I just spent a full week in a city that many travelers spend just one day in or skip over entirely.
And yet it ended up being one of my favorite destinations in Latin America! Which city am I talking about? It’s Quito, Ecuador.
Ecuador is a popular destination for travelers, particularly those who are planning to explore the Galapagos Islands. But countless travelers I met were going straight to the Galapagos and skipping over the capital city of Quito or spending less than a day there.
While Quito is not on many travelers’ itineraries, I loved the city.
Here are the reasons why Quito is so great and why I would definitely return one day:
1. Big City Atmosphere
Quito is a large, sprawling capital city with a population of over two million people. If you’re a city person, you’ll enjoy Quito.
While it might not have the quaint charm of the colonial city of Cuenca in the south, there are so many different neighborhoods in Quito to explore, and the city has a vibrant atmosphere.
2. History And Culture
Another reason I loved Quito was the history and culture. There are tons of great museums and churches in Quito, mainly concentrated in the historic center of the city.
Climbing to the top of the Basílica del Voto Nacional, visiting the all-gold Church of the Society of Jesus, and checking out the San Francisco Museum and Convent are some of the best things to do in Quito.
3. Stunning Scenery
Quito is located high in the mountains. In fact, it’s the second-highest capital city in the world, at an altitude of 9,350 feet.
This makes for incredible scenery around the city. You can take the Teleférico cable car up the side of the Pichincha Volcano for stunning views over the city. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even hike up further to the mouth of the volcano itself.
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4. Affordable Prices
I found Quito to be very budget-friendly. Since it’s a big city, the prices are more expensive than they might be in smaller towns, especially in more touristy areas.
However, it’s MUCH cheaper than the pricy Galapagos Islands. You can get a great meal for under $10, entrance to most churches and museums is under $5, and taxis or Ubers around the whole city are always $2 to $5, while the public bus costs just $0.25.
5. Happening Nightlife
Quito is a very lively city with lots of nightlife. You can have dinner or a night out in La Mariscal, the trendier “new town” neighborhood known for the energetic Plaza Foch.
In the old town, Calle la Ronda is a quaint pedestrian-only cobblestone street that is transformed into a vibrant nightlife district.
6. Safe For Solo Female Travelers
As a solo female traveler, I felt very safe in Quito. The city sometimes gets a bad rap for being dangerous, but a lot of that reputation is outdated.
Of course, you should always remain vigilant of your surroundings, stick to walking in safe neighborhoods, and avoid walking around alone at night, but other than that, safety in Quito was no issue and felt just as safe as cities in North America and Europe.
7. Lots Of Day Trips
One final reason I loved Quito was how many great day trips you can take from the city.
If you’re anything like me and don’t want to do a multi-day hike in Cotopaxi National Park or Quilotoa but still want to see these famous natural sights, you can easily visit on a day trip from Quito.
You can also visit the Otavalo market, the town of Mindo (which is located in a cloud forest), or even the adventure capital of Baños on a day trip from Quito.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com