El TelefériQo

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Quito, Ecuador

El TelefériQo Quito Reviews

Toonsarah Toonsarah
341 reviews
Views of the city - sometimes! Oct 25, 2012
This was one of the things I was most keen to do while in Quito. I love the experience of travelling in cable cars, chair lifts etc. and I love to get up high and see the view! Quito’s position, surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, makes this prospect especially enticing. We hadn’t been able to fit in into our first couple of days in the city, but on the Monday, when we returned from our overnight stay at Papallacta by early afternoon, we decided that we would go. Whether it was the best day or time for the trip is debatable though, as you will read ...

El TelefériQo is a contraction of teleférico (the Spanish for cable car) and Quito. The cars ascend the city’s nearest volcano, Volcan Pichincha, to a height of 3,945 metres. At the top there are cafés and a few touristy shops, and a network of hiking trails. At the base is an amusement park, but we didn’t visit that.

We took a taxi from the old town (on Venezuela) to the cable car station, which cost $4.80 on the meter – a fair price for the journey. The driver dropped us just near the entrance to the ticket hall. By this point the weather, which had started bright, was beginning to look less promising. It is the norm during the rainy season for Quito to have bright sunny mornings and grey, often wet, afternoons, but we had been fooled a little by the exceptionally good weather of our first few days in the city, with the bright sun and blue skies lasting all day. Now we were seeing the more typical winter weather pattern and going up a mountain didn’t seem quite such a good idea as it had! However, we were here now so we decided to take a chance.

Tickets for El TelefériQo cost $8.50 for tourists. This is for the express line, for which locals pay $4.50. There is a cheaper, slower line ticket that they can buy as an alternative but tourists have to use the dearer one. Not that speed was an issue when we went, as we were the only people going up at that point!

You board the moving car with the help of an attendant who tells you where to stand in order to be able to jump on at the right moment. The journey up takes about 10 minutes and climbs 828 metres, while travelling 2,237 linear metres. As you climb you get great views of Quito below, which gradually widen as you go, so that you get a great sense of the overall shape and size of the city – its sprawling nature and its position in the deep inter-Andean valley.

We hopped off at the top (again, there is an attendant to help you if needed) to find it already spitting with rain, and only a few other people around. We walked a short distance to the nearest viewpoint and were able to get a couple of atmospheric photos before the cloud closed in completely. We went for a coffee in one of the cafés (a little snack bar right by the station) and tried to wait out the rain, but it only got worse. So after a while we gave up and went back down. It was a shame that we hadn’t seen more of the views and been able to walk around up here at least a little, but on the positive side, we had seen something, I had achieved my aim of getting up here (and had enjoyed the ride), and being on the mountain in this bleak weather was an interesting experience in its own right. I wasn’t sorry we had come :-)

The descent took only five minutes as they seemed to have speeded up the cars. When we arrived at the bottom it was still raining. A local TV crew was filming here, and we watched for a while as they stopped the cars altogether while shooting an odd scene involving a cable car and a cosy-looking armchair! When they restarted the cars, other people arrived in them – clearly all of us had decided to get off the mountain!

We weren’t sure whether we needed to walk down the hill to the main gate to find a taxi. We had earlier assumed that other people would still be arriving when we came down and we might get one of their taxis for the return journey – but in the now driving rain that seemed highly unlikely, and it was equally unlikely that any taxi driver would come up to this point on the off-chance of picking up a fare. We saw that some people set off into the amusement park but we weren’t sure where that would lead us out, so we went back to where the taxi had dropped us off, thinking to check if there might be one around and if not walk down the road he had taken (reluctantly, as we hadn’t dressed well for the rain). But just as we got there a small mini-bus arrived (see photo four) and we boarded, along with several others. Not that we knew where it was going – but it had to be closer to “civilisation” and other buses or taxis! As it turned out, it took us back to the main entrance to the complex and was a free service (which presumably we would have known had we arrived by bus rather than taxi as we would have caught it to go up the hill too). From here we were able to quickly hail a passing taxi and paid a flat fare of $4 to go back to the old town (Plaza San Domingo).

A few tips:

1. Bring a warmer layer than you have been wearing in the city, as (rain or not) it will be much cooler up here

2. Come in the morning if you can – unless you want to see more clouds than view, as we did!

3. Even if you are acclimatised to Quito’s 2,800 metres altitude, this is a lot higher, so don’t be surprised to feel the effects. Take it slowly if you plan to hike (you can climb the volcano itself if up to the challenge of the walk) and go back down if you develop severe symptoms. I was fine during our brief visit, but was to have a nasty headache the next day on Cotapaxi.
View before the clouds arrived
Clouds rolling in over Quito
The cable cars
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