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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Reach New Heights in Quito

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5. Oddball Day


A toucan in the Mindo Cloudforest; colorful fabrics sold in the market town Otavalo.  

Put aside a day to explore the diverse mountain landscapes just outside the city. Rent a car from Avis (from $32 per day), stopping at a branch of Cassave Pan de Yuca & Yogurt for a typical Quiteño breakfast of cheese bread and yogurt flavored with native tropical fruits ($4). Drive about two hours to the Mindo Cloudforest Reserve, a magical-looking 35,000-acre expanse that reaches a height of more than 15,000 feet. Explore the foggy terrain to see dozens of orchid species, as well as a few hundred types of birds in the Milpe or Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuaries ($7 entrance fees). Head east to Hacienda Pinsaqui, a 300-year-old estate just outside of town in Cotacachi, for a traditional Ecuadorian-set menu ($27) of llapingachos (potato cakes stuffed with cheese) and other typical plates. Continue east to the market town of Otavalo, where you can haggle for alpaca blankets (from $65) and scarves (from $10) in the plaza (daily, until about 5 p.m.) before venturing to the indigenous village of Peguche to watch artisans weave ponchos and belts inside their homes. Drive back to Quito in time for dinner at Lúa, a trendy new restaurant in La Floresta that serves Alexander Lua’s brand of pan-Latin cuisine, with dishes like tiradito in a Parmesan sauce ($13) or grilled red tuna ($24). For a nightcap, skip the grungy backpacker pubs and discotheques in La Mariscal and head to El Pobre Diablo (cover charges vary), a jazz and blues club where live music has been performed most nights of the week for more than two decades.


Published on Mar 1, 2013 as a web exclusive.

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