Quito Ecuador Altitude: How to prepare for the city in the mountains

There are some important facts about Quito Ecuador altitude that every traveler should keep in mind before arriving in the capital city.
What is the Quito Ecuador altitude?

What is the Quito Ecuador’s altitude?

Quito is the second-highest capital city in the world. With an altitude of 2 850 mt / 9 350,4 ft above sea level, Quito is lower only than La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, which is located at 3 650 mt / 1 1976 ft above sea level.

That is awesome! You may think. And you’re right, the views from up there are stunning!

But the altitude can also cause some headaches – literally! – as the higher up you are, the less oxygen goes to your lungs with every breath. But hey, don’t worry! You will probably experience nothing worse than some shortness of breath, though a few people also suffer headaches, dizziness, and nausea. In rare cases, a brief visit to the doctor might be necessary. 

More commonly, Quito Ecuador’s altitude causes sunburn. Don’t forget, it’s located right on the equator! Make sure you always have a decent supply of good sunblock during your visit to the capital!

How to deal with altitude sickness?

Remember, less oxygen in your lungs is what gives you altitude sickness, or “soroche” (the Ecuadorian slang for altitude sickness). So the best way to deal with it is to avoid getting out of breath! 

We can share with you the following methods for dealing with altitude sickness.

Rest, rest as much as you can

Especially if you just got out of a plane after a wonderful holiday at sea level! When you get out of an airplane in Quito you can instantly feel the lack of oxygen and you may experience some shortness of breath. So, just right there, at that moment, slow down! Walk slower, breathe slower and more deeply, and take as many breaks as you need while walking around the city. This also means, try to avoid overexerting yourself or exercising strenuously – at least at the start of your journey in this city.

Take as many days as you need to acclimatize to Quito

The acclimatization period is different for everyone. Some people need a couple of days, some need a week, and others maybe a little more than that. It doesn’t really matter how long it takes, just give your body the necessary time to adjust to the new altitude.

If you’re a smoker, consider taking a break from the cigarettes during your time in Quito

Take this piece of advice from a former smoker! If breathing at altitude can be an issue for non-smokers, imagine adding the smoking habit to the lack of oxygen. Not a good feeling my friends!

Drink, drink, drink

And NO, I am not talking about beers! The soroche can cause dehydration sometimes, so drink as much water as you can. If you’re feeling nauseous, the best thing to do is mix some lemonade with ginger, this beverage will help you to feel better.

Carbs are welcome

Yep! You read correctly. Another way to fight altitude sickness is by enjoying a diet rich in carbs. I’m not talking about endless chips! The best strategy is to eat some light meals that contain carbs and add plenty of fruit and green vegetables.


There is a medication that helps your body increase oxygen perfusion and fight the symptoms of altitude sickness. It’s available in Ecuadorian pharmacies under the name of Diamox or Glaucomed. I also recommend keeping some mild pain relievers handy, in case of headaches. It’s best to avoid sleeping pills in Quito, as they tend to reduce your breathing rhythm. Don’t forget to consult with your doctor about these medicines before traveling to Quito.
How to deal with altitude sickness?

Our tips and recommendations

I can add the following additional tips for dealing with the Quito Ecuador altitude.

Sleep at a lower altitude location before arriving in Quito

Soroche is the reaction of your body to a sudden change of altitude in a short space of time, so the best thing you can do is give your body some time to adjust gradually. Instead of going straight from sea level to Quito, consider visiting some mid-altitude cities in between. This is where Wanderbus and its “hop on-hop off” system is your best option! Traveling with us offers you the chance to gradually work your way up to the higher altitudes via some marvelous destinations! Just think about how convenient our system is if you are planning on visiting Ecuador’s capital city!

Coca leaves

These famous leaves are very popular in the Andean highlands because of their ability to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness, among other kinds of discomfort.

In Bolivia, you can easily find coca leaves in the market and will see many people chewing them as they go about their day, but in Quito, they are harder to find. Instead, you could try more commonly available products such as coca tea or coca candies.

Don’t go higher!

At least until your body has had enough time to get used to the altitude! If your plan is climbing the Andean mountains in Ecuador, Quito is the best place to acclimatize for a few days before moving on to even higher ground. And, if you’ve been in Quito for over a week and still feel the effects of soroche, we recommend you move to a lower altitude location instead.


The equator + altitude + long exposure = serious sunburn!

Please don’t forget to put on a decent amount of sunblock, and reapply as many times as necessary. 

Pay a visit to the doctor

This is not always necessary, at least not for everyone. But keep in mind that if you have a health condition such as diabetes, cardiorespiratory conditions, lung problems, hypertension, obesity or renal insufficiency, the probability of getting severe altitude sickness is higher. If you suffer from one of these conditions, it’s best to see your doctor before your trip to Quito.

Think one step ahead

Some Andean people like to recommend: “drink before getting thirsty, eat before getting hungry, warm up before getting cold, and take some rest before getting exhausted”. This is maybe the best piece of advice for your trip to Quito, since the brain works a bit more slowly at high altitude.

Don’t stress and enjoy it

Soroche can happen sometimes, but don’t let it ruin your trip! Follow the recommendations and enjoy the beauty of this charming city.

quito ecuador altitude 


More Posts

Ecuador 10-day itinerary

Though ten days in a country offers a better feel of what that country has to offer, Ecuador doubles-down on offering the experience of nature at its most extreme and most diverse… If 5 days takes us up and down the Ecuadorian rollercoaster, 10 days is double the fun. So, sit back and enjoy the

Read More »

Ecuador 5-day itinerary

Five days in Ecuador is clearly not enough to get to know the country well, but there’s one thing that five days in Ecuador can do. And that is give you a peek at its amazing diversity and distinct “worlds”. Just for that experience alone, 5 days in Ecuador is an exciting adventure that few

Read More »

Ecuador Tours with local private tour guides

Tourism and travel have evolved throughout the years and we could say that, in this day and age, people are more and more inclined to seek travel experiences in which they control every last part of their journeys. Far have we travelled from the antiquated vision of the 1970s tourist, walking around with a camera

Read More »