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City Guide to Quito, Ecuador's Historic Capital


Last week I also had the pleasure of being invited by the Minister of Tourism of Ecuador to an enlightening event for travel advisors to meet with local suppliers and learn more about Ecuador - and taste some traditional Ecuadorian treats too! Besides making valuable new contacts, like at the just-opened Hotel Indigo Galápagos on San Cristóbal Island, I learned fascinating fun facts about Ecuador. I LOVE FUN FACTS. Here are a few!


Ecuador contains four worlds: coastal, desert, jungle, and mountains. Within Ecuador you'll find the Atacama desert (driest place on Earth), Amazon jungle, Andes Mountains, Pacific coast, plus the Galápagos Islands (UNESCO World Heritage Site), and volcanoes too! It's the world's most biodiverse country, and second is Colombia, which is vastly larger in size; Ecuador has 1,600 bird species alone (15% of the world's birds). Two new frog species were discovered in Ecuador's jungle just a few days ago! Ecuador is one of 17 countries with the Ecuator running through it and experiences sunrise and sunset at basically the same time every day, 6am and 6pm.


Ecuador also has two cities with UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Quito and Cuenca, and there are direct flights from New York to the capital Quito! Quito is the world's second-highest capital, and in 1978 Quito was the very first city (along with Kraków) that UNESCO designated as a World Heritage site.


Mainland Ecuador is endlessly fascinating, so don't see Quito as simply a stop-over to the Galápagos Islands. Linger longer in Quito with this helpful city guide!

Excerpt below from 7/5/21 Virtuoso article by Barb Sligl can be found here.

Known to travelers as the gateway to farther-flung adventures in the Galápagos, Quito, a sky-high capital with its head in a cloud forest, warrants a longer look. Founded in 1534, when the Spanish resettled an ancient Inca city in a narrow Andean valley, Quito sits on the slopes of the Pichincha volcano. It’s also the oldest capital in South America, with a wealth of colonial architecture, from the gold interior of the baroque Compañía de Jesús church to the sprawling cloisters of the San Francisco monastery. Like the iconic Virgen del Panecillo statue, who spreads her wings high above the historic Old Town from atop one of the surrounding hills, the city continues to rise. Architect Moshe Safdie’s verdant, terraced Qorner tower on La Carolina Park and ambitious public works are forging a new cityscape.

Eat

Ecuadorian cuisine includes traditional Latin fare, such as ceviche (served with crunchy tostado de maíz, similar to corn nuts), patacones (fried plantain slices), and the beloved locro de papa, potato soup garnished with cheese and avocado. Try classic dishes at the 160-year-old, family-run Heladería San Agustín, on Plaza Grande in the city center.

French-trained Ecuadorian chef Wilson Alpala reimagines local ingredients at the Relais & Châteaux restaurant Zazu. His menu includes biche (fish soup), made with shrimp confit and crispy cassava, as well as mixto ceviche (of course).

Drink

At Bandidos del Páramo, a local craft brewery and gastropub with a beer garden, try more than 20 different artisanal cervezas, such as the Bandolero cacao stout or Camino cream ale.

Café Vélez, which evolved from one of Quito’s first coffee roasters, serves grown-in-Ecuador, single-origin, high-altitude coffees at its La Floresta outpost. Visitors can also buy its beans, as well as chocolate made from the Ecuadorian Arriba Nacional Fino de Aroma cacao bean.

Shop

Traditional artisans have storefronts on every street in Quito’s Old Town. Hatmaker César Anchala carries on his family’s tradition at Sombrerería Benalcázar, crafting everything from berets to cowboy hats to the country’s world-famous “Panama” hats (the misnomer came from the straw hats that were exported to workers in Panama). Gonzalo Gallardo hand-paints, sculpts, and restores religious figures at Restauraciones Carrión.

There’s also a new generation of makers in Quito, proliferating in La Floresta. There, fashion designer Mane Silva upcycles fabrics into pieces inspired by Indigenous textiles, and potter Natalia Espinosa creates whimsical ceramics in her workshop, Perro de Loza.

Back in Old Town, browse Ecuador’s rich artistic heritage at Casa del Alabado museum, where a collection of some 5,000 pre-Columbian artworks and a gift shop are housed in a building that dates back to the sixteenth century.

Stay

Casa Gangotena faces San Francisco Plaza, across from the monastery and below the Virgen del Panecillo. The Italianate palazzo, rebuilt in the 1920s and overhauled again in 2011, is now a boutique hotel with 31 rooms and suites that let guests stay inside a UNESCO World Heritage site. Extend the immersion and become a vecino, or neighbor, with an in-room equilibrium treatment from a local limpiadora (herbal healer), a visit to San Francisco monastery’s cloisters and bell tower with a Franciscan monk, or a walking tour of Old Town. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and one six-course tasting-menu dinner.

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