Quito’s Parks (los parques de Quito)
As happens with many rapidly-growing South American cities, due to large internal migration to urban areas, and high population growth, Quito’s growth has outpaced its urban planning. One consequence is that Quito needs more parks and green spaces. While few, if you know how to find them, Quito has amazing parks to explore. Readers, please chime in if there are other Quito parks you recommend or had any experiences there that you would like to share. The Parks and Sports section of Quito Turismo ( a great guide by the city) is a good reference for many of the parks.
Bellow is the summary of some of the main parks in Quito (To learn more about how Quito is divided read Hola Quito) . Further down, I describe them a bit and my past and present experiences with them:
Area:North, El Norte
- Guanguitagua or also Metropolitano or simply El Metro
- La Carolina
- Parque Bicentenario or simply El Viejo Aeropuerto (until 2013 it was still Quito’s airport)
- Parque de Guapulo
Area: Between North and El Centro (colonial Quito)
- El Ejido
Area: South of Quito: El Sur
- Parque Las Cuadras
- Metropolitano del Sur
Area: Valleys of Cumbaya and Tumbaco
- Ciclovia El Chaquiñan
- Parque Guanguitagua or Metropolitano Norte or simply called El Metro – I love this gorgeous park located in the northern part of Quito, on the ridgeline between two valleys. Metropolitan Park is an ecological reserve comprising some 580 hectares and located at an altitude of 2890 meters. I’ve gone there since before it was a park, back when it was a large quasi-abandoned farm. When I was a teenager, I used to go there with my friends in the evening to picnic or party. We used to call it “La Luna” because one can clearly see the moon and stars from there. Thank God it was never developed, and the City had the foresight of expropriating it, and converting it into a park. Parque Metropolitano has great views of the Pichincha and Quito to the west, and when you hike up and east, you’ll find great views of the eastern valleys of Cumbaya, Tumbaco and the hills beyond. On a clear day, there are spectacular views of various snow-covered volcanoes, such as the Cayambe and Cotopaxi. I make it a point to take my children, my mom or sisters, or whoever wants to come with us, for morning hikes a couple of times a week. This large park has several areas with playgrounds, some of which include zip lines. I usually get my kids to walk the park from west to east (and only a portion of the park) challenging them to visit all the zip lines. It helps too that I offer them either a Popsicle or a fresh squeeze natural fruit juice from one of the stands near the entrance, which sell juices, snacks and ice cream. One of them is run by and benefits the Ecuadorian Alcoholic Association, and I try to buy from them whenever possible. One benefit of the park being on a hilltop is that it is not very crowded, but it is not easy to find public transportation there.
- La Carolina Located in the middle of the north area of Quito, by a wide street called los Shyris, is the most crowded and sometimes smoggiest park of all. I usually visit the park at about 6:00 or 7:00 am to do a couple of laps around the park before it gets too busy. But, it has an abosolutely lovely little gem hidden in the middle of it, which I always love visiting with my kids: the Jardin Botanico de Quito a wonderful botanical garden that is well worth a visit. Shyris street has a little cement amphitheater which is often used as a base to go marching on protests, for talks during, after and before elections or for city festivities. The park has several activities for families including horseback rides for little kids and a great bike path that is fun to do on the weekends (you can rent bikes a couple of locations near by: one is in avenida republica)
- Parque Bicentenario or Bicentennial Park. Last summer 2013 when I went to visit Ecuador with my kids, I was amazed to see such a vibrant park in the location where the previous year 2012, I had taken the plane to fly out of Quito. This park, and the very large number of people suddenly using it, is a true testament of the great need for more green areas and parks by the large and growing Quito middle class. It made me proud that the city management resisted lobbing from developers who I’m sure where eyeing this newly freed and centrally located hectares. Here is the description of it by Quito Turismo “Inaugurated on April 27, 2013, in the place where Quito’s old airport used to be, the Bicentennial Park is one of the most ambitious green spaces in the city, with 125 hectares. It is a place which hundreds of quiteños visit every day to bike, go on walks, practice sports, and just enjoy this new lung in the urban area. This is one of the most important strategic projects to change Quito’s structure, and make it physically and socially diverse and environmentally sustainable. It is also a place for special events, like outdoors music festivals and sports competitions.”
