Riding the Quito Teleferico, one of the highest aerial lifts in the world, offers visitors the best views of the capital city.
If you're up for it, climbing Pichincha Volcano (4,784 meters) once you're up there is a physical challenge you can be proud to complete.
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Opened in 2005, this gondola rises quickly from its base of 2,900 meters to 4,100 meters in about 10 minutes.
The cost for the roundtrip ride is $8.50, and experiencing the effects of high altitudes on your body won't get any easier than this.
Even after a few days of acclimatizing at 2,800 meters in Quito, I developed a headache within 30 minutes of walking around (at a reasonable pace) atop the Teleferico.
However, this is an entirely normal reaction for your body, and no reason not to take the trip up if you're in otherwise healthy condition.
Riding the Quito Teleferico
If you have the time and flexibility, it's best to wait for a relatively clear morning to make the trip up.
Weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains, and that's especially true once you reach altitudes above 4,000 meters, so go as early as possible. The Quito Teleferico operates from 9 AM to 7 PM daily.
Bring a rain jacket, as well as your camera.
The easiest way to reach the base of the Teleferico is to take a taxi.
Once you arrive, you can buy your ticket, and queue for the gondola.
When I went on a weekday afternoon, it was practically empty.
The ride is quick and smooth, and you'll be atop the mountain before you know it.
When you disembark, remember to take it slowly. Very slowly.
If you've never experienced such a high altitude, you may be surprised at how quickly your heart starts beating as you begin to walk around.
Take deep breathes, and again, go slow.
Most visitors will go for a short walk to take photos of Quito to the West, and Pichincha Volcano to the East.
There are several cafes, restaurants, and public bathrooms around the top of the Teleferico where you can rest and enjoy the city views.
If you start to get a headache, drink lots of water and get something to eat.
Chances are this won't have an immediate effect. However, it's a good idea anyways, especially if you're climbing Pichincha Volcano.
Our bodies use/lose water more quickly at high altitudes, so it's important to stay well hydrated.
As a rule of thumb, drink before you're thirsty, and eat before you're hungry.
The easiest way to alleviate a high altitude induced headache is to just take the Teleferico back down to the lower elevation.
Taking aspirin or Tylenol can also help reduce the severity.
Climbing Pichincha Volcano
If taking the Teleferico isn't enough, you can also try climbing Pichincha Volcano once you're up there.
A few tips to keep in mind:
- Start early to ensure better views, as it's often more likely to get cloudy, foggy and rainy in the afternoons.
- Allow an hour or two more time than you think you need. Trekking at high altitudes is a slower process than at sea level, especially if you haven't already acclimatized to Quito's 2,800-meter elevation.
- Dress in layers, as temperatures can fluctuate quickly at altitude.
- Bring a water-resistant jacket.
- Bring a daypack with a few liters of water, and some high-energy snacks (ex: Snickers, protein bars, chocolate).
- Hike with at least one other person, if not a group, to ensure your safety and deter potential thieves.
- Remember that getting to the top is often the easy part. Don't push yourself beyond your limits, as you'll need your energy to get back down safely too.
- Tell someone where you're going, and when you can be expected back.
I decided not to try and climb Pichincha for a few reasons.
First, I was still experiencing light headaches every afternoon since arriving in Quito, so I knew my body hadn't acclimatized to Quito's 2,800-meter elevation.
Second, being the sometimes-loner that I can be, I didn't have anyone to go with and didn't want to take any unnecessary risks (robbery, acute mountain sickness).
What You Need to Know
Hours: 9 AM to 7 PM daily
How Much: $8.50 – Quito Teleferico / Free – Climbing Pichincha Volcano
Difficulty: Easy – Quito Teleferico / Moderate to Difficult – Climbing Pichincha Volcano
How to Get There: Schedule a taxi through your hostel for a fixed price (one way or return trip), or hail one on the street and negotiate a rate.
What to Bring: Several layers of clothes, including a rain jacket, camera. To climb the volcano, also bring a daypack with 1-2 liters of water, and several snacks (candy or protein bars, fruit, etc.).
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Dave is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Go Backpacking and Feastio. He's been to 66 countries and lived in Colombia and Peru. Read the full story of how he became a travel blogger.
Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:
- G Adventures for small group tours.
- World Nomads for travel insurance.
- Hostelworld for booking hostels.
- Rail Europe for train passes.
Tuesday 18th of October 2016
Just went a couple of days ago - found Quito (incl. the TeleferiQo) to be very safe. I encourage you to edit your post with updated safety in Quito. Walked around a lot at night, didn't have any problems. We only spent one day in Quito before tackling Pichincha and though we were slow, we made it and only got headaches at the top. We found it was a lot cheaper to walk out of the TeleferiQo park down to the highway to get a cab - they wanted to charge us a 'minimum mandatory' $5 fee to pick us up within park gates. Nope to that! Caught a cab at the bottom of the hill back in to town for $3.
Wednesday 29th of June 2016
yes, but how do you get off of the mountain. I found no taxis waiting and it was an hour before one arrived with someone going up! And I had arranged for a lift down in advance..
Monday 15th of August 2016
Hi. Same thing happened to me. There were lots of taxis offering to take me there. I got a card and he said to call when I needed to return. When I called the taxi mans number he said he was too busy to pick me up. So I had to walk back!
Thursday 30th of June 2016
When we got to the bottom of the teleferico, there were a few taxi drivers waiting for us, asking if we needed a ride. I also know that the people who took money for the tickets could call taxis as well. I am sorry to hear that you had difficulty. What time of the day did you go?
Thursday 14th of January 2016
Do you recall other options at the top of the Telferico for hikers? Side trails, places to rest, other services?
Sunday 22nd of May 2016
We were there last summer. There is a little building up there with some small cafés, a candy store, washrooms, etc... There was also an outdoor café-restaurant. There were lots of places to sit when you reach the top of the teleferico. While climbing the trails, the higher you go, the smaller the trails. There are not many options on the way up. It was really windy and pretty cold, so bring something warm. :) Let me know if I can help you answer any other questions.
Tuesday 15th of December 2015
Quito has become a lot safer than what I use to hear about. Have been 2 times in the past couple years and go to The Fosh all the time have not had problems at least yet.
Tuesday 15th of December 2015
Glad to hear it! I haven't been in Ecuador since 2011.
Monday 25th of November 2013
Life is not without its irony :)
I had my phone stolen earlier today as I was trying to get off an extremely crowded bus.... didn't notice until it was too late.
It doesn't change what I said above though, this could have happened anywhere and I feel lucky that I've got my wallet with all my IDs and credit card in there.
I'll be sure to stay away from the crowd in the future :)
Monday 25th of November 2013
Bummer! Btw, I've been testing out the Pickpocket Proof Pants by Clothing Arts the last three months here in Colombia, and they've been awesome. Both stylish and I feel secure walking through big crowds.
Stay safe down there.