Quito: What to See in the Capital of Ecuador

Written From… An aircraft on the way to Australia 9,451 meters above ground

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I spent the Christmas and New Year period to with my partner’s (Luis Carrillo Coello) family in Ecuador. We spent most of our time in capital of Ecuador, Quito, seeing the famous sites and exploring the wonders on our doorstep. Being the capital, there is undoubtedly an abundance of things to do, and for that reason I have put together a list of 8 sites to see in Quito as a starting point on your visit.

Two ladies performing in traditional Ecuadorian clothing
Ladies performing at La Mitad del Mundo

Unfortunately we didn’t get to complete everything on this list – but we did travel to various areas beyond the capital, including Baños. Not only was this my first time in Ecuador, it was my first time in South America. This country and the heart-warming welcome didn’t disappoint. I had an amazing time and I’m already itching to go back.

Equator Line

View over mitad del mundo in ecuador
View over La Mitad del Mundo

Ecuador is one the worlds equator countries, with its name translated into English as equator. It was given this name, naturally, as the country falls on the Earth’s equator line. This also means that Ecuador doesn’t have the four seasons split up during the year, like in the UK, but rather you’ll find elements from all four seasons throughout the country at any one time.

La Mitad del Mundo – translated as The Middle of The World – is an area that is not only home to the Union of South America headquarters it is also home to the famous equator line. Here you can stand on either side of what people originally thought was the equator – years later the real equator line was found a couple of hundred yards away in the Inti Nan museum.

Though the yellow strip and equatorial monument at La Mitad Del Mundo may not be the official equator line, it’s nevertheless an educational experience where you are able to watch traditional dancing, discover how Ecuadorian beer is made and walk through a recreation of pre-hispanic Ecuador.

Women standing on the equator line
Me standing on the equator line at La Mitad del Mundo

La Basílica

Looking up at the Basilica in Ecuador
Looking up at La Basílica del Voto

The Basílica del Voto Nacional was opened to the public in 1924. Upon entering this gigantic structure you can walk around the interior perimeter and see flags of every Ecuadorian province placed beside little worshipping enclaves where saints line the walls.

In the middle of the isle you can look to the main door of the basilica and find a heart shaped opening in the wall. Looking through the opening at just the right angle will allow you glimpses of the Virgin Mary standing high on El Panecillo looking out over the capital.

You’re also able to climb up the spires of the basilica, revealing beautiful stained glass windows, immaculate architectural detail and breathtaking views of city. There are plenty of photo opportunities here.

Presidential Palace

El Palacio Presidencial, translated as The Presidential Palace, was constructed in the 19th century for the president during the phase of the Real Audiencia of Quito. The Real Audiencia of Quito was an administrative group subordinate to the Spanish Empire.

This group had military, religious and political power over many parts of South America at the time. Today, this palace is used by the president and the courtyard outside is always swarming with people relaxing and visiting.

Once inside the Presidential Palace your visit will be around 45 minutes and in this time you will get to see the main halls, a room filled with portraits of Ecuadorian presidents, the internal courtyards and a number of artworks gifted to the president from around the world.

El Centro Cultural Metropolitano

People viewing an exhibition in the cultural centre in Quito
An exhibition in the cultural centre of Quito

El Centro Cultural Metropolitano was an unexpected and amazing find for us whilst in Quito. For once, we didn’t actually have any kind of museums on our todo list – if you know us you know that’s kind of unheard of – but when we saw El Centro Cultural Metropolitano we just knew we had to go in.

This museum is located right next door to el Palacio Presidencial. Inside you can walk through a timeline of Ecuador’s history and learn of the political stories that took place in the making of modern Ecuador.

First you will discover the changes and crises that took place in the Real Audiencia of Quito in the 17th century, then you will go on to look at the more recent political and historical developments of Quito and discover how it was shaped into the city it is today.  

Cotopaxi National Park

Cotopaxi National Park is a site that unfortunately we didn’t get to visit on this trip – it’s on my bucket list though! However, I am still recommending this National Park to you as it is only about an hour and half outside of the Quito city centre and you can scale the Cotopaxi Volcano, one of Ecuador’s most famous volcanoes.

This national park actually spans two provinces in Ecuador, Pichincha where Quito is located, and Napo. When you get there you can hike up and take some amazing pictures with the snowed tipped Cotopaxi volcano.

The Virgin Mary

virgin mary quito
El Panecillo in Quito

El Panecillo is located in the southern part of Quito and is a 200 meter high hill made of volcanic-origin. On top of this hill you will find a 41 meter tall statue of La Virgen de Quito, where you can scale the inside whilst seeing how this monument was built.

Once at the top, you will find stretching sites of the city and volcanos. We went to see El Panecillo at night, there was a marketplace in which to buy memorabilia from Ecuador and lots of places to buy food. We also saw some traditional dancing from different groups within the Andean community.  

El Teleférico – Pichincha

The cable cars in Quito – TelefériQo – take you around 4050 meters above sea level to the start of the Pichincha Volcano. The cable car takes around 30 minutes and sores high above the city. Looking down you’ll not only see the built up city on the mountains, but cattle walking around at incredible heights.

Once up there you can have something to eat, walk around the volcano base, or if you’re feeling really adventurous even hike up the volcano – of course a guide is recommended for that.  

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