Sweeping across the Andean valley and bordered by mountainous volcanic peaks on latitude 0, the city of eternal spring has gone through a rebirth as one of the world’s must-see destinations thanks to its treasure-trove of unsung splendours.
When National Geographic Traveller named Quito a must-see place three years ago, every intrepid traveller put this ancient city on their bucket list. Since then, the capital of Ecuador – a country best known for being home to the Galápagos Islands – has been declared ‘South America’s Leading Destination’ by the World Travel Awards for three consecutive years and was named one of the world’s ‘New 7 Wonder Cities,’ and here’s why!
Quito is a true vision sitting at an altitude of 9,350 feet above sea level and hugging the equator at latitude 0 that have blessed it with eternal spring weather. It is the second highest capital city in the world, after La Paz in Bolivia, providing magnificent views that will literally take your breath away!
Founded by the Spanish in 1534 and located on Incan ruins dating back to 980 A.D., Quito showcases the best of both cultures and boasts the largest and best-preserved historic centre in Latin America. It was also the first city in the world to be named a ‘World Heritage City’ by UNESCO in 1978, offering an exciting culture and treasure-trove of unsung splendours that beckon to be explored.
The heart of Quito beats along the cobblestoned streets of its Spanish colonial historical centre, where the aromas of local delicacies fill the air and women in ponchos sell homegrown fruit and colourful scarves from giant baskets. El Centro (the historical centre) is a living museum with scenic views at every turn, which provides a glimpse into the city’s storied past. It is home to many inspiring museums, traditional shops, churches and picturesque plazas guaranteed to captivate visitors. Quito also produces some of the world’s best chocolate, so be sure to visit a local chocolateria and enter chocolate heaven!
Highlights include the 16th century Plaza de la Independencia, where gardens and fountains are flanked by whitewashed buildings that house the Archbishop’s Palace, the Cathedral, City Hall and the Government Palace. La Compañía de Jesús Church with its green tiled domes is carved out of Andean stone. The magnificence of its baroque façade is only matched by its rich interior, featuring elaborate wood carvings gilded in 23-carat gold. Plaza San Francisco is home to the twin bell towers of Quito’s first church, the Monastery of San Francisco. This sweeping cobblestoned plaza with its mountainous backdrop of Volcán Pichincha is the perfect place to enjoy a drink in an open air café and do some people watching.
La Ronda, meaning “small alleyway,” is one of the city’s most iconic streets. Here, the old-world crafts and food of Quito are sure to captivate, especially at night. Enjoy panoramic views of the city at El Panchilo Viewpoint, where the imposing sculpture of the winged Virgin of Quito stands guard over the citizens of Quito.
With government funded programs for the city’s arts and culture, Quito’s art scene has been exploding. Art lovers can view one of the country’s largest collections of Ecuadorian art at the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana which houses two museums. The Casa del Alabado Museum of Pre-Columbian Art and the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo with its modern works are also worth visiting.
The city is home to many exciting neighbourhoods both north and south of the historical centre. La Mariscal is teeming with great restaurants, entertainment and night life. If you prefer a more upscale ambience, then head to the suburb of Cumbayá.
Quito offers many exciting excursions for travellers. North of Quito, visit La Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the World) and straddle both hemispheres atop the 100-foot Equatorial Monument perched on Latitude 0 o 0’0 “.
Then head to Museum of Intiñan (the real equator) where guests will learn about the ancient culture of the region, as well as take part in fun science experiments. At the Pululahua Crater, gaze into the world’s only populated crater with a 3200-hectare Geobotanical Reserve and experience one of the most magnificent views ever.
Thanks to its location, rich volcanic soil and eternal spring weather, Ecuador grows some of the world’s best roses. Travel along Ecuador’s Flower Trail and head north to Cayambe – the rose capital of the hemisphere, if not the world – and tour the Hacienda La Compañía de Jesús in Cayambe. This lovely centuries-old rose plantation is complete with a chapel dating back to the 17th-century that once belonged to the Jesuit order. Tour the hacienda’s plantation and walk through an endless garden of roses.
At the ancient train station of Chimbacalle – one of the few in the Americas – Tren Ecuador offers travellers exceptional journeys through the Ecuadorian highlands and coast region. Pass by the Cotopaxi volcano and enjoy a folkloric presentation at the Machachi train station to experience the culture, customs and traditions of Ecuador.
Adventure seekers can enjoy a number of sports activities such as hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding through the region’s glorious landscape covered in towering volcanoes, rivers, waterfalls and national parks.
With its exciting traditions, fascinating histori- cal sites, breathtakingly beautiful landscapes and eternal spring weather, it’s easy to see why Quito is taking travellers to new heights! For more information on excursions, special events, programs and offers, visit Quito.com.ec/en.
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