Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Quito in Ecuador; at the intersection of two hemispheres on the bulge of the equatorial line, it is the closest capital to the sun. Situated on the slopes of the Pichincha volcano, it is the second tallest capital in the world sitting high in the Andean foothills at an altitude of 2,850m. This sprawling city has spectacular sights with breathtaking views and amazing food.
Author and Food Travel Writer: Suk & Sangy, Urge to XPLORE
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Quito’s old town has one of the largest and the best-preserved historic center in Latin America called the Centro Historico -it is the first cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site. The narrow cobblestones streets of the old town are steep with many vibrant colonial structures and monuments including 16th-17th century churches built blending Spanish and indigenous styles.
Head to Parque Itchimbia located at the summit of the Itchimbia hill. At 2900m it offers sweeping views of the historic center and the prominent landmarks that dominate the skyline.
One of the must-see sights is the La Basílica del Voto Nacional. A beautiful roman catholic church built in neo-gothic style with stunning interiors. You can climb up to top of its towers to an amazing lookout for an up-close view of the historic center. The Virgin of El Panecillo also known as the Virgin of Quito is located on the top of the hill of El Panecillo, a loaf-shaped hill in the heart of the city and serves as a backdrop to the historic center.
Much of the sights in the historic center are walkable. Start at the Plaza de la Independencia, known as Plaza Grande, which is the principal and central public square. With Heroes de la Independencia monument at its center that symbolizes the triumph of the republic, the Plaza is surrounded by the Metropolitan Cathedral, Palacio Arzobispal, and the Palacio de Carondelet which is the seat of government of the Republic of Ecuador. Just beside the palace, you will find the Centro Cultural Metropolitan, one of Quito’s finest museums.
A few steps away is the Plaza de San Francisco another public square that faces La Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco - the Church and Convent of St. Francis. Walk down to the Centro Commercial at the Palacio Arzobispal to savor a sumptuous meal of a hearty potato soup and some fresh ceviche at the Hasta la Vuelta, Señor. Just a few minutes away is the statue of Marshal Antonio José de Sucre, the hero of Independence at the Plaza de Santo Domingo which also has the Church of Santo Domingo – a Catholic Temple.
Of the many churches in the historic center, we would recommend visiting the La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, widely regarded as the most beautiful with its ornate design and gold-leaf covering much of its vast interior. If you have time to spare you can also visit the Church of El Sagrario a chapel that is part of the larger Cathedral of Quito. On one of the evenings take a stroll along Calle La Ronda - with its lantern-lit streets and floral balconies it is home to many art galleries, craft shops, cafes, and elegant restaurants. Reserve a table at the Vista Hermosa – its open rooftop offers a magnificent 360-degree panorama over the Old Town.
Acclimatizing to the high altitude may take a day or two for some people, so on day three or four take the TelefériQo