Quito: Ecuador’s Capital – the Top 10 Places of Interest
Have you ever heard of Quito? If you haven’t, then we will change that now! Ecuador’s capital is unique in many ways. Of course, the city’s location plays a big role, and it offers a whole new range of possibilities.
Most of all, the city’s diverse culture and architecture will certainly amaze you. But there’s more! You’ll get the chance to hike on mountains, and even on an active volcano. The combination of these experiences makes Quito the perfect destination for backpackers!
In order to help you get ready for this adventure, we’ll give you all the necessary information about Ecuador’s capital. Moreover, we’ll tell you about the most beautiful and amazing sights you really can’t miss. Let’s go!
Quito in a Nutshell
Ecuador lies in the northwest of South America. Compared to other South American countries, it is rather small – but the climate and landscapes make up for it in variety. After all, Ecuador is right on the Pacific Ocean. This means dreamy beaches and a tropical to subtropical climate. But there are also mountain ranges in the country – at the foot of the Andes, the humidity is high all year long, while it’s freezing on the top of the mountains. Due to the capital’s proximity to the equator, the temperature stays constant at about 20 °C throughout the year. You should get precise information about the best time to travel to the country.
The urban area of Ecuador’s capital is home to more than 2.7 million people. Who would have thought? It’s even more stunning considering Quito’s location. After all, it is located in a valley of the Ecuadorian Andes at an altitude of almost 2800 meters. Moreover, Quito is surrounded by 14 volcanos and lies directly at the base of the active volcano Pichincha with its two peaks. But don’t worry! In the event of an eruption, the lava flows are unlikely to reach Quito. So you don’t have to worry about that during your trip.
In Quito, they celebrate incredible festivals! That’s why you should plan your trip according to that. Here are a few suggestions for you: What about the Fiestas de Quito? Every year, from the end of November to the 6th of December, the locals celebrate the city’s founding with parades, flamenco, theater, and much more. Don’t miss out on this spectacle! Also worth seeing is the traditional carnival with its parades and the relaxed vibe in the spring.
You might experience a small culture shock when trying Ecuadorian cuisine. For instance, guinea pigs are a delicacy here. But the national dish is ceviche: a seafood-based dish, including crabs and mussels. The seafood is stewed in a lime juice sauce. Or maybe you’d rather try the popular plantains. Try everything you can on your trip to make the most of the diverse cuisine.
The best way to get around Quito is by bus. The many lines will safely get you to all your destinations. Alternatively, you can also take a taxi or just walk. Especially the old town is best explored on foot. But be careful! Not every neighborhood is safe to walk around in!
By the way, Quito lies at 2,783 meters above sea level! That makes it the highest located capital in the world. But the highest seat of government of a city lies in La Paz, Bolivia, at about 3,900 meters. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? But one thing is certain: Quito is located at a really high altitude. And now over to our top 10 favorite places of interest!
The Top 10 Places of Interest in Quito
We can’t wait to tell you about our favorite landmarks. You’ll find everything from churches to monuments to an active volcano. Here are our top 10 places of interest in Quito.
Old Town of Quito
We love Quito’s old town! You will hardly see any cars here, but many beautiful white colonial buildings that are no more than two floors high. Therefore, the tall churches stand out even more in the cityscape. They will fascinate you as much as the old town’s lively squares – especially Plaza Grande and Plaza de la Independencia.
By the way, Quito’s city center was the first to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. So, a visit there is definitely worth it!
La Compañía de Jesús
Welcome to the country’s most beautiful baroque building: the La Compañía de Jesús Church, built in 1765. Its construction took 160 years! Especially the elaborate volcanic stone façade is impressive. The church’s interior is no less stunning: extravagant details, religious and symbolic paintings as well as embellished pillars will leave you speechless. Moreover, large parts of the interior are coated with gold leaf.
Iglesia de San Francisco
As you can see, churches are the main feature of the old town, which leads us to the next one. More precisely, the Iglesia de San Francisco is a Franciscan monastery. As you know, Quito’s streets are organized in blocks – just like in New York. The Iglesia de San Francisco is so big that it extends over two blocks!
The monastery’s construction started in 1550, but it was not consecrated until 1705. The long construction period and some damage caused by earthquakes led to different architectural styles. Nevertheless, baroque and late-renaissance elements prevail, making it unique. Be sure to check it out!
