Quito, Global Volunteers’ host community in Ecuador since 1996, boasts one of the highest aerial lifts in the world. Here, Global Volunteers Ecuador Country Manager Maggie Bjorklund describes a trip up the TelefériQo, which is a favorite attraction of volunteers to enjoy during their free time while on a service program in Ecuador.
Quito, the highest capital city in the world at 9,250 feet above sea level, is home to one of the world’s highest aerial lifts. This gondola lift, called TelefériQo, was built over an area of 160 hectares on the skirts of Pichincha Volcano. It whisks you up from 10,226 feet to 12,943 feet in about eight minutes. The TelefériQo goes up to the summit of Cruz Loma, right next to Pichincha Volcano, to give visitors spectacular views of the city and the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. On a clear day, one can see snow-capped peaks such as Cotopaxi Volcano, Antisana Volcano, and Cayambe Volcano as well as eleven more Andean peaks that make up the “Avenue of the Volcanoes.”
The starting station of the TelefériQo is right in the heart of Quito, just a cab ride away from many hotels and the TelefériQo also offers shuttle buses to and from the visitor base. The cost for this amazing experience is $8.50 for adults. At the visitor base, there is a small amusement park — Vulqano Park. At the summit there are restaurants, coffee bars, and stores. Horseback riding is also available. Four hiking trails at the top give nature lovers the opportunity to explore more of the vegetation, geology, and views that the mountaintop offers. The longest trail leads to Rucu Pichincha Volcano, which is a demanding climb that reaches 15,354 feet above sea level in a relatively short time. Hiking to the summit of Rucu Pichincha is about five hours round trip. The valiant climbers who hike to Rucu Pichincha can experience the exhilaration of reaching the summit of an active volcano!
While vigorous hiking trails are available, most visitors take the gondola up, walk around the trails for an hour or so stopping at the lookout points to take in the view, and enjoy a coffee, hot chocolate, or coca tea plus a traditional Ecuadorian treat at one of the cafés. This can be done in the afternoon-evening after a meaningful day of volunteering. Another favorite attraction on the mountaintop is to swing at more than almost 13,000 feet above sea level, with the city of Quito at your feet and fresh air against your cheeks.
Recommendations for Visiting Quito’s Aerial Lift
Of course, almost 13,000 feet above sea level is nothing to scoff at so it is recommended to wait until one has acclimatized to the elevation of Quito before going up to the summit of Cruz Loma. When volunteers arrive in Quito on Saturday for the start of the service program, they can plan to take the ride up one afternoon during their first week of volunteering. If you want to spend more time hiking on the mountaintop, Saturday or Sunday are great options.
Naturally, this altitude hosts chilly temperatures and brisk winds, so jackets are a must. It’s also important to wear sunscreen if visiting during the day.
When volunteering in Ecuador, be sure to visit the TelefériQo. We promise the views do not disappoint.
Learn more about free-time activities in Quito: