Quito is Ecuador’s capital city situated in the river basin of Guayllabamba and on Pichincha’s eastern slope, which is an active Andes stratovolcano. The city is among the first designated World Cultural Heritage Sites by UNESCO. It earned this status in the year 1978. Quito is the least altered and also the best preserved historic centers. If you love exploring history, then Quito is the place to visit!
There are many things to do in Quito from exploring its historic center to discovering its beautiful parks and enjoying the sophisticated nightlife. The city is nestled in the basins of Guayllabamba River towards the east of Pichincha volcano in Andes Mountains. Despite having the second largest population in the country, the Historic Center is widely hailed as the best preserved Cultural Heritage Sites in all of Americas. The city is officially divided in three topographic zones consisting of the Central Zone that is home to the old city, the Southern Zone that consists of industrial complex and residential areas for the working class, and the Northern Zone that is budding modern area featuring skyscrapers, shopping and entertainment facilities, and upscale standards of living. One of the best things to do in Quito is to head to downtown to experience the old city. The old city is actually the first in the world with Krakow, Poland, to become a designated World Heritage Site. It is often considered as the most significant historic centers across Latin America with more than 130 buildings inspired from colonial architecture. If you’re there make sure to walk around a lot to truly capture the charm of the area.
There are many places to visit in Quito that make it such a charming city, despite its status as the capital of the country. For instance the TeleferiQo is an aerial tramway service that provides an experience of a lifetime as you get 360 degree views of the downtown while heading to the Cruz Loma hill towards the east of Pichincha volcano. Once you are at the Cruz Loma there are various activities to engage in such as hiking, mountain climbing, and more. Teleferiqo is also considered as a recreational destination featuring the Vulqano Park which is an amusement park along with upscale restaurants, shopping malls, and more. Paint Ball, Go Karts, and kids amusement rides are also up available that make Teleferiqo a family friendly destination. For nature lovers the Parque La Carolina and the Cotopaxi National Park offer a unique look at the natural beauty and wildlife of the region. The Basilica del Voto Nacional is amongst the top places to visit in Quito given its historical and cultural significance. The Carondelet Palace is a must visit in the historic center that houses the seat of government. For people looking for religious and spiritual growth the Compania De Jesus is a great congregation to get started.
La Capilla del Hombre, or the The Chapel of Man, is an art museum located in Bellavista that overlooks the city of Quito in Ecuador. Established in 2002, the museum contains different art pieces that are dedicated to the people of Latin America. The museum was founded by Oswalsdo Guayasamin who was a well known Ecuadorian painter and an avid collector of Columbian artworks that are now displayed in the museum.
La Capilla museum may not contain as many art pieces as the other museums located in the city, it nevertheless does give visitors a glimpse into the cultural and other aspects of the local people. Visitors can find a lot of things to do in La Capilla de Hombre museum. In the museum, you can find a huge variety of murals and sculptures.
The museum is situated next door to the home that Guayasamin donated on his deathbed. A guided tour of the house is included when you buy a ticket to the museum. The house contains original paintings and other art works of the famous artist. You must plan to spend at least half a day at both the museum and the house as there are many artworks of contemporary and historical importance to see and things to do in La Capilla de Hombre museum.
One of the best things to do in Ecuador is to visit The Church of the Society of Jesus, known locally as the Compania de Jesus. Compania de Jesus is the most famous church in the Americas for its central nave that is enormous and decorated with gilded plaster, gold lead, and wood.
The work on the Catholic Church that features Latin American Baroque architecture was completed in 1765, over a century and a half from the time the work started. Today it is considered as one of the most prominent works of Spanish Baroque architecture in the world, and has been voted as the most beautiful church in the whole country. One of the best things to do in Compania de Jesus is to attend the prayers.
The beautiful church has design elements that were considered ‘futuristic’ at the time they were being planned. The central nave is a beautiful affair between wooden and gold leaf carvings that reflect the dynamic architecture scene of the 18th century. The interior of the Compania de Jesus resembles the interior of the Church of San Ignacio in the capital of Colombia. If you are looking for a visual treat and to connect with your inner self this is the best place to be.
