Going to Quito for 2 weeks on Nov. 17. Any festivals or other activities going on then?
You, my friend, are timing your trip perfectly for one of Quito's biggest city-wide parties! The Fiestas de Quito happen each year during the last week of November through the first week of December. Much like what Carnival does to Rio and Mardi Gras to New Orleans, the Fiestas transform this sleepy and highly conservative capital into party central. You'll see and hear drunken raucous 24 hours a day, and are more likely than ever to be warmly welcomed into the culture with a big abrazo (hug) and a shot of trago (booze) running down throat.
Don't miss the bullfights at the Plaza de Toros. This is about the only time they come to Quito and it's a spectacle worth seeing. Perhaps you're not into the violence towards animals aspect? That's OK, I understand. Still, go. It's a peak beneath the surface of the Andean culture you may never get again. It's when the wealthy and middle class of Quito let loose, let down their guard, and show you what a fun time means to them. Plus, the hats they wear are hysterical! I encourage you to buy your own (they sell them on the street outside the bull ring) - and join in the ridiculous pomp and circumstance of the occasion. But show a little respect, wear long pants and maybe even a sport coat when you go to the show.
Another fantastic element of the Fiestas are the party Chivas. Chivas are normally open-aired buses that serve remote communities of the coast and Amazonian regions. They lack sides and have a roof deck that can (and does) support a full Mariachi band. People lease these buses out by the dozens during the Fiestas, roaming around the city in a mobile parties, dancing on the roof of the buses to music blaring so loud you can hear them coming blocks away. If you have a big group, you might think of leasing one of your own (don't worry, you'll have no trouble filling extra space with new friends), but otherwise if you're on your own or just a friend or two, just hop on one. Everyone is outrageously drunk and most everyone welcoming - they usually just help you climb up top and hand you a drink while you're still on the ladder! One word of advice though, watch out for low over-hanging bridges. If you're drunk and dancing on the bus of a roof, one of those bridges could just cause you to lose your head...
While in Quito, check out El Pobre Diablo for dinner and a night out on the town. Very cool live music scene!
This is the most impressive church building in the world. No joke. It's also the heart of Quito's UNESCO protected colonial sector, so a great place to orient yourself while exploring this neighborhood. If you don't make direct plans to visit, don't worry - you might end up here on one of those chivas I mentioned earlier!