First City on UNESCO World Heritage List

Quito is rightly the capital of Ecuador. Quito's old town is the first city on the UNESCO World Heritage List for a reason. This was back in 1978. Quito has the largest old city centre in all of South America. Which is still in remarkably good condition. It's a lovely place to eat, drink and stroll around. Discover the best sightseeing tips for your visit. And in this article, you will find a lot of information about tours in and around Quito.

It is also the highest capital in the world. Quito is located at an altitude of no less than 2,800 meters. Life seems to slow down here because of the altitude. Take your time for Quito, the city is worth it. Quito is a wonderful place to get acquainted with South America if this is your first visit to this continent.

Historical Centre of Quito

The old town of Quito.

Strolling through the old city centre of Quito, you will see many colourful houses. And many old buildings, many of which have a colonial past. Quito is probably the city where you will arrive in Ecuaador. And then it is wonderful to get to know the country through the old city. Think of many smells and colours on the street, musicians and a lot of food on the street and the markets.

Plaza de la Independencia

The Plaza de la Independencia is the central meeting point in the city. People meet and catch up here. And street vendors offer their wares. I sat down and enjoyed the people, the buzz and more. In the centre of the square, you find a large monument in honour of Independence in 1830.

Basilica del Voto National

Basilica del Voto National in Quito.

The Basilica del Voto National is one of the many churches in Quito. It is by far the most beautiful and imposing. It stands on a hill and can therefore be seen from afar. The church is 140 meters long and has church towers of no less than 115 meters. You can visit the church. And climbing to a viewpoint, among other things. From where you have a beautiful view over the towers and the city.

El TelerifiQo: Quito Cable Car

Quito Cable Car.

Quito is also unique for its cable car to the Pichincha volcano. It is one of the highest cable cars in the world. From the west of the city, you can take the cable car from 3,117 meters to 3,945 meters.

The TeleferiQo, as it is officially called, is very worthwhile. You can easily go up and then spend a day hiking on the flanks of the active volcano. Do keep an eye on the weather. And bring plenty of warm clothes. You can also suffer from altitude sickness here.

El Panecillo

El Panecillo is according to many the nicest neighbourhood of Quito. It is especially popular as a viewpoint of the city. El Panecillo is located on a hill topped by the statue of the Virgin of Panecillo. You can go up on foot, but also by taxi. It's a good spot to enjoy the sunset.

Cotopaxi Volcano

Cotopaxi volcano can be seen from Quito. This immense volcano is located about 60 kilometres south of the city. At 5,897 meters, it is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Much of the volcano has been declared Cotopaxi National Park.

Llamas in front of he Cotopaxi.

At the foot of the volcano, you can enjoy several hiking trails that you can see when you enter the national park. Although you can also climb the volcano with a guide. Then you set off at night so that you reach the top at sunrise. This is a tough climb, and you have to prepare well. I rode a mountain bike there, which is a wonderful excursion. You can book various tours from Quito, and ask for the different possibilities locally.

Chocolate Tasting

A chocolate tasting at Yumbos in Quito. ©Corno van den Berg

You have to taste South America, according to the locals. So I did various tastings, especially of which the Ecuadorians are very proud. Chocolate comes from the Amazon near the equator, part of it is in Ecuador. This is the only place in the world where these cocoa bushes grow.

The tasting in Quito starts with 100 per cent dark chocolate, it's so many flavours mixed together. And then you slowly taste down, 85 and 70 per cent, so diluted with sugar, in this case, cane sugar. Only chocolate with at least 12% of this dark chocolate can be called a premium. And is therefore much more expensive. That is what can be found in stores, but also in famous chocolate products from Belgium and Switzerland, for example.

Address: Yumbos Chocolate, Sebastián de Benalcázar

Pucará de Rumicucho

Pucará de Rumicucho is beautifully situated. ©Corno van den Berg

Pucará de Rumicucho is an old Inca ruin about 22 kilometers from Quito. It is best known because a remarkable number of Inca remains have been found here. Think of processed clothing, ceramic pots for making Chicha, the fermented Inca drink, tools made from bones such as alpacas, shells and metal objects.

The Incas probably built Rumicucho between 1480 and 1500. They ruled this area until the Spanish conquest in the year 1530. Archaeologists discovered that several pre-Inca tribes already lived on this hill on the edge of a canyon. The Incas used this place mainly for religious purposes. You will find Pucará de Rumicucho just outside the town of San Antonio de Pichincha.

Green Corridor

The rugged landscape around Quito.

Around Quito there are a striking number of large nature reserves, with unique inhabitants. Including the Chocó Andino de Pichincha Biosphere Reserve and the Cayambe-Coca National Park, both are about 75 km away in the west. The spectacled bear, among others, lives here, an animal that is under heavy pressure. Although he is still regularly spotted by visitors.

El Pahuma Orchid Reserve

The Dracula simia, also called the monkey orchid. ©Corno van den Berg

The El Pahuma Orchid Reserve offers more than 270 orchids, 6 species of hummingbirds (and other birds), and rainforest waterfalls. It is located 55 kilometres away from the city, in the northwest. I went hiking to various waterfalls. This trail starts close to the road, but you will soon no longer hear it.

Yunguilla Cloud Forest

Locals produce fresh cheese. ©Corno van den Berg

I visited the rugged Maquipucuna Reserve, which is 86 km from Quito. The village of Yunguilla is located high in the cloud forest and can be visited. It is known for its Community-Based Tourism, which started in 1995. You can see how the locals live sustainably and how they make products such as cheese and chips from bananas, for example. It is a wonderfully quiet place, I noticed, in the middle of the jungle.

The Best Accommodations in Quito

I stayed in various hotels and lodges in Quito. Some were extra luxurious, but mostly with a local atmosphere. Most hotels are in or just outside the Centro Historico. The advantage is that you can easily walk to the center. Do ask if it is safe, because unfortunately not all neighborhoods are suitable for this.

I can recommend Hotel San Marcos 

Public Transport: Busses and Trolley Busses

Quito has a very extensive and modern network of buses and trolleys. Including separate bus lanes. The MetrobusQ network is perfect for exploring the city. There are numerous boarding points and places to get off again.

Every Sunday, the old city center is shut down for motor vehicles. So you can walk around here wonderfully relaxed. Or even go cycling. You can rent a bicycle in various places. And you can also see people going to church, for example

Best Time to Visit Quito

Quito is located in the center of the country, so temperatures are relatively stable all year round. However, due to the high altitude, it can get chilly at night, so bring warm clothes. The most popular time to visit is during the dry season from June to September. Then it can get busy in the city.

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