Since I am a regular on here, I always try to provide helpful feedback to return the favors I garner from this site. We spent three full days in Quito prior to our Galapagos trip. We arrived in Quito at 2030. Immigration is a fast process. Getting a taxi was as hassle -free as described. We had barely cleared customs and walked into he terminal when someone speaking English asked if we wanted a taxi. I told him where we wanted to go ( La Casona de La Ronda in old town. I made sure I had the streets for my hotel since they don't always know). The fare was $26. We were in a taxi headed for Quito before we even had time to think.
The taxi driver was great. He asked if we spoke Spanish and when I told him I was learning he engaged me in conversation so I got a good chance to practice some basic Spanish. The driver made a point of asking permission to stop for gas. I guess he was worried we would be alarmed if he made an unscheduled stop He drove us right to the door of our hotel which is actually on a pedestrian only street. He even started to back up and wait when he saw the door to the hotel did not open immediately. Compared to another taxi driver we had- he was great. I simply can not imagine renting a car in this city!!!!
Our hotel La Casona de La Ronda in old Quito was quaint, colonial and in a perfect location ( reviewed already). The first day we had decided to do Quito on our own. I had decided to do the HOHO bus. But first since it was Monday I wanted to witness the changing of the guard n the plaza grande. We ended up at the plaza too early so since we could see the spires of the Basilica we walked there.We got a $2 ticket to go up the tower. I absolutely recommend this- the view is stunning. We walked across the rooftop and up the ladder to a higher view point. I knew the next level would be too much for my issues with heights. The inside of the cathedral isn't as interesting as the views from the spires.
Back from the Basilica for the changing of the guard at 1100. There was a lot of pomp and circumstance with a marching band, guards on horse back, the national anthem and the raising of the flag. Any spot on the square gave you a decent view as long as you didn't want to film the whole process. I was glad to have witnessed it. As we were watching the HOHO bus went by. We did not have enough time to make it. So we had to wait an hour for the next one. The best place to get the HOHO is in the plaza grande because the bus stop is clearly marked. Could not find the stop at another square we went to. The HOHO costs $12/person and is great value. The whole tour takes three hours. I wish we had gotten off at the teleferiq but I wasn't sure if we would have enough time or if we could do 13000 feet so quickly. You spend 20-30 minutes on the hill top at el panecillo. You almost need to take the tour twice. Once without getting off so you can figure where to get off when you do it again. Unfortunately most people probably don't have the luxury of time. That day all we ate was a pastry from a bakery, two ice creams and then dinner at our hotel restaurant.
The next day I had arranged a tour with our travel agency for our cruise. All my Ecuadorian travel was arranged with Bruna at Cometa travel since we would be traveling on the Angelito ( our travel documents were waiting at the hotel for us).Based on posts on TA since I knew I wanted the Angelito I dealt directly with Bruna. I told her what I wanted to see you and she arranged my two tours ( not cheap but well worth it). Our private driver and guide was Fabian.. He showed up at our hotel at 0800 as arranged. Our day was action-packed. First trick was navigating Quito traffic. First stop was Pululahua crater. This one of the only craters in the world that is inhabited. Compared to the surrounding dry dusty hills it is a green oasis. Unless you are horse back riding here this is mostly a quick photographic vista stop. Next stop was Mitad del Mundo- the equator. There is actually a large monument marking the equator as defined in 1930. It turns out the equator is actually 600 ft away where there is a museum. We only spent a sort time at the monument and the surrounding shops and restaurants which since it was only 0900 were hardly open. We spent much more time at the museum which was really neat and informative. Loved the water flowing experiment.
After that we practically had to back track to Quito and its traffic since we were headed to Otovalo. We ended up stopping in Cayambe at a rose plantation ( the only item on the itinerary I had not requested because I did not know about it). We had lunch at the original mansion on the property La Compagnia de Jesus,hence named since it originally belonged to the Jesuits before the Spanish crown turned it over to the locals. After a lunch of local juices, fruit, cheeses the owner gave us a brief but informative tour of the rose plantation. Roses are Ecuador's #5 export. After that we headed to Otovalo. Being a Tuesday there was only a small market. It definitely was smaller than I had expected. An hour gave us enough time to barter and buy souvenirs. Although the locals want you to buy their goods I did not find the vendors pushy or obnoxious.
We still had time to see the other two sights I had wanted to see. A quick stop and hike to Peguche water falls. You would need much longer to hike to the top or to hike some of the other trails there. Last stop was the crater lake Cuicocha. Quick hike to a vista point. By this time it was after 1600hrs. It was took a good two hours back to the city. The distance isn't that long but the roads are mostly one-laned, twisting and turning and full of lumbering trucks. We sure appreciated Fabian's driving! Did not get back to Quito till 1900. We had our pick of restaurants on our street La Ronda.
The next day - Cotopaxi was on the schedule. Since it was a Wednesday Fabian took us to small near by town Pujilli to see their food market. This was a local very colorful market full of indigenous people selling fruits, vegetables, fish etc.Then we went to Cotopaxi. New rules require that you pick up a local guide at the entrance. We went to the small lake Limpiopongo and then drove up to 15000ft to the "parking lot" for the refugio. The wind at both locations was ferocious like nothing I have ever experienced. We were totally under dressed. ( Wear long pants, jacket, hat and scarf in other words bundle up) Back tracked pretty quickly to have lunch at the lodge Tambopaxi.( good) Roads to and from Cotopaxi are much better and we were back in Quito by 1500hrs. Our tours included not only the private English speaking driver but also all our entrance fees and meals. Fabian's English was really good. He had a lot of information to share about his country. He has been doing this for nine years. I felt he enjoyed being with us and doing what he does. Dinner was once again on La Ronda.
Even my husband who groaned about spending 3 days in Quito prior to the Galapagos had to admit that he really enjoyed his stay there.