Discovering the Cotopaxi National Park is one of the best things to do in Ecuador if you love nature in all its forms. Cotopaxi National Park is named after the active volcano located in Andes Mountains of the Cotopaxi province. It is nearly 50 kilomters to the south of Quito and features the second highest point in Ecuador as well as one of the highest volcanoes in the world. There are various ways to get to the national park but recreational activities when the volcanoes are active are generally suspended in designated areas. Mountain climbing remains one of the most popular things to do in Cotopaxi National Park followed by sightseeing. In fact, today various tour guides and mountain guides provide guided climbs of Cotopaxi. Depending on the tour guide you choose you may get all the climbing equipment and gear covered in the total cost. A track for four-wheel drive vehicles allows people to reach the mountain hut where climbers get to spend the night and take break. For more adventure, mountain bike trails have been laid with steady uphill climb that offers amazing views of the national park. Because of its diverse geography and outdoor activities Cotopaxi National Park is a frequently visited destination.
If you are looking for fun and relaxing things to do in Ecuador, the Parque La Carolina will definitely live up to your expectations and needs. This massive 165.6 acres of land is nestled in the central business district of the city of Quito and was established in 1939 at the site of the La Carolina farm.
Today the park is a favorite place for locals to spend their leisure time and weekends. It has designated areas for sports such as soccer fields, basketball courts, and volleyball areas. It bears a striking resemblance to the Central Park of New York City given its flat lands nestled between high rise buildings. Engaging in performing arts on the weekends is one of the popular things to do in Parque La Carolina.
The western side of the park is home to the Vivarium and Quito Exhibition Center along with one of the best botanical gardens that you will see in your lifetime. Paddle boats are also available for rent to cruise the small lake and the skatepark is a hip place for skateboarders and BMX riders. If you are planning to visit the Parque La Carolina, make sure you get there early in the morning to engage in aerobics and enjoy the weather as the sun glimmers through the trees.
Also one of the top things to do in Ecuador is have a tour of the Carondelet Palace. The Carondelet Palace is the official seat of the government of Ecuador and is located in the Historic Center of Quito. One of the reasons why the surroundings of the Carondelet Palace are lively is because the whole area is accessible to the public via the Plaza Grande, which is also known as the Independence Square. This is the area around which you can discover other monuments and key buildings such as the Hotel Plaza Grande, Municipal Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Archbishop’s Palace. One of the best things to do in Carondelet Palace is to explore its interior. The colonial structure breathes Spanish and Ecuadorian architecture and is considered as a symbol of cultural heritage. The presidential compound is accessible for the public as it was converted into a museum by former president Rafael Correa. There are designated areas in the palace that are open to public where exhibits, antique furniture, and galleries can be found. To get the complete experience of the old city a visit to the Carondelet Palace is a must. Ideally the area is best explored early in the day that gives you enough time to visit other points of interest nearby.
If you are looking for a religious and spiritual experience, then going to the Basilica del Voto Nacional (Basilica of the National Vow) is amongst the top things to do in Ecuador. The Roman Catholic Church is based in the Historical Center of the city of Quito and was consecrated in 1988, nearly a decade after ground broke for the Neo-Gothic church which today is the biggest of its kind in the Americas.
In fact, it is regarded as the most significant neo-Gothic structure with Ecuadorian architecture in the Americas. The structure is noted for decorative arts featuring indigenous animals of the region such as iguanas, Galapagos tortoise, and armadillos. One of the best things to do in Basilica del Voto Nacional is to climb the main tower.
Visitors gain access to the sanctuary by paying a $1 entrance fee while paying between $1 and $3 lets you explore the whole Basilica. The highest point in the main tower offers amazing views of Quito and the mountainous range just outside the city limits. According to legend, the Basilica has deliberately been left unfinished in some areas because if completed, it will signify the end times. Overall a trip to Basicila del Voto Nacional is worth the experience.
El Panecillo is a volcanic hill that is sandwiched between central and southern part of Quito in Ecuador. The name of the hill literally translates to a small piece of bread. The original name of the hill that was used by the indigenous tribe was Yavirac. The hill can be accessed via the Melchor Aymerich Street in Quito. There are lots of interesting places to visit and things to do in El Panecillo.
At the top of the hill, a temple used to exist, built by the aboriginal indigenous people. It was demolished by the Spanish conquistadores. Today, Virgen de Quito stands on top of the hill in the middle. The 45 meter tall statue was built in 1976 using more than a thousand pieces of aluminium. It depicts the theological Woman of the Apocalypse with wings like an angel standing on top of a globe and stepping on a snake.
To the north of the statue there is an entrance to a large cistern that is called the Olla del Panecillo. This cistern is said to be of Spanish origin though some believe it to be constructed during pre-colonial rule. On the whole, a visit to the El Panecillo Hill is certainly worth it as it is a great place for picnicking and photo ops. You can find lots of things to do in El Panecillo Hill once you arrive at the area.