El Panecillo Hill in Quito, Ecuador

Quito – At the Heart of Ecuador Tours

Quito, for the modern Globetrotter, is fast rising as a popular first stop on many Ecuador tours. Packed with history yet pulsing with the vibrant hum of an urban playground on the rise, Quito is a safe, culturally rich, and cosmopolitan city. It is not just the political centre of Ecuador, but the geographical centre of the world, sitting a mere 25km from the equator. No longer dismissed as a one night stop on the way to the Galapagos, this UNESCO World Heritage Site listed city saw its international tourism grow by over 11.8% in 2014-2015.

Quito’s History and Culture

Ecuador has been at the crossroads of Pre-Colombian, Inca and Spanish histories: the modern day capital of Quito was once the shared capital of the Incan Empire along with Cusco in Peru. It was on the modern-day borders of Ecuador and Peru where the conqueror of the Incas, Francisco Pizzaro, landed and began his march south, bringing the eventual destruction of the Incas. At the country’s heart is Quito. Settled by the Quito people, it was captured by the Incas in 1487, and then by the Spanish. Today, for any visit to the historically rich, culturally diverse and naturally wealthy country, Quito truly is at the centre of it all.

Quito is located in a valley perched in the Andes, at a height of 9,350 feet (2,800 meters) above sea level, and surrounded by numerous snow-capped volcanoes – the most prominent being the dormant Cotopaxi. Quito, along with Kraków, were the first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO in 1978.

Quito Panorama, Ecuador
Panoramic view of Quito

As you’ll notice on Ecuador tours, Quito preserves its amazing colonial history, with one of the Americas’ least altered colonial hearts, offering stunning examples of Spanish architecture with about 130 monumental buildings and 5,000 properties registered in the municipal inventory of heritage properties. Side by side are a wide choice of excellent dining opportunities, nightlife, art galleries, shopping experiences, and a wide selection of accommodation from basic hostels up to converted churches and haciendas – all offering the best of 5-star appointments.

Situated in a newly-restored historic mansion overlooking Plaza San Francisco, in the heart of the Old Town, the 3-story Casa Gangotena is a 5-star classical hotel with 31 rooms and a showcase of eye-catching style, contemporary design, antiques, furnishings, fine dining, modern technologies, and quintessential comforts. Beautifully- and eclectically-appointed, the award-winning hotel offers a panoramic third floor terrace, and is the perfect base to dine, explore, and relax.

Suggested Itinerary:
3-Day Hotel Gangotena – Stay of Distinction

Casa Gangotena Stay of Distinction, Quito, Ecuador
Casa Gangotena stay of distinction

In and Around Quito

One of Goway’s favourite hideaways is a short drive away – the 5-star Mashpi Lodge, which is located high in the cloud forest. Other Quito highlights include Otavalo Market – a world famous centre for shopping and photography.

Along with these sites you can also visit the equator (Ecuador in Spanish translates to “equator”) and watch the water drain left to right on one side of the line – step over it and the water runs in the opposite way. Or try and balance and egg on a nail on the equator line – I dare you to succeed at this task!

Aerial view of Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
Aerial view of Mashpi Lodge
Otavalo Market, Ecuador
Otavalo Market
Quito Tourism - Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador
Mitad del Mundo

Nearby cloud forests offer great eco-based day tours. You can also shop at many of the street markets or boutique shops that line the centre of the city. For nature lovers, Quito has 4200 acres of parks and green areas suitable for mountain biking, nature walks, or simply a picnic.

Suggested Itineraries:
3-Day Mashpi Cloud Forest Lodge
2-Day Otavalo Overnight

Dining in Quito is memorable, with offerings of traditional Ecuadorean cuisine. Add romance to Ecuador tours by dining at restaurants located on the sides of volcanoes which offer stunning day or night views over the city. Our Latin experts also suggest our Unique Dining – Quito experience at La Ronda to cap off the perfect short adventure to finish your stay in Quito.

Chosen as the cultural capital of the Americas, Quito’s nightlife is abundant as are the more sophisticated choices of museums and galleries to visit. This includes the Guayasamin Art Gallery and La Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Man) inside of which is covered with a mural by the artist, Oswaldo Guayasamin.

Fiestas de Quito

Colourful Costume with Jewelry in Quito Festivities' Parade, Ecuador
Colourful costume with jewelry in Quito Festivities’ Parade

Each December 6th, Ecuador celebrates the anniversary of the Spanish founding of the city of Quito. This December, Quito is 482 years old! With celebrations starting the week leading up to the holiday itself, the Fiestas de Quito is the party of the year for most residents of the capital city, and a great time for visitors to experience Ecuador tours and be in the heart of it all. Many people go out on the streets to celebrate, and the local government even sponsors a series of parades and large scale music concerts in the days leading up to December 6th.

The holiday entails a wide range of festivities: The evening of December 5th may begin with a Serenata Quiteña, a serenade of traditional Ecuadorian songs, and be followed by a ride on a chiva, an open-air bus where revellers drink and dance, often accompanied by a live band – as the vehicle tours the city. An elaborate fireworks display, the vaca loca, or crazy cow, often makes an appearance in city plazas as part of the celebration.

Many neighborhoods, schools, and businesses, organize tournaments of a local card game called cuarenta (“forty”, played with a special 40-card deck) in which bluff is often just as important as the luck-of-the-draw.

Quito – Centre Of It All!

Goway Travel is offering an amazing trip. Our 6-Day Quito – Centre Of It All! allows travellers on their Ecuador tours to visit in and around Quito, including all the city’s key sites and a few beyond. This itinerary makes for an excellent starting point on all Ecuador tours or longer South America vacations.

This itinerary includes private transfers and transport, all accommodation in the 4+ star hotel of Patio Andaluz, 5 breakfasts, Quito City Tour, visit to the equator, an Intinan Museum, Guayasamin Art Gallery and Capilla Del Hombre visit, complimentary day trip to Otavalo, and Antisana Area and Central Andes tour. This compact trip will showcase the Incan and Spanish cultures and history that make up modern Quito.

Quito Tourism - Quito Up Close, Ecuador
Quito up close

No longer considered just a gateway to the Galapagos or the Ecuadorian Amazon, Quito really is the centre of it all and should be a must visit on all Ecuador tours!

For more information on Quito or ideas for Ecuador tours, please visit us at www.goway.com.

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Don Forster
Don Forster

Trade Training Manager — Born in Australia and raised in Canada and Papua New Guinea, Don took his first solo trip to Bali – aged just 13. Since then, Don’s travels have taken him to every continent. He’s been a backpacker in Asia, Europe and Egypt, an overland adventurer in East and Southern Africa, and an overland driver in South and Central America. He is especially fond of Peru, Patagonia and Namibia, though his longest adventure to date has been a London to Kathmandu run via the Middle East.

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