By Caitlin Hornik
Ecuador’s capital city is brimming with culture! Sitting as the second highest capital in the world at over 9,000 feet, Quito is more than just a place to pass through en route to your next destination. Here’s why you should make Quito the main event during your next South American vacation!
Quito’s historic district is full of cultural and culinary delights! Quito’s Old Town is recognized as one of the best-preserved historic centers in all of Latin America. It was also the first city in the world to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Plaza Grande is the heart of this district, so it may be best to begin your exploration there. Stroll along Calle de la Ronda for cafes, shops, galleries, and to snag that Instagram-worthy photo-op!
Basilica del Voto Nacional
Known as the largest neo-Gothic church in the Americas, the Basilica del Voto Nacional has been standing since 1924. The plans for the basilica originated in 1883 and it took just over a century for it to be consecrated and inaugurated. Noteworthy features include 24 small chapels located around the central nave, and a collection of “gargoyles” outside the basilica that are actually native animals of Ecuador! If you’re feeling brave, you can opt to climb the towers of the basilica for beautiful views of the city below!
Riding Quito’s cable car will provide incredible views of the city and surrounding areas! Go 12,000 feet up to experience different vantage points, see the nearby volcanoes, and make an amazing memory. At the top of the Teleferiqo, visitors have the option to hike up to 15,000+ feet to summit Pichincha Volcano! A drastic change in elevation means a change in temperature, so be sure to bring an extra layer for warmth while you explore!
Located right in the middle of the city, El Panecillo separates North Quito and South Quito. At the top of the hill is a massive Virgin Mary statue that can be seen for miles! The statue is unique because of its wings, and is even said to be one-of-a-kind. If you’re looking for stunning city views without leaving Quito, then El Panecillo is the place to go!
Cotopaxi Volcano & National Park
The second most popular national park in Ecuador, Cotopaxi National Park offers many activities to visitors, all while soaking up the gorgeous volcano views! Cotopaxi is the second largest active volcano in the world, and is Ecuador’s tallest active volcano! The park and volcano are located just an hour outside Quito and are a huge attraction in the area. Visitors can take a horseback ride around the park, go hiking, rent a bike, and more!
Mitad del Mundo
For a few dollars, you can take a bus ride to the Mitad del Mundo, or “half of the world” to stand on the Equator! You can even bring your passport to get a stamp as proof of your visit! There is a monument and a museum here that marks the divide between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Surrounding the monument and museum is an “equator city” filled with cafes and shops. If you’re looking for a unique activity to fill half a day in Quito, this is definitely it!
If you’re looking for another great photo opportunity, head to Itchimbia. Its bright orange “Quito” sign overlooks the city and offers fantastic views! Itchimbia is also home to Quito’s Crystal Palace. This structure was shipped from Germany and is used today as a cultural center! Itchimbia is a great place to check out to relax with great views!