Last updated on December 31st, 2018 at 12:01 pm
Last month our Travel Consultant, Megan Zebari, visited Quito, Ecuador. Check out her blog post on What to do in Quito Ecuador.
As a well preserved colonial city in South America, Quito was the first city in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The pulse of Quito’s rich history radiates through the cobblestone streets and colorful architecture. Statues of the idyllic Latin American liberation leaders, including Marshall Sucre and Simon Bolivar, are featured throughout the city. But knowledge of Quito’s past isn’t a prerequisite for appreciating the lively city today. Ecuador is becoming a haven for retirees and expats. If you’re thinking about discovering the country for yourself, no trip to Ecuador would be complete without spending a few days in the historic capital city, Quito.
Virgin Mary Statue
Start your trip with a visit to the nearby El Panecilio neighborhood to see the hilltop Virgin Mary statue. This is a 45-meter tall aluminum statue that is visible throughout the city. Here you can enjoy panoramic views of Quito along with mountains and volcanoes.
La Compañía de Jesús Church
After seeing the Virgin Mary statue, pay your respects with a trip to La Compañía de Jesús Church, an 18th Century baroque-style church adorned with gold-plated walls and impressive artwork. The San Francisco church, built atop ancient Incan walls, overlooks a public square where venders sell ice cream and other snacks. Next to the church is the Casa Gangontena, the city’s most luxurious hotel, which offers guests excellent terrace views of the city and convenient access to Quito’s most famous landmarks and pedestrian friendly streets.
La Ronada Street – Downtown Quito
Savor Quito’s lively culture with a stroll through La Ronda Street in downtown Quito. At night, the street is filled with tourists and locals alike. Here you have a wide variety of different bars and restaurants to explore, offering up local favorites like locro, a warm potato, cheddar and avocado soup, or ceviche, a fish and tomato soup, served cold and fresh. On the weekend, music continues well into the night in this bustling neighborhood, so delicate sleepers may opt for a hotel off of the main street. If you want to avoid the crowds completely, plan to stroll through La Ronda during the daytime. Make sure you buy fresh, artisanal chocolate truffles at Chez Tiff, an award winning chocolaterie. Here you can also watch the chef, originally from Switzerland, masterfully whirl the Ecuadorian cacaos into truffles, bars and other chocolate treats.
Ecuador’s most famous landmarks, like Cotopaxi National Park and the Middle of the World Monument, are both worthwhile daytrips trips outside of the city. Take a scenic train ride aboard the Train del Ecuador, for a trip to Cotopaxi National Park, which includes scenic views and a breakfast.
Hotels: If you’re interested in spending the night in Cotopaxi, I recommend staying at La Hacienda Porvenir, a family-owned lodge inside Cotopaxi National Park. The serene landscape includes panoramic views of the volcanoes and Andes along with miles of farmland cultivating the fertile ashen soil. Leave La Hacienda Porvenir in the early morning for an all day, or overnight trek through Cotopaxi National Park. Go horseback riding, zip lining or try out the lodge’s canopy course in the shadow of the country’s most famous active volcano.
The Middle of the World monument is located an hour away from the city. However in 2005, it was discovered that the massive, concrete monument was actually built one hundred meters away from the actual equator. So make sure you also visit the Mitad del Mundo, a private museum located only several minutes from the government-built museum. Mitad del Mundo is more offbeat than its predecessor, complete with two llamas, an exhibit paying homage to the head-shrinking tradition of an Amazonian Indian tribe and of course experiments that verify its equator-straddling location – balancing an egg on a nail, water flowing funny directions, and other gravity tricks.
Sandy beaches, lush rainforest, and eternal springtime weather. These are just a few privileges of being strapped to the equator.
Nearby Quito – Devil’s Nose Train to Cuenca
After your time in Quito, I recommend taking the Devil’s Nose Train to Cuenca, a charming colonial city in southern Ecuador. Here you’ll enjoy an incredibly scenic trip through the Avenue of the Volcanoes and Ecuador’s gorgeous countryside. After a few days in Quito, continue on to Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, located on the Pacific Ocean. From Quito or Guayaquil, you can catch a plane to the Galapagos Islands and enjoy a cruise, or settle into an island lodge, located right on the beach.
Check out our Quito & Devil’s Nose Train Ecuador Tour for more details.
If you’re interested in an Amazon experience, take a short flight over to Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park, where lodges like the Kichwa Sun Lodge or Napo National Park are nestled inside the incredible rainforest.
Ecuador is a small country that is full of possibilities, so make your trip to Ecuador your own! Take a look at our Ecuador Tours for additional travel ideas. If you’d like help designing a custom trip with our own recommendations, either fill out the form below or contact us directly at (800) 747-4540.