Latin America has a special place in my heart, since my love for travel began there. I have enjoyed exploring several countries in both Central and South America, including Ecuador. A friend and I spent a week in the country's capital, Quito, during a backpacking trip in 2015. There are many popular tourist attractions in and around the city, including the famous "Mitad del Mundo" (equator line) and the Basilica del Voto Nacional, but one of my favorite travel experiences was at the edge of the city - the summit of Cruz Loma.
To begin this adventure, you should take the "Teleferico" cable car, which will carry you across the foothills of the Pichincha volcano to the summit of Cruz Loma. Rising to ~4,000 meters/13,000 feet, it is one of the highest aerial lifts in the world! It is a smooth and short ride, taking only about 8 minutes each way.
The base of the Teleferico is located on Avenida Occidental, which is reachable either by public bus or taxi from the city center for a fairly inexpensive price. Zue and I used a taxi on the way there, and public bus to return to the city afterwards. Upon arrival to the main entrance, there is a short uphill walk to the lift building. Adult tickets cost $4.50 (note that Ecuador uses USD currency.)
Be prepared for the high altitude at the top, which I noticed made breathing significantly more difficult for me. My friend experienced a headache as a result, and others have suffered from nausea and light-headedness. Altitude sickness can be combatted with "Mate de Coca" tea, which you can purchase at the top of the Teleferico. Staying hydrated with water also helps.
At the top there are a few simple restaurants and tourist-y photo shops, but aside from drinking some Mate de Coca tea to fight altitude sickness, I wouldn't recommend spending your time inside - you should instead take advantage of the beautiful nature and incredible view of the city below.
Note that it is very cold at the top. I loved Cruz Loma so much, that I ended up coming here twice during our week-long stay in Quito, but the first time I was very un-prepared as I had not expected it to be so chilly (especially compared to the rest of Latin America.) Luckily, I had recently bought a scarf in another cooler-climate city, Bogota, so I wrapped it around my neck and layered my clothing to stay warm for my second trip.
Many people enjoy Cruz Loma simply for the cable car ride and view of the city at the top. However, I highly recommend either hiking or horseback-riding while there. I am an avid hiker, but the altitude really affected my breathing, and so I opted for horseback riding. There is a small business at the top which offers guided tours. On my first day here, Zue and I did a short guided horseback tour through the region. The tour guides also offer heavy ponchos which help to stay warm.
When I returned a second time, I did a longer solo trek with Felipe the horse to the volcano - I definitely had not predicted how scary it would be climbing up the edge of steep cliffs, or how sore my legs would get, but it was an amazing experience. I met a sweet woman named Consuelo who lives in a tiny mountain village there. She spoke Spanish, and shared with me what life in the mountains is like. On my way back down, I also ran into a friendly local man who introduced me to his llamas :)
A visit to Cruz Loma can be perfectly tailored to how much time you have - it can easily be a short morning/afternoon visit for a view and photo-op, or you can plan to spend most of a day there hiking/horseback riding. Regardless, don't forget to bring water, layers of clothing, and your camera!
I believe in God's grace through Jesus. I love to learn, in a variety of contexts - reading God's Word, interacting with people from diverse backgrounds around the world, and as a student of Linguistics and Foreign Languages at Western Washington University. Pages of My Passport is dedicated to sharing this journey of learning through written and visual content.