At more than 9,000 feet above sea level, Quito, Ecuador is already the world’s second-highest capital city. But altitude junkies who want to go the extra mile (almost literally!) can head to the edge of the city, to the Teleférico. Step into one of this gondola’s six-person cars and you’ll be swept up another 3,600 feet along the eastern slope of the Pichincha Volcano.
The base of the Teleférico—also known as the TelefériQo—was originally meant to be a commercial hub, surrounded by malls and restaurants. Most of these plans fell through, but the gondola itself is popular with both tourists and locals, who get a discounted rate.
The walls of the cars are transparent, and as they zoom along, riders look down at hillsides dotted with wildflowers and grazing cows or watch their fellow daredevils enjoying themselves at Vulqano Park. A panoramic view of Quito unfolds farther below.
Once the gondola has reached the top, it’s possible to climb even higher: a hiking path leads up to the volcano’s summit, and other Andean mountains rise up all around. Or you can take a break at the snack shop, which offers food, coffee, restrooms, and flavored oxygen—another kind of high.
Know Before You Go
The Teleférico's base is a 15-minute walk from the nearest bus stop. It's also accessible via car or taxi. Keep your ticket, as you'll need it to get back down. Those who aren't used to being up so high can suffer from altitude sickness—and even if you've been in Quito for a while, this is a major change. To mitigate the effects, move slowly and drink a lot of water.