On a Bike is where it begins, but Quito Bike Tours does not stop there
After a phenomenal hike to the peak of Ruco Pichincha (reaching 4700 above sea level) with the experts at Andean Summit Adventure, we thought it only fair to show you how we roll at Quito Bike Tours. Although a little tired from the hike, we were determined to show our friends Elisabeth and Andreas what Quito looks like on a bike. Sound like a poet, don’t I! 😉
Quito Bike Tours and Free Tourist Information Centre
Some of you may know that Alex and I started Quito Bike Tours in June of 2018. Recently, however, we sold it to two amazing women, Soledad and Catalina. Between them, they have 30 years of travel and tourism experience. The company offers urban cycling tours and travel experiences in Quito and Ecuador. They opened their new office and free tourist information centre in Plaza San Francisco, right in front of San Francisco Church. It’s right in the centre of Quito’s UNESCO historical centre.
Touring Quito on a Bike
Quito Bike Tours began as only bike tours in the city. The girls, however, are now taking the company to a whole new level. They offer a range of day trips and multi-day trips in Quito and around Ecuador. Private, group, solo, basic, luxury; they can organise it all.
The two main bike trips to date have been the Quito Cultural City Tour by Bike and the Explore Urban Quito on a Bike. They both offer some pretty special experiences. Also recently added is the Quito Cultural City Tour by Bike + the Historical Centre. This bike/walk combo tour is only run on Sundays, as bicycle entry into the historical centre during the week can be a bit hairy. Sundays in Quito are also interesting from a cyclist’s perspective. The council closes off some 32 kilometres of road from north to south. Between 8.00 am and 2.00 pm, you can run, walk or cycle as much of it as you want. It’s also a time to hang out with family, friends and pets.
Time to show you around
At 9.00 am we were ready to show Andreas and Elisabeth Quito on a bike! Bike, check! Helmet, check! Safety briefing, check! Let’s go!
Our first moves were in the ‘hood of La Floresta. As usual, we began at the Ochoymedio Arthouse Cinema, which opened in 2001. It’s both an Ecuadorian as well as a Quito institution and its amazing director, Mariana Andrade, has worked hard to make it so. She also helped ensure a public bench was erected outside, despite the protestations of many. For heaven’s sake, it’s taking up the space of cars! The area is full of colour and ‘yarn bombing’. A group of women gather every Friday to knit and crochet. Many consider the cinema and its surrounds to be the epicentre of La Floresta.
Visiting hip neighbourhoods
In recent years La Floresta has become known as Quito’s most hip and bohemian neighbourhood. It’s a place where actors, writers, academics, university students, hipsters, cool kids, and just about anybody wants to hang out in. Oh, and people who want to do a bike tour with a twist! Due to its popularity, there are even a couple of walking tours. It really has a funky vibe!
It is full of restaurants, top-quality cafes and vegan and vegetarian eateries. There is something for all in La Floresta.
Our guests saw the iconic street art of Apitatan, who is now somewhat of a national institution. We also visited the workshop of an artist/ carpenter/ restorer who has lived in the area for almost 50 years. Meeting the locals is always the highlight of any tour.
The Guapulo Lookout also offers some pretty superb views of Quito’s surrounds and valleys.
Famous Ecuadorian Chocolate
Did you know that Ecuador is famous for its chocolate? It is world-renowned for its top-quality cacao. We visited the Pacari Chocolate ‘factory’ where you can try a multitude of chocolate flavours. These included many that you’ve probably never even heard of. Coffee, chilli, maca, uvilla (goldenberry), fig, lemongrass and arandano or Andean blueberry, only to name a few. Then there’s raw 70%, 85% and 100% pure. Of course, you can buy them too! Tempted?
Pacari chocolate is family-owned and ethically run. They use organic ingredients and pay their producers well. It’s personally one of my favourite Ecuadorian chocolates. Few match Pacari in taste and quality!
Checking out Parks, Street Art and Old Neighbourhoods
Moving along on this relaxed Saturday morning, we made our way through both El Ejido and Alameda Parks. They are two of Quito’s bigger and more popular parks. On the weekend, both offer insights into how the locals live. They are also places that travellers and tourists like to explore. El Ejido is full of vendors selling handicrafts and food. You can also see comedians and actors doing their thing as well as people playing different sports. Many are just chilling with their families.