- Parque de Guapulo This is a brand new park opened to the public on the 26 of December 2013 in the valley of Guapulo, by the gorgeous Guapulo town and church, in the northeast area of Quito. It used to be the Guapulo hacienda (farm) that belonged to the wealthy banker Nicolas Landes, who ended up in jail, convicted of misusing bank funds. I was very happy by the government’s decision to make a park out of property taken out of mishandled money. The park still maintains the beautiful facilities the farm used to have, which included horse stables (now used for horse therapies for kids) and the farm house, plus it has a couple of new playgrounds and fountains. I was delighted to discover it 6 months ago as it is a place well worth visiting, but with a good repellent as due to its proximity to water, plus the fact that it is in a warmer valley, there are abundant mosquitos.
Area: between north of Quito and El Centro
- Itchimbia As Quito Turismo says of this park “Located at the top of the hill, at the eastern side of Old Town, the park provides a 360° view of the city. The Itchimbía Cultural Center is located inside the park. It was built using the metallic structure of the old Santa Clara market. In here, expositions, fairs, music festivals, and social gatherings take place”. Itchimbia park is a must see both because of the amazing views of old downtown you get from it and for the beautiful Casa de Cristal (what the ex-Santa Clara market is called). You can go for a good hike around the park and it is not very crowded, unless there is a concert or some sort of festival. If you are lucky to find it open, there is a restaurant/coffee shop mini chain (there is also one of this ones at El Panecillo) called Pims where you can get very decent Ecuadorian food, drinks and international food and a great view of the city.
- El Ejido This park occupies a dear place in my heart. We lived at my grandma’s for some of years, exactly where the larger building of the Hilton Colon hotel is currently located across the street from this park. My first 8 or 9 years of life, were spent going playing there. I learned to bike there; crashing into a surprised ice-cream vendor. There used to be a place with books and comics, though it wasn’t officially a library. Coincidentally, after we moved further north within Quito, this park (and not because I moved out ha, ha) started to become run down. I couple of years ago, in one of my visits to Quito when my kids were very little and I was in the lookout for parks, I rediscovered it. I was very happy to find it all fixed up. It is not the safest park if you are distracted as it is quite busy particularly during the week, but it is a fun park to visit. There is even a brand new kids library near the place where the old little “library” was when I was a child. They have this funny looking car/bikes , which were a crack-up, that my kids, nieces and nephews rented to ride around the park. El Ejido converts itself into a large artisan market worth visiting on the weekends.
- La Alameda This is the park has an observatory called El Churo (the swirl). My sisters and I used to make a contest to see who got first to the top of it and the five of us went up in an stampede. It used to have little horses for photos. The first Astronomic Observatory in South America is located within its compounds and still functioning (you can still visit it).
- Parque Las Cuadras This park was built in what it used to be the farm of an acquaintance of my parents called Augusto Saa. I visited the park a couple of years ago with my mom, who remembered the farm, and said the park kept a bunch of the old trees the farm used to have. The park, though in the middle of the busy southern part of the city, still feels like a well-kept farm once you are in it and makes you feel far away from the city.
- Metropolitano del Sur Located in the south part of the city, this is a park for which I have seen signs, felt happy they’ve created it within the past couple of years, but have not yet visited.
Area: Valleys of Cumbaya and Tumbaco
- Ciclovia El Chaquiñan The train track from Quito to San Lorenzo and Bucay became unfortunately unoperable due to earthquakes late 1970s. Fortunately, the track covering Cumbaya to Puembo (about 20K) has been restored into a trail available for the public and people who like going hiking, running or cycling love it. The path passes through at least five old tunnels.
I’ve done this hike a couple of times: Once I went with my husband from an entrance (there are several entrances to the path) in the town of Tumbaco We loved hiking down toward the Chiche river and enjoying the beautiful scenes. Other times, I’ve entered the path to go either running or hiking, from Cumbaya (the entrance is right next to the plaza of Cumbaya). It is awesome to just enter the path and suddenly be transported into nature. You can be ambitious and go hking there as long as you get tired, as if you can’t handle the return you can get into a bus, in one of the areas it goes by, and take it to come back. This is a path loved by bikers in particular. You can start with a latte or breakfast at the various places in Plaza Cumbaya and head of for your workout.
This youtube video of El Chaquiñan ,gives a good look at the start of the path (though the narrator’s voice has been messed up with music)
The trail is open every day from 6am – 6pm.