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Quito…The Heart of Andean Ecuador

| 14 May 2017

For most visitors to Ecuador, Quito is seen as the start and end point of a holiday – the place you have to visit because the airport is there. But the capital has more to offer tourists than you might realise. Katie Cosstick recommends five of the best things to do in Quito.

For most visitors to Ecuador, Quito is seen as the start and end point of a holiday – the place you have to visit because the airport is there. But the capital has more to offer tourists than you might realise. Katie Cosstick recommends five of the best things to do in Quito.

Historic centre
The centre of Quito is a Unesco-listed world heritage site with influences from the Incas as well as the Spanish conquistadors. Its narrow cobblestone streets wind past Incan walls, colonial churches and open plazas. The church of La Compañia de Jesús has an ornately sculptured facade and interior with coloured columns and a 10-sided altar adorned with gold leaf and gilded balconies. The church and cloister of San Francisco is the oldest in the city and is famed for its sculptures and altars decorated with mirrors and silver. Plaza de la Independencia is the city’s main square and is flanked by the cathedral, Carondolet Palace (the seat of government) and the Archbishop’s Palace.

Middle of the World
You can’t visit a country whose name means equator and not go and stand on it. Quito is the world’s closest capital city to the equator and, at 2,800 metres above sea level, it is also the world’s highest. To the north of Quito is the Middle of the World monument. Although it’s a bit touristy, it’s a shame to miss out on an opportunity to walk along the equatorial line at latitude 0°0’0’’and place your feet in both hemispheres simultaneously.

Food and drink
No visit to Quito is complete without trying its cuisine. With strong Andean and Spanish influences, traditional staples include locro (a thick, hearty stew), seco de chivo (goat stew) and fritada de chancho (pork fry-up). Empanadas, local ice cream, coffee and fresh juices are also delicious. Quito’s own blend of chocolate is mixed with local products such as uvila (Spanish for ‘little grape’) and mortiño – an Ecuadorian berry. Coffee and chocolate tastings are common throughout the city and shouldn’t be missed.


Artisan markets

For centuries, Quito was the renowned cultural and artistic centre of the Americas. Today, these traditions are still maintained and visits to tailors, hat makers, craftsmen and herbalists are among the highlights of any visit to the city. La Ronda is the best street to wander down to see the artisans at work while traditional markets are the best place to shop for authentic souvenirs and can be visited in both Quito and its surrounding villages. Alpaca knitwear, decorated plates and textiles are some of the most popular purchases.

Gardens and hot springs
On the outskirts of Quito, Pakakuna is one of the largest public gardens in South America. With more than 500 types of plants and native orchids as well as ponds and waterfalls, the gardens are also home to a plethora of birdlife including hummingbirds, red woodpeckers and cardinals. In the foothills of the Andean Cordillera on the other side of the city is the Papallacta Thermal Springs Resort. Located on the edge of the Amazon, the resort has several thermal hot springs of differing sizes and temperatures surrounded by lush vegetation – a perfect place to relax before the long flight home.

The Cox & Kings 11-day Ecuador and Galapagos Experience group tour visits Quito and the Galapagos Islands.



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