Alameda Park has a spiral tower called El Churro, from where you can see the beginning of the historical centre. It’s also home to the Quito Astronomical Observatory. Founded in 1873, it is one of the oldest observatories in South America. There is also a small lake, where families gather to have fun.
At the top end of the park is an imposing statue of the liberator, Simon Bolivar. This Venezuelan military and political leader is infamous all over South America. He was instrumental in helping Latin American countries achieve independence from the Spanish Empire. During his lifetime, he helped Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia to achieve independence. Ecuador achieved independence in 1822.
Quito’s UNESCO Historical Centre
Time to cycle and check out the historical centre. Quito’s historical centre was the first city in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978. It is considered to be the best-preserved historical centre in Latin America. There is so much to see and do from gold-encrusted churches to chocolate tasting to beautifully cobblestoned plazas, or squares. The historical centre alone is worth a day of wandering, wondering and taking a peek into the many eye-catching colonial buildings.
We also visited the infamous street known as La Ronda. The long curving street has quickly become one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions and with its fascinating history, rightly so. Located between Venezuela and Pedro Vicente Maldonado streets, its origins date back to the time of the Incas.
After the Spanish conquest, centuries later, residential and commercial construction of La Ronda began. In the late 19th century, La Ronda began to develop its reputation as a bohemian barrio or zone. As Quito and La Ronda gradually depopulated, it was later settled by drug dealers, criminals, and the homeless. In the late 20th century, however, a movement began to restore La Ronda. Today, the lantern-lit streets and floral balconies enhance the now romantic ambience. The street is now one of the crown jewels of Quiteño culture. A series of doorways open up to a courtyard and multiple art galleries, museums, craft shops and elegant restaurants.
Wrapping up a great tour
What a day! We finished up at the recently opened office of Quito Bike Tours in the historical centre’s Plaza de San Francisco. Here we had the chance to relax and chat about the day and what we saw and learnt. I am pretty sure that Andreas and Elisabeth had as much fun with us as we had with them at Andean Summit Adventure yesterday hiking Ruco Pichincha. Quito is a place to be both admired and explored. There really is something for every one!
Who are Quito Bike Tours and where do they go?
Quito Bike Tours offers everything from urban cycling day trips, to day trips around Quito, day trips outside of Quito, to multi-day trips around Ecuador. Beach, jungle, rainforest, cloud rainforest, mountains … Ecuador has it all. Quito Bike Tours will show you how.
The office is also a co-working space and area where you can chill out and use the internet. It’s also a travellers’ hub and Free Tourist Information Centre. You are most welcome to walk in and ask as many questions as you want, with no pressure to buy whatsoever. You will always be greeted with helpful and personable staff who are always ready to assist. Note: Whilst tours are currently running, the office is closed due to COVID restrictions.
If it’s serious mountain hiking, trekking and high peaks that you want, our friends at Andean Mountain Summit can most certainly help you out.
Life is for living! Ecuador is to be lived, loved and explored! Let Quito Bike Tours help you out!
FACTS ‘N’ OTHER USEFUL STUFF
- Capital City of Ecuador: Quito
- Country Population: 17.6 Million
- Official Language: Spanish. Ecuador also recognises, encourages and protects 14 indigenous languages, nationalities and peoples in its Constitution.
- Currency: USD
- Acclimatisation: At 2867 metres above sea level, Quito is the highest capital on earth. When you arrive, you may experience some symptoms of altitude sickness like a headache, tiredness or nausea. In more severe cases even vomiting. Take the first few days nice and easy. Keep hydrated, rest, do not go to bed too late and eat lighter meals.
- Transport: Buses and electric buses are cheap and plentiful in and around Quito. Taxis and Ubers also abound and are reasonably priced. If using a taxi, always ask that they use the taxi-metre.
- Accommodation: Ecuador has everything from budget and family fun hostels and hotels, to Airbnb and more top-end and including 5-star hotels. Our choice is a combination of hostels, family-run places and Airbnb (Get your FREE gift from us when you sign up). Also, check out bookings.com for more options.
We passionately share 30 years of travel know-how, exploration and detours with you. We want to motivate you to experience this amazingly diverse world we live in and show you how to do it! You can subscribe to our blog as well as follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Check out our Travel Resources to help you on your amazing journey.
Do you have more tips, advice or suggestions on what to do in Quito? Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.
One Life, Live it!
Photo Credits: © Alex Benavides | Content: Ombretta Zanetti