The parks in Quito are as much a part of urban life here as the colonial architecture, the trolleybus, and the shouts of helado de paila vendors. Every weekend, these gardens teeming with endemic wildlife fill with quiteños keeping active and families on a day out in. Locals fiercely defend their green spaces which, unlike in many large cities, are growing each year rather than shrinking with the pressures of developers. Read on to discover the best Quito parks for views, gardens, and families.
Best for: Fabulous views and flying kites
Backing onto the lovely, traditional neighbourhoods of La Tola, San Blas and El Dorado, Parque Itchimbia is a Quito park set on top of a peak 2,910 metres above sea level, its elevation offering jaw-dropping, 360° views of the city. The other perk of its hillside location is its kite-flying kudos – local families come here on weekends to watch their cometas dance and soar above the Old Town. Within the 54-hectare estate is a crystal palace whose roof (taken from the city’s first indoor market, Santa Clara) was constructed by Gustave Eiffel, the architect of Eiffel Tower fame. This striking building hosts various cultural events, while each summer, thousands head to Parque Itchimbia for the Verano de los Artes music festival.
Parque de Guápulo
Best for: Exploring secret gardens
With its brightly painted houses, winding cobbled streets and splendid church, Guápulo is one of Quito’s most charming and quirky neighbourhoods, and its park is every bit as delightful and unexpected. Opened to the public in 2013 after it was expropriated from a wealthy banker, this idyllic park features a tropical lagoon and a terrific view looking up towards the high-rises of Avenida Gonzalez Suarez. Wandering around the 16.5 hectares you’ll come across grazing horses, picnic and children’s play areas and, a remnant of its more glamourous days as the former home of the disgraced banker, there’s also a secret walled garden to discover. Be aware that a lot of it is accessed via steep hills – prepare for a climb!
Parque Metropolitano Guangüiltagua
Why should you visit Quito’s Old Town? – This is one of South America’s most well-preserved historic districts and the first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy its ornate churches, buzzing plazas, and cobblestone streets lined with flower-filled balconies against the backdrop of the surrounding Andes Mountains. If you’re looking for where to stay in Quito, many structures have been refurbished, restored, or remodeled and transformed into boutique hotels in Quito. In fact, Casa Gangotena, the only one endorsed by Relais & Châteaux, has been named the best downtown hotel in Quito thanks to its unbeatable location and excellent service. Take a look at our rooms and suites!
Best for: The great outdoors in the great big city
Known as the “lungs of the city”, Parque Metropolitano Guangüiltagua is about as close you’ll get to be being in the wild while only about 15 minutes from the city centre. Exuberant native forests are crisscrossed with cycling and hiking paths, busy with active quiteños and their dogs. Elevated way up on the west wing of the city, the 557-hectare Quito park has four lookouts, or “miradores”, from which, on a clear day, you can spot the magnificent volcanoes Cotopaxi, Ilaló, Puntas and Cayambe. With well-equipped barbeque areas, this is a great spot for a picnic before walking it off among fragrant eucalyptus trees and 10 different species of buzzing hummingbirds.
Best for: Keeping the whole family happy
There’s not much you can’t do in this Quito park of pleasures. You can ride ponies, stargaze in the planetarium, hold endemic reptiles in the terrarium, explore botanical gardens, and boat around the lake. But that is certainly not all.
A skate park of pipes and tunnels is where skaters film each other doing tricks, plus tennis and volleyball courts are available for the active – though be warned this is ‘ecua-volley’, the Ecuadorian variant of the sport. The former hacienda of Maria Augusta Urrutia, a philanthropist who died in 1987, Parque Carolina is evidence of the city’s exponential growth in the last couple of decades; it’s now in a buzzy centre with dotted with high-rises and malls, when not long ago it was considered to be outside the city.
Parque El Ejido
Best for: A spot of shopping
The land where Parque El Ejido is located was barren and used for pasture when the Spanish king claimed it in the 18th century to make a public space in a city that had no green areas. And when the city started advancing towards the north and buildings shot up this Quito park stayed green, strongly defended by the mayor and the people. Now, it’s a bustling urban park where artisans – some from the Indian market town of Otavalo – sell their traditional wares, including hand-woven textiles. One of the most distinctive features of the park is a great stone arch which came from the Circasiana Palace, owned by the illustrious Jijón y Caamaño family.