Quito is the capital of Ecuador located high in the Andean foothills at an altitude of 2.850m. It was built on the foundations of an ancient Incan city. It is known for its architecture combining European, Moorish, and indigenous styles.
Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus is an amazing church topped by green and gold domes. It was built in the Baroque style and stands out in the Old Town. Visitors can get free guided tours in English or Spanish. The church has some unique features like Moorish elements, perfect symmetry, symbolic elements, and Ecuadorian plants and indigenous faces that are hidden along the pillars.
Casa Museo Guayasamin Museum has found its home in the former home of legendary painter Oswaldo Guayasamin. Here you can see the complete collection of the artist’s work. He was a collector and the museum displays his collection of pre-Columbian ceramic, bone, and metal pieces. With admission, you get an entry to the Capilla del Hombre Gallery. This museum also includes Guayasamin’s collection of religious art. Guayasamin is buried alongside his friend, the writer Jorge Enrique Adoum, under a pine tree near the house.
Capilla del Hombre next to Casa Museo Guayasamin you’ll find one of the most important artworks in South America. This is a giant monument-cum-museum which is a tribute to humankind, to the suffering of Latin America’s indigenous poor, and to the hope for something better. Tours are in English, French, and Spanish.
Teleferico offers awesome views over the mountainous landscape of the city. You get aboard the sky tram and take a 2.5km ride up Volcan Pichincha to the top of Cruz Loma. Once you get to the top you can take a hike to the summit of Rucu Pichincha at 4680km.
Inside the tour starts in the new Museo de la Presidencia with exhibits celebrating Ecuador’s history, human rights, and social justice themes. On display are some of the 11,000 official gifts received by former president Rafael Correa. You’ll also see Andalusian patios, the cabinet room, the banquet room, the balcony, and the Presidents’ room, where the portraits of Ecuador’s constitutional presidents hang. At the staircase is Guayasamin’s mosaic depicting Francisco de Orellana’s descent of the Amazon.
Museos Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana is a combination of three museums. Museo de Arte Moderna or Modern Art Museum has artwork by some of Ecuador’s most famous artists. Museo de Instrumentos Musicales displays an unusual collection of musical instruments. Museo Etnografico or Ethnography Museum has interesting exhibits that highlight the spiritual beliefs, lifestyle, and festivals of the indigenous people of Ecuador.
The Monasterio Museo del Carmen Alto was built in 1653 and is home to an order of 20 Carmelite nuns. It is home to a museum with exhibits that look at the daily routines of the nuns who made their lives here including Marianita de Jesus, Quito’s patron saint. This whitewashed two-story building wraps around a sun-filled inner courtyard. Several rooms have religiously themed paintings. Free tours are available in English and Spanish.
Parque La Carolina is a lovely landscaped park where you can enjoy paddleboats, soccer and volleyball games, and bike paths. Within the park, the most popular attraction is the Jardin Botanico native habitats with paramo or high-altitude Andean grasslands, cloud forests, and wetlands. There is an amazing orchid greenhouse, an ethnobotanical garden with plants used by indigenous groups, and an Amazonian greenhouse. There is a children’s play area. You’ll also find a new Japanese garden and a collection of over 100 bonsai trees. The park also has a Vivarium with reptiles and amphibians. The Museo de Ciencias Naturales has displays of dead insects and stuffed creatures like condors, tapirs, eagles, and a Bengal tiger among others.
Palacio de Gobierno stands to the northwestern side of Plaza Grande and is the seat of the Ecuadorian presidency. Visitors can join a free guided tour in English or Spanish. The president lives and works here therefore sightseeing is limited to rooms that are not in use.
Catedral Metropolitana on the southwest side of Plaza Grande. This is the most ornate of the Old Town churches. It displays some amazing artwork by artists from the Quito School. It houses the tomb of the independence hero Antonio Jose de Sucre. Behind the main altar is a plaque marking the place where President Gabriel Garcia Moreno died on August 6, 1875; after getting slashed with a machete outside of the Palacio del Gobierno he was carried dying to the cathedral.
Plaza Grande a wonderful place to soak up some morning sun. On Mondays, you can see the changing of the guards at 11 AM.
Besides the Palacio de Gobierno on the northwest side and the cathedral on the southwest side, you’ll also find the Palacio Arzobispal, a former archbishop palace which is now a colonnaded row of small shops and restaurants.
El Panecillo or the Little Loaf of Bread is a major Quito landmark. The summit offers fantastic views of the city and surrounding volcanoes. On top is a 41m tall aluminum mosaic statue of La Virgen de Quito completed in 1976.
Parque Itchimbia sits high on top of a hill overlooking Old Town. There are running and biking tracks and a playground. It is a great place for picnics and sunbathing. From the San Blas neighborhood, you can climb up there by walking up Elizalde from where steps lead to the park.
The centerpiece of the park is the Centro Cultural Itchimbia, a large glass-and-iron building that hosts regular art exhibitions and cultural events.
Museo de la Ciudad is a museum that depicts daily life in Quito through the centuries with displays that include dioramas, model indigenous homes, and colonial kitchens. There are some temporary exhibits and you can get free entry on the last Sunday of the month.
Basilica del Voto Nacional sits on a hill in the northeastern part of the Old Town. This massive Gothic church dates from 1892. From the side of the church, you can see turtles and iguanas. The highlight is the towers which can be climbed. The ascent requires crossing a rickety wooden plank inside the main roof and climbing steep stairs and ladders to the top.
Take a look at the statue of Francisco de Orellana. The Spaniard is depicted looking down into the valley. It marks his epic journey from Quito to the Atlantic – the first descent of the Amazon River by a European.