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THE 3 BEST DAY TOURS FROM QUITO, ECUADOR – ARE THEY WORTH IT?

Quito is the main hub of Ecuador and a great base for exploring the rest of the country. With Andean planes and crater lakes to the North in Otavalo, cloud forests to the west in Mindo and the spectacular Cotopaxi Volcano in the south, there are a wealth of options to choose from. All these places can be visited on day tours from Quito but is a day trip really the best way to see them? Is it the best use of your time? And is it worth your money as well? We’ve researched and broken down the three most popular tours from Quito by cost and time and compared them to our own DIY itineraries to help answer some of these questions for you.

THE BEST DAY TOURS FROM QUITO

The three most popular day trips from Quito are:

 

  • Otavalo Market and Laguna Cuicocha – the largest indigenous crafts market in the whole of South America and a spectacular crater lake formed millions of years ago by a volcanic eruption, perfect for hiking.
  • Mindo – a small town situated in the lush cloud forests and one of Ecuador’s best chocolate producing regions
  • Cotopaxi National Park and Volcano – one of the best natural beauties in Ecuador, not to be missed.
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QUITO DAY TOUR COMPARISON

We’ve put together a handy table for each tour comparing detailing the cost of the day tour and the estimated cost of visiting based on itineraries we’ve put together ourselves.

 

We’ve also included some useful information you should always consider when booking tours, such as time spent travelling, tour schedules and whether lunch is included.

 

A few things to note with our comparison tables:

 

  • We always try to choose the cheapest best-rated guide from Get Your Guide. These are always a single day tour
  • Our cost for multi-day visits is based on an estimate of our spend when we visited these places and the itineraries we followed. We will leave links to each of those itineraries below so you can read them after for reference.

We discuss our thoughts on each individual tour and whether they are worth it below. 

TourTotal CostActivities IncludedTime On TransportTotal Duration
Otavalo Paid Tour£40.15Stops at a local bakery
Visit the indigenous market
Stop at Laguna Cuicocha (lunch not included)
4-5 hours10 hours
Otavalo By Yourself£55-65*Hike to Pechuge waterfall
Visit the market
Full day hike at Laguna Cuicocha
2 hour bus from Quito3 Days / 2 Nights
Mindo Paid Tour£77.83Hummingbird Garden
Waterfall Hike (1 hour)
Choice of one paid activity such as ziplining
5-6 hours8-10 hours
Mindo By Yourself£80-100*Chocolate Farm tour and tasting
Full day waterfall hike
Half day tubing
2-3 hour bus from Quito3 Days / 2 Nights
Cotopaxi Paid Tour£49.16Guided tour of Limiopungo lagoon
Hike to Jose Ribas Shelter
Breakfast and lunch included
3-4 hours10 Hours
Stay at Secret Garden Cotopaxi£76.45Waterfall Hike
Pasachoa Mountain hike
All meals and accommodation included
1.5 hour trip from Quito3 Days / 2 Nights

OTAVALO DAY TOUR - IS IT WORTH IT?

TourTotal CostActivities IncludedTime on TransportTotal Duration
Otavalo Paid Tour£40.15Stops at a local bakery, indigenous market, and Laguna Cuicocha (lunch not included)4-5 hours10 hours
Otavalo By Yourself£55-65*Hike to Pechuge waterfall, visit the market and a full day hike at Laguna Cuicocha2 hour bus from Quito3 Days / 2 Nights

* three meals a day at £5 ($8) each, including bus fares, accommodation, and any costs for activities we have included. This will vary on person to person based on how they budget and what accommodation they choose which is why we’ve given a range.

If you are a sucker for indigenous markets and want to see the spectacular lake then maybe, but we would suggest giving this one a miss simply because of the long journey time (2 ½ hours each way) and the fact that if you are looking to see some amazing nature then Cotopaxi is the better place to go.

 

What about staying for longer? If you love to hike then yes definitely, the Laguna Cuicocha hike is a great starting out hike to acclimatize to the altitude in Ecuador and beautiful sight. 

 

f you only wanted to see the market, then why not just hop on the local bus for around $2 and spend a day wandering around the town by yourself?

 

Click here to take a closer look at the paid tour.

 

And for more information on doing it yourself, read our full Otavalo guide here.

MINDO DAY TOUR - IS IT WORTH IT?

TourTotal CostActivities IncludedTime on TransportTotal Duration
Mindo Paid Tour£77.83Hummingbird, garden, waterfall hike (1 hour), choice of paid activities such as tubing and ziplining5-6 hours8-10 hours
Mindo By Yourself£80 - £100*Chocolate tour, full-day waterfall hike, and half-day tubing3 hour bus from Quito3 Days / 2 Nights

* three meals a day at £5 ($8) each, including bus fares, accommodation, and any costs for activities we have included. This will vary on person to person based on how they budget and what accommodation they choose which is why we’ve given a range.

Again, for the time spent on transport and the fact that you still have to choose and pay for an activity once you arrive, we don’t think this day tour is worth it either.

 

Mindo deserves more of your time if you can spare it as there is so much to do there – chocolate tours, jungle hikes, night tours and tubing down rivers. We would suggest Mindo over Otavalo as well if you don’t have enough time for both.

 

Click here to take a closer look at the paid tour. And for more information on doing it yourself, read our full Mindo guide here.

COTOPAXI DAY TOUR - IS IT WORTH IT?

TourTotal CostActivities IncludedTime on TransportTotal Duration
Cotopaxi Paid Tour£49.16Guided tour around Limpiopungo lagoon, hike to Jose Ribas Shelter, breakfast and lunch included3-4 hours10 hours
Stay at Secret Garden Cotopaxi£76.45Waterfall hike, Pasachoa hike, all meals and accommodation included1.5 hour trip from Quito3 Days / 2 Nights

This is the only one we would recommend paying for and doing a day tour to, but only if you don’t have enough time to visit.

 

As you spend less time on transport and are going to see one of the best sights in the country, it’s worth the money in comparison to Otavalo and Mindo.  With breakfast and lunch included on the tour as well, it’s actually a pretty good deal.

 

Click here to take a closer look at the paid tour. If you have one spare day in Quito but not enough time to stay in Cotopaxi, then definitely go for it.

 

However, if you do have the time to spare then no way – make sure you visit Cotopaxi by yourself and stay at Secret Garden Hostel. All you need to do is look at the $95 package deal offered by Secret Garden to see what an amazing deal it is. 

 

Along with it being great value for money, we’ve listed 5 other reasons why you can’t miss Secret Garden here.  

 

And if you want more information on the hostel and package deal itself, read our guide here.

TIME VS MONEY WHEN TRAVELLING

We aren’t great budget travellers, but we like to think we’re great researchers and try to  make the best use of our money when we spend it.

 

However, more often than not, time is a bigger factor for travellers when making decisions about next steps and what you want to see and do.

 

Is it better to spend money to see as much as possible in as little time, or is it better to slow down spend a bit more money over a few days, get the full experience and sacrifice seeing something else?

 

Either way, hopefully this post will help you decide and give you some ideas on what day trips to choose, which ones to miss and which places deserve more of your time.

Haven’t planned your Quito trip yet, check out our list of best things to do and a 3 day itinerary.

 

For hostels, here are our favourites in the capital.

 

And if you are all clued up on Otavalo, Mindo and Cotopaxi, then trips to the Quilotoa Loop or Banos should be your next steps. 

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