Quito, the wonderful capital of Ecuador lies on a horizontal strip of land in the Andean mountains, running north to south escorted by magnificent volcanoes. With an altitude of 2850 m is it the highest capital in the world and considered to be one of the most beautiful regions in South America.
Already in 1500 B.C., were the highlands of Quito inhabited by two independent living tribes, the Chibcha in the North and the Chimbu in the South. When the Inca conquered this region in the 15th century during bloody battles against the Quitu-Cara, they established Quito as a cultural and political centre. The city became an important feudal residence of their empire, until in 1533, in course of the colonization of America by the Spanish, the Conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar took over the city and built up today’s San Fancisco de Quito on the ruins. In the 16th and 17th century came Fanciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits and Augustinian owing to the Christian missionary to Ecuador and left a lasting influence on today´s cityscape with their impressive churches. The Spanish colonial rule ended with the declaration of independence by the freedom fighter Simón Bolivar in 1822, who thereupon founded Great Columbia, which existed of Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela and Colombia but disintegrated after a few years and finally the Republic of Ecuador came into existence
Today, Quito is a pulsating metropolis, which combines the modern way of life with the old colonial flair and fascinates travelers from all over the world with its charming atmosphere and joie de vivre. The city has a lot to offer, whether you like to experience the moving history of Ecuador in the Historic Center, relax in the botanic garden or go for a drink and dance all night in the clubs of the Mariscal quarter – you will never get bored. The city’s natural setting combined with the warmth of its people makes this a unique place, you will never forget.
#1 Historic Center of Quito
The historical center of Quito comprises 300 hectare and is one of the most important and best preserved historical regions in South America. About 130 of the buildings are listed for preservation and almost the whole quarter has been restored to counteract the dilapidation of the historic buildings, due to the “Corporation of Development of the Historic Center”. A multitude of churches and monasteries impress with their outstanding baroque architecture, which is influenced by the Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous art. In 1978, as first city quarter in the world, the old city has been declared as World Heritage by the UNESCO for its unique fusion of men with nature.
#2 LA BASÍLICA DEL VOLTO NACIONAL
The Basilica del Volto Nacional is the most important work of neo-Gothic architecture in Ecuador. It is situated on a high spot in the Historic Centre of Quito, a few blogs away from the Independence Square. This church was mostly built of stone from the Pichincha quarries and inside the complex is a huge altar in its lateral vaults. The tower is the highest of its kind and whole Quito can be seen from several points of it. The church has 115 meters of height and it is formed by 24 internal chapels that represent the provinces of the country. In 1985, during his visit in Ecuador, Pope John Paul II blessed this impressive church.
#3 EL PANECILLO
Panecillo means “little bread” referring to the particular size and shape of this natural 200-meter high hill, located between southern and central Quito. On top stands the 45 m tall Virgin, which consist of 7,000 pieces of aluminum. The Virgin was inspired by the famous “Virgen de Quito” sculpture by Bernardo de Legarda in 1734 and the only iconograpStepping on a snake it is a classic iconography of the Madonna. Less traditional are the angel like wings. In the upper part of the monument is a balcony that provides an impressive 360°-view over the city.
#4 CALLE La Ronda
La Ronda is a traditional street associated with the bohemian art and old Quito. It is synonymous for food, crafts and fun, especially in the night. It is considered to be the oldest street in Quito and was in the 30s home to pioneering musicians of the “pasillos”, painters and several of the most renowned poets. Walking through the charming La Ronda gives you a feeling of traditional life of the old colonial Quito. Within two blocks you find artisan handicrafts such as candle and embroidery, as well as many small stores, bakeries and traditional restaurants, bars and pubs, and galleries.
#5 LA MARISCAL
Are you looking for rhythmical sounds, delicious food and fun? – Then is “La Mariscal”, the entertainment district of Quito, located in its center, the place to be. Here meets the traditional and modern live and you find a large variety of bars, cafes, clubs, restaurants, shops museums and numerous hosting options. Taste the delicates of the wide variety of the north-central cuisine or go for a walk and by some handicrafts. During the nights the “Plaza Foch”, the heart of “la zona” turns into a party hot sport where you can enjoy the cosmopolitan side of Quito.
#6 MERCADO ARTESANAL
The artisanal market is a typical handicraft market that offers in more than 100 stands a wide variety of handicrafts and souvenirs from all over the country for excellent prices. This market is open every day and offers a good alternative to the indigenous Market in Otavalo, if you are not able to visit it. It is located at Jorge Washington St. between Reina Victoria and Juan Leon Mera Street.
#7 Jardin Botanico
The Botanical Garden is located inside “La Carolina Park” in the northern part of Quito at Rumipamba Street. It takes visitors to different ecosystems inside the city and let you explore the fascinating world of plants of the Rainforest and Highlands. Furthermore, this garden displays more than 1,200 orchid species from both, cold and warm environment. Along the path through the garden you will find a lot of plants, trees and flowers, all clearly labeled with their scientific name and common name.
Located on the foothills of Volcano Pichincha, Quito’s Teleferiqo takes you on a 2,5 km ride up the flanks of the Pichincha to the top of Cruz Loma at an altitude of 4100 m. The ascent takes about 10 minutes and provides a picturesque vies of Quito, the Antisana, Cayambe and the Cotopaxi on a clearly day. Once you arrived at the top, you can hike to the summit of the “Rucu Pichichnach”. But take it easy, due to the altitude it is recommendable to be acclimatized in Quito for a couple of days.At the base of the Telefeiqo you find an amusement park called Vugano Park, offering carts, roller coasters and other exciting games. At the top you find several restaurants and a oxygen station in case you develop problems with the altitude.
#9 Mitad del Mundo
Just 30 km away from Quito, at San Antonio de Pichincha you find the “Mitad del Mundo City”, the place where the Equator divides the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Surrounding the Monument at latitude of 0°0’0’’, the city offers several restaurants, handicraft stores and museums about the missions that measured the Earth, like the “Solar Museum” and Planetarium. Inside the monument is an ethnical museum which demonstrates the different regions of Ecuador and their tribes.
About 200 m north of the Mitad del Mundo City is the Intiñan museum which allows you to witness and participate in the several experiments that prove the fact of being exactly on the Equator. Stand an egg on a nail, experience the Coriolis Effect in the Northern and Sothern Hemisphere or feel the loss of balance when walking along the Equator line. Furthermore, you can find a solar clock and an Anthropological Totemic Forest of the Andean cultures there.
Quito has some of the best museums in South America and is a museums lover’s place. Every of the numerous museums, dedicated to the history, art and culture of Ecuador, will give you a unique perspective of the nation and its hard to say which are the best ones. The most popular is the Museo Nacional del Banco Central. Here you can find a large art collection from Ecuador, containing pre Inca and modern works.
Gulliver Expeditions can take you to all of these locations for a ful day of adventures.