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Touring and exploring

Exploring Ecuador

Chris Vaughan December 20, 2016

Chris, our social media and PR executive, recently embarked on a tour of Ecuador in South America. The smallest of the Andean nations, Ecuador is filled with teeming jungles, astounding wildlife and diverse cultural encounters, and is fast becoming a must-visit destination. Growing in popularity, particularly as travellers discover the nearby Galapagos Islands, Chris returned full of stories and was particularly charmed with its captivating capital city, Quito.

“Quito is an incredibly rich city in terms of culture, history and cuisine. There’s so much to do in and around the city that you’ll need over a week to have a proper chance at exploring the area. But if you don’t have that much time to explore, here’s my take on the perfect way to spend 48-hours in Quito.

10am – See the sights on the Telerifico Cable Car

Soaring to more than 3,900 metres above sea level, Quito’s cable car is best experienced early in the morning when the clouds are less likely to ruin your photos. It’s only a 10-15 minute drive from the centre of the city, so getting there and back is pretty simple. As well as the spectacular views, you’ll also find a cosy café at the top that’s perfect to grab a bite to eat with spectacular views.

1pm – Explore Quito’s ornate church - La Compañía de Jesús

Once back in the Centro Storico, first stop is the beautiful ‘Golden Church’, so called for the 50 kilograms of gold that coats the entirety of the church’s interior. It’s a truly unique sight, and one that’ll surely take your breath away. There’s also plenty of opportunity to learn more of Quito’s interesting history here should you want to take a tour.

3pm – Dine out at Octava de Corpus

When hunger strikes, lunch at Octava de Corpus to experience traditional Ecuadorian cuisine. Essentially the rambling house of the owner, this cosy restaurant is a treasure trove of fascinating artefacts and rare artworks that offer even more history and culture to your trip. The charismatic owner is usually on hand to show you around, especially to the wine cellar where more than 500 varieties can be found.

5pm – Discover Ecuadorian art at the Foundacion Guayasamin

Oswaldo Guayasamin is perhaps Ecuador’s most famous artist. You’ll struggle to find a luxury hotel without one of his signed prints hanging in the lobby in Quito’s historic centre, but here at his original home, you’ll find hundreds. Guayasamin’s artworks are almost entirely political, with regret, horror and sadness as some of the key themes. It’s a sobering visit, but one that’ll leave you feeling all the richer for it. We also recommend visiting the eclectic bars and restaurants in this swanky part of town after your visit, seeing in the evening in style.

Day two

10am – Shop with locals at the Mercado San Francisco

Start off day two with a spot of retail therapy. Founded in 1893, this compact gem is one of Quito’s best-organised indoor markets. Stop by for some amazing fresh fruit such as naranjilla or papaya. Enjoy a local worker’s snack, or head to the herbal remedy section where the experienced shopkeepers perform cleansing processes involving stinging nettles and other local plants.

12noon – Discover the beauty of Quito Cathedral

Just before lunch, take a peek inside Quito’s beautiful cathedral. Construction began just a day after settlers actually founded the city in the 16th century and is one of the city’s most impressive structures, adorned with glittering domes and an elaborate Moorish interior that belies the exterior traditional Spanish-style architecture. 

3pm – Visit historic La Ronda

Next, explore the enchanting district of La Ronda – a newly regenerated area of the city, packed with colourful Republican houses and quirky craft shops. This charming neighbourhood is a fine example of historic Quito and the authentic skills once found in the city. Keep an eye out for wooden toy shops, woodwork and metal workshops, gelaterias and several authentic restaurants.

5pm – Climb to the top of El Panacillo

El Panacillo is the city’s most famous viewpoint – being both the name for the 200 metre hill and the spectacular 45 metre statue of the Madonna that overlooks the entire city from the top. Head by late in the evening to see the statue illuminated from all angles, and be sure to enjoy a cup of warming Canelazo (a hot alcoholic beverage made from sugar cane and cinnamon) as you take in the beautiful panoramic views of the city streets far below.

6pm – Enjoy the views from Pim’s restaurant

Finish the day, and your flying visit, with a relaxed meal at the delightfully romantic Pim’s – El Panecillo’s premier viewpoint restaurant. Enjoy hearty local fare, alongside amazing views of the twinkling city below, finishing with one of the signature cocktails.”

After your fascinating cultural tour of Quito it’s time to head to the mountains and the Bellavista Cloud Forest for eco-lodges, hummingbirds and nature trails, or discover the Galapagos Islands to discover volcanic landscapes and marine iguanas.