Centro Cultural Metropolitano
Right behind the Plaza de Ia Independencia, you’ll find the Centro Cultural Metropolitano. The photographs, paintings, and sculptures address current social issues – especially the culture of the indigenous population. After all, the indigenous population still makes up a large part of Ecuador’s population. All the more reason to learn more about it. The museum’s exhibitions are even free of charge!
Calle La Ronda
You can dive into the country’s culture even without going to museums. The best way to do so is by taking a walk on Calle La Ronda. The old town’s historical street is said to go back to the 15th century! Apparently, it was the Inca’s way to a freshwater source. However, the Spanish colonialists rebuilt the Calle La Ronda in the 18th century.
On a walk through this unique pedestrian area, you’ll go by historical buildings with wrought-iron balconies and colorful plants. The buildings often have panels with information boards pinned to their walls, so keep your eyes open for them. Their history is incredibly exciting!
Moreover, you’ll have the chance to enjoy traditional food and watch craftsmen do their work. There is so much to see here!
Basílica del Voto Nacional
Are you ready for a small adventure? Then you’re at the right place at Basílica del Voto Nacional. The building has an impressive appearance, especially because of its two 30 meters high towers. But they are better known for the view than for their appearance! It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. You’ll be balancing over a balcony and climbing narrow and steep stairs. Once you’ve reached the top of the tower, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view: the historical old town and the Mountain Panceillo.
And don’t worry: the Basílica is easy to find, as it towers over the other buildings. Moreover, the city streets are arranged in a tile shape and thus perfectly organized, making it easy to navigate, even for strangers to the city.
Here comes our next place of interest in Ecuador’s capital. The hill El Panecillo is right in the middle of the city! This is another sight that makes Quito so unique. From there, you’ll enjoy a great view of the city.
The statue La Virgen de El Panecillo with its 41 meters is located on El Panecillo. It’s even taller than the world-famous Christ in Rio!
Above Quito: Cruz Loma
Do you want to go higher? No problem! The cableway TelefériQo will take you to the 4,000 meters high Cruz Loma. This summit station lies another 900 meters over Quito. It only takes 15 minutes to get there! The ride is a truly breathtaking experience.
And the view from the top is amazing! You will find several viewpoints overlooking Quito on Cruz Loma. Volcanoes in the background complete the incredible panorama. The best thing to do is to walk along the circular trail all the way to the top. However, it is quite exhausting. After all, the air is much thinner up here.
From Cruz Loma, you can easily start your hike to El Pichincha. Wait, doesn’t that name sound familiar? That’s right, it is the name of the active volcano near Quito.
However, climbing and hiking here isn’t dangerous. It’s best to head for the lower of the volcano’s two peaks – Rucu Pichincha at about 4,700 meters. The higher peak, Guagua Pichincha, which last erupted in 1999, is not even visible from the city.
Similar to the hike up the Cruz Loma, the air is very thin, making it hard to breathe. So, be sure to always listen to your body!
Monument to the Equator
About 20 kilometers from Quito, you’ll find the monument of Mitad del Mundo. It literally means “middle of the earth”. A yellow line is supposed to mark the equator. Theoretically, you can stand with one foot in the Southern Hemisphere and with the other in the Northern Hemisphere.
The problem is that the line does not mark the equator. They made a mistake when they took the measurements in 1736. The actual latitude “zero” is 240 meters north of the monument. Anyway, an excursion here is a unique experience!
You’ll rarely experience a city as amazing as Quito. Starting with its position among volcanoes on a high valley at about 2,800 meters height! And it’s just a few kilometers away from the Equator.
No to mention breathtaking sights, like the Monument to the Equator or the majestic churches. And from the Basílica del Voto Nacional’s towers, you’ll get a breathtaking view of the city.
But you can go even higher: the cableway TeléferiQo will take you to the 4,000 meters high Cruz Loma. From there, it’s not far to one of El Pichincha’s two peaks. A hike on an active volcano – what an adventure!
Back in the city, you can sit down at the Plaza Grande or the Plaza de la Independencia and enjoy the hustle and bustle. It only takes a walk through the historic old town and along Calle La Ronda to be enchanted by Quito.
Quito is therefore one of the most beautiful destinations in Ecuador, and all of South America. What are you waiting for? Off you go to Ecuador’s capital!