Quito is the capital of Ecuador with about 2.5 million people. It’s perhaps also best known for being the city on the equator.
Of the countries I’ve been to so far, little is spoken about what you can do in Ecuador except, of course, the Galapagos Islands. But Quito has just as much to offer as many other cities on the continent. Including the view from the hostel at night.
Old Town – The Historical Centre
On my first day back from the Galapagos Islands, three of us from the hostel decided to go for a walk around Old Town. The Historical Centre of Quito has many of the city’s plentiful impressive pieces of architecture. We wandered around the streets of Old Town heading from building to building for 2 hours enjoying the views.
Lastly we headed to the centrepiece building, the Cathedral.
It’s very impressive, but is also getting a little old and hasn’t been as well maintained as some of the other cathedrals in South America. After scaling some rickety ladders, we climbed up into one of the towers, getting a good look at the surrounding city and the pair of clock towers.
We then climbed into the belfries of one of the clock towers for some more views of the city.
New Town – La Mariscal
New town is considered to be the entertainment centre of the city with its trendy bars, restaurants and clubs. The hub is Plaza Foch, a crossroad surrounded by plazas. It’s also affectionally known as Gringolandia. One of the inner quarters of Plaza Foch…
Mitad del Mundo – Centre of the World
Quito is in a unique position in the world, sitting as it does right on the equator. To celebrate this fact the city has erected a museum on each of the equators, the old one and the new one. Wait, two equators?
A great monument stands at a position that claims to be the equator 0º0’0”. This is where many surveys placed it, but with precise GPS readings this was determined to be incorrect. The old monument with it’s 5 ton ball on top…
14 years ago, the equator was determined to be 240m north of the structure. To commemorate this they painted a red line on the ground signifying the actual line (which most people straddle)…
They also built an outdoor museum around it, dealing with both the equator and the people who once lived here. It’s interesting to see the water test, where they pour water down a sink on either side of the line to show it goes down in different directions. It’s also interesting to see an actual shrunken head from 150 years ago. Head shrinking was seen to be an honour soon after death….
Reserva Geobontanica Pululahua
Just near the equator on the north side of Quito is a large volcanic crater. It’s extinct and collapsed in on itself 2500 years ago. It’s since been transformed into farm land. We stopped by as part of the tour to Mitad del Mundo, but low cloud blocked the mountains on the far side, losing the sense of it being a crater.
On a large hill in the middle of the city and viewable from most of the city is a monument to the Virgin Mary. Climbing the hill is dangerous so we attempted to get a taxi to take us. Of the couple we asked none were keen to take us anywhere near it.
El Teleférico – The Aerial Tramway
Starting in the central city, a cable car goes up to the active Pichincha volcano some 4100m above sea level for some fantastic view down over the city.
These are just a few of the activities on offer. And being in the centre of the country, Quito is used as a hub. It allows ease of travel to places such as Mindo to the north – a town buried in a rainforest; Cotopaxi National Park – to climb one of the tallest active volcanos in the world; and the Galapagos – needs little explanation, among others.
I was originally planning to travel to Cotopaxi National Park for a hike next. But as it’s legally required to carry a permit and hire a guide, we decided it would be too expensive, so are now heading further south to walk around the base of Chimborazo – Ecuador’s tallest mountain.
The Trail Wanderer