Top 10 things to do in Quito, Ecuador

by on 10th January, 2014

Quito: Top 10 things to do

Guest blogger Abby Clark shares her Top 10 things to do in and around Quito, Ecuador.


She writes:

“Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, is on the equator, and is the highest capital city in world, at 2800 metres above sea level. Its old town, Centro Historico, boasts beautiful Spanish colonial architecture.

Quito is divided into three sections, with the Old City at the centre, and the Southern and Northern districts to either side. The greatest concentration of tourist facilities is in the North.

The largest ‘Old City’ in the Americas, Quito has undergone massive restoration and revitalisation over the last decade, and boasts 40 churches, 17 squares, and 16 convents and monasteries. It’s been called the ‘Reliquary of the Americas’ for its colonial – and independence – era architecture.

It’s a great quarter to wander, with several museums and also plenty of restaurants and terrace cafes for a rest while sightseeing.

Northern Quito is modern and a hospitable place to explore, with plenty of museums and urban parks, as well as restaurants and nightlife, while the southern district of the city is poorer and seldom visited by tourists.

Here is my my Top 10 things to see and do in and around Quito.”


1. Centro Historico

The Centro Historico is Quito’s top tourist attraction, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Plaza Grande is bordered by the Palacio de Gobierno, the oldest cathedral in South America, which has been repaired many times due to damage caused by earthquakes. Nearby is the Palacio Presidencial, the Presidential Palace.


2. San Francisco

Monastery of San Francisco, Iglesia de San Francisco, is the oldest colonial building in Quito. It houses the Museo Franciscano, where paintings, art and furniture are on display. There are many other churches and religious buildings in the Old Town as well, most built in the 17th and 18th centuries.


3. Colonial houses

Colonial houses in the old town are made of sun-dried bricks (adobe), and are built around enclosed central patios. The best-preserved houses, complete with traditional balconies, are found in an alley called La Ronda or Juan de Dios Morales. Tourists can walk through two historical homes, Casa de Benalcázar, the founder’s home, and Casa de Sucre.


4. Mirador de Panecillo

Virgin of the Americas is a 41-metre aluminum statue of the Virgin Mary overlooking Quito on a hill at the Mirador de Panecillo. Built in 1976, it has angel wings, a very unusual feature on statues of the Virgin.


5. Quito Zoo

Quito Zoo has the largest collection of native plants in Ecuador, as well as a wide variety of animals and birds.


6. The equator

Visit La Mitad de Mundo, a 100-foot tall monument and museum marking the equator, 22 kilometres north of Quito. The globe at the top of the monument indicates your location at the equator, “in the middle of the world.”

Here you’ll find charming streets, shops, and restaurants surrounding the monument. There are llamas eating grass in the center, and they didn’t mind having their photo taken from a slight distance!


7. Museo De Sitio

Near the monument is an open-air museum, Museo de Sitio Intiñan, representing the small indigenous villages the Spanish found when they conquered Ecuador in 1531.

Museo De Sitio houses a collection of artefacts and cultural activities that are centred around the actual equator line, just a short distance north from the Mitad Del Mundo Monument and shopping area. The museum is dedicated to the various aboriginal cultures of the world, and hosts a number of totems representing them. There are a number of hands-on displays and activities—balancing an egg, or “walking” the equator line with your eyes closed.

A popular highlight: tourists can be photographed in front of a sign that marks the actual Equator Line at 00° 00’ 00”! Staff will also stamp passports.


8. Market towns

Market Towns near Quito: take an excursion from Quito to the market towns of Otavalo and Cotacachi. You’ll find everything for sale: household furnishings, handmade utensils, food, clothing, handcrafted woollens and textiles, Panama hats (made in Ecuador), fine leather goods, and toys.


9. Cotopaxi National Park

Cotopaxi National Park is south of Quito, and possibly the most beautiful place in Ecuador. Cotopaxi volcano is the second highest mountain in Ecuador, and a favourite with mountain climbers and hikers. The park is dedicated to protecting llama, and other wild animals such as bears, wolves, puma and deer, and visitors often spot eagles and condors.


10. Amazon rainforest

Visit the Oriente Amazon rainforest, a few hours away from Quito. Oriente is a region on the eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes in the Amazon basin, consisting of lowland rainforest. Oriente has an area of about 130,000 square kilometres, and is home to a very small percentage of Ecuador’s population.


About the author:

Abby Clark, is an enthusiastic adventurer who loves exploring well-known as well as remote little corners around the world. Abby also writes blogs and guest blogs for Best Quote Travel Insurance.

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