Ecuador’s capital Quito is earning its place among travellers’ favourite Latin American cities. With its UNESCO-listed historic centre transformed by urban regeneration, and with public and private investment in tourism at an all-time high, the city is well on the way to becoming a ‘must-see’ destination on the continent.
To match the capital’s new attractions in the Old Town – including a clutch of boutique hotels and gourmet restaurants – there are a number of new sights and activities set to keep travellers here for longer.
TAKE TO THE HIGH-WIRE
Quito occupies a privileged position in the heart of what the 19th-century explorer Alexander von Humboldt dubbed “The ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes”. On every cardinal point, dramatic peaks – many of them capped with snow – rise above the lush Andean valleys. There’s no better way to appreciate this magical location amid the world’s longest mountain chain than by taking the “Teleferiqo” cable car. The ride begins on the city’s western fringes, climbing the flanks of the massive Pichincha Volcano from 3,000 up to 4,000 metres. From this condor’s eerie, on clear days the panorama includes at least four snow-covered peaks and dozens of lesser volcanoes. The Teleferiqo complex includes cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops, as well as a large amusement park, making it a great day out for all the family.
Ecuador is renowned as an extremely biologically-rich country. Measured by square kilometre, it’s the most biodiverse on the planet. Travellers who don’t have time to visit all of its incredible variety of ecosystems can nonetheless get a feel for its environments at the Botanical Gardens, located within the large Carolina Park in the northern part of the city. Here, visitors are guided through wetlands, cloudforests, high-altitude moorlands and dry forest, alive with a profusion of tropical flowers and buzzing hummingbirds. The Botanical Garden also boats two hothouses with over 500 species of orchids as well as other interesting species, whose vast array of shapes, sizes and colours take your breath away.
A WORLD OF CRAFTS UNDER ONE ROOF
Travellers to Quito and Ecuador are often bowled over by the huge range of handicrafts on sale. Everywhere you look, it seems, there are weavings, textiles, ceramics, silver, gold, vegetable ivory and wood fashioned into the most appealing crafts and souvenirs. The country’s deft craftspeople are as industrious as they are inventive. The crafts are a reflection of the country’s surprising and captivating cultural legacy and diversity.
There’s now a place in Quito where visitors can get a feel for this impressive output all under one roof. The Mindalae museum aims to educate visitors on the historic, cultural and artistic background of Ecuador’s amazing crafts production, as well as encouraging the revaluation of these popular creative expressions. The museum – set over five floors and housed in a specially-built structure, striking for its bold lines and contemporary feel – takes visitors on a cultural journey through the indigenous highland Indian, Amazonian Indian, Afro-Ecuadorian and ‘montubian’ (coastal) worlds. There is also a fair-trade shop, since looking but not touching or even seeing but not buying would be too much for most people.
Contacts and More Information:
Opening times: Monday to Friday from 10am, Saturday and Sunday from 9 am. Monday to Thursday last tickets sold at 7 pm, Friday and Saturday at 10 pm, and Sunday until 8pm.
Prices: $4, express $7.
Teleriqo vans which give free rides up to the start have stops at the following locations: Rio Coca y 6 Diciembre, Terminal Ecovía; Terminal de Trolebús, Av Amazonas; Quicentro, CCI and El Jardín shopping malls.
Group bookings for transport and rides can be arranged on telephone: 02-2252-753 or 099-820-325.
For more, in Spanish, see www.teleferiqo.com
Address: Reina Victoria at La Niña, in the northern section of the Mariscal Quarter.
Opening Times: Monday to Sunday 9.30 am to 6 pm. Guided tours available.
Price: $2, less for concessions.
Jardín Botánico de Quito (Botanical Gardens)
Address: on the north side of Parque La Carolina, northern Quito.
Opening Times: Monday 9 am to 1 pm, Tuesday to Sunday 9 am to 4.30 pm. Guided tours available.
Price: $2, $1 concessions.