to the Parque de Condor which was supposed to lead to the waterfalls. But when we got there, we couldn’t find any trail.

We investigated the area a bit and then Shruti spotted a dirt road at the bottom of the hill. So we carefully started our descend down the side of a hill. Once on the dirt road, we walked for an hour up and down hills to La Cascada de Peguche.

The waterfall was quite high and had been worked on by the government so some of the water goes to the villages nearby. On the return, we saw an Inca Museum and holy site set up by a couple. We couldn’t spend much time there as we had a bus to catch to Quito but it was a nice conversation.

On the way back, we couldn’t find a bus or collectivo so ended up walking back to Otavalo. We had a Colombian bandeja for lunch and took a bus to Quito. That ended our 3 day trip in Otavalo!

PS: sorry about not posting plenty of photos. In the next post you will know why.

Change of Plans #3

Our One Year Round The World planning was covering 3 continents – Asia, Europe and South America. As we commenced our journey, 2 changes occured early on – Sri Lanka instead of Nepal and Alaska, USA for Northern Lights. We are currently in South America and everything was going to plan until getting Peru Visa became a pain for Shruti! So now here we are – Change of Plans #3.

Initial Thoughts about South America

Colombia was our first country in South America and we absolutely loved it! The culture, people and food is so different to any place we had been. We fell in love and decided to spend the entire remaining 6 months in this continent – including Central America.

Unfortunately Peru Visa didn’t work out and Chile Visa is a longer process (with required documents), so our South America travels are down to 4.5 months, closer to what we had initially planned.

Considering Central America

Shruti and I heard amazing things about Central America from fellow travels. It got us excited and we decided if Peru does not happen, we will head to Central America. Most countries in the region would accept me with open arms as Shruti has an American Visa.

When the time came to agree on next steps, Shruti realised that apart from stories we heard, we didn’t know much about Central America. We had never done any research as it was not part of the initial plan. It made Shruti nervous about traveling a region neither of us knew about in detail. So we decided not to head in that direction.

So What Now?

Shruti and I have agreed to explore and experience Ecuador and Bolivia to the fullest. Though Ecuador uses US Dollars and it can be slightly expensive at times, there are plenty of places to explore. Now that Peru and Chile are out, we have decided to head to Galapogos Islands!

Additionally, we now plan on visiting the Amazon in Brazil. Both of us will have to go through the process of applying for visa, but there is a much higher chance of getting it. Ultimately after spending 20 days in Brazil, we head to Europe.

Europe was always part of the plan but Colombia blinded us for a short while. It is now back on but due to the cost, we have agreed to spend only three to three and half months in Europe – including one month in Turkey.

For all the well-wishers out there, we are and will continue to keep an eye on the situation in Turkey. As of recent updates, the tourist parts of Turkey aren’t affected.

A small request – please say a small prayer for us. Shruti now has to apply for two visas (Brazil and Schengen) while I need visa for Brazil. Thank you :)