If you have some free time in Quito (as I did on my last visit) you may wish to get a bird’s eye view of the city by taking a ride up the teleferico (gondola) to be near the summit of the Pichincha Volcano. From the top you can take in the best views of Quito from any one of the many lookout areas, so be sure to bring your camera. There is a snack bar, oxygen bar, and horseback riding on top. Bring a jacket too as the temperature is often much cooler on top.
Located a short taxi ride from the old city, the teleferico takes you from just under 10,000 feet to an altitude of a little over 13,000 feet in a quick 10 minute ride. Although there tends to be quite a long line to ride the teleferico, the line does move fairly quickly.
If you are feeling adventurous, instead of taking the teleferico back down, you can rent a bicycle at the summit and ride it back down. If you would like to hike to the summit of the Pichincha Volcano, it is another 700 feet up. However, due to altitude sickness, you may wish to acclimatize a few days in Quito before attempting a hike to the summit.
The teleferico runs on the following schedule:
Monday-Friday: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Most visitors to Quito are only in the city as a stopover en route to the Galapagos, but the city gives a fascinating window on Amerindian culture which proves to be the highlight of many people’s holidays. For the best views of Quito the teleferico is a must: just ask your private guide to include it in your itinerary.