Quito was a quick stop. Maybe because we were there for such a short time, we didn’t quite have the same experience and fall for it the same way we did with other cities. While it can serve as a good base camp for the many day trips and natural outings in Ecuador, for a city trip, I’d recommend other places in South America.
If you go, I recommend the city walking tour by CarpeDM. We didn’t do many of the items on our to do lists as we decided to get out of town quickly (going to top of mountain, drinking a beer in the church, visiting the artisan markets). Our hotel area was dead at night. Luckly there was a decent brewery/pizza joint nearby, Bandido Brewing. We also enjoyed a night on Calle Ronda, a lively pedestrian street with lots of tourist restaurants, dancing, and musicians (pictured above).
If you are there on a Sunday, you can take a day trip to the largest artisan Sunday market in South America, in Otavalo. It is coupled with an animal market – not for those with a light stomach. While the market clearly had some made in China products, there were great deals on alpaca wear, and I ended up with a few beautiful hand made scarves for $5-10 each.
Here are some photos – I am still not sure whether the puppies were for sale:
I did want to buy this for someone, but resisted, benefit of having no space to bring gifts home:
And I did get this – given I left my wedding ring at home (along with all other jewelry), I considered this a good substitute.
More Info: NY Times 36 hours in Quito (2011)
Sucre comes on slow, but the charm gradually grows and I can see why so many backpackers decide to settle in for a few weeks here. The first day, I regretted booking in advance – wondering if two nights was too many. However after doing a walking tour on day two, I started to really enjoy the city. My main recommendation here is Condor Cafe and trekking. I did the walking tour through them, and ate there twice. Finally some amazing salads and vegetarian food. The also did some great treks in the local area that I wish I had had time to do. For the first reliable internet in a while, Cafe Florin. Best saltena: El Paso de los Abuelos. And visit Cafe Mirador for a sunset view.
One culture recommendation is a quick stop in the mask museum, where you can see masks like these that will haunt your dreams for days:
Safety warning: The taxi drivers in this area of Bolivia are suicidal. While I took a taxi from the airport to the town (there is a brand new airport, and it is far away from town, ignore the Internet), and a shared taxi to Potosi, I might take a bus if I went back. The share taxi to Potosi was literally the scariest car ride ever – going around blind corners at twice the speed limit, in the mountains, in the passing lane, in a car that was overloaded.
Perhaps it was because I was there on a Sunday night when literally everything but the fried chicken joint was closed, but I see no reason to go to Potosi. A former mining town that used to be one of the richest in all of South America, the current highlight is dangerous tours of the dangerous mines. While the history of the city is interesting, and it provides a good place to break up the ride between Salar and Uyuni, it is definitely not a must or even should do. If you do go, ensure your hostel has heat and hot water. I stayed at the Koala Backpacker’s hostel, very basic, but warm. I didn’t take a single picture. Not one.
Did I mention it was freezing?