Ever since Quito arose in the 16th century between the peaks of the Andes, it has been the highest capital city in the world. But if you don’t think that’s high enough, there are stairs, a hill and a volcano you can climb to go higher.
Take the cable car ‘TelefériQo’ to Cruz Loma, high on the flanks of the active volcano, Pichincha. This is the highest cable car in the world. In eight minutes it takes you to the endpoint and an altitude of almost 4 kilometres. You are then so high and the air is so thin that the view almost literally takes your breath away. Not to worry, there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops where you can recover.
‘TelefériQo’ to Cruz Loma
Visit the 115 metre-high Basílica del Voto Nacional on a hill in the north-east of the old centre. This Neo-Gothic church contains elements you won’t find anywhere except Ecuador: gargoyles in the form of iguanas, monkeys, armadillos and turtles from the Galapagos Islands. If you climb the towers you can admire them close up, but be warned: to get there you have to climb a series of stairs, ladders and across a rickety plank.
Basílica del Voto Nacional
Take rest and refreshment on the roof terrace of Vista Hermosa. The name means literally ‘beautiful view’ and that’s no exaggeration. The view stretches a full 360 degrees over the historical heart of Quito. If you go on a Wednesday or Saturday, you might want to consider returning in the evening to listen to the live music that’s played there.
Vista Hermosa, Mejía Oe4-45 y García Moreno, www.vistahermosa.ec
Virgin on a Hill
Admire the city, again, from El Panecillo, the 200 metre-high hill that rises above Quito. Here, just over 3 kilometres above sea level, you stand alongside La Virgen del Panecillo, a statue that has watched over the city since the 1970s. There are also the remains of a Spanish fort, which was once built on the site where an Inca observatory had stood.
The Guayasamín Museum is situated against a hill looking out across the city – although by now you’re probably familiar with the view. But what really sets this place apart is the huge collection of colonial art, pre-Colombian ceramics and, of course, work by Oswaldo Guayasamín – one of the greatest artists Ecuador has ever had.
Guayasamín Museum, Bosmediano 543, www.guayasamin.org
The stunning Art Deco Bolívar Theatre is the country’s most prestigious venue for music, opera, ballet and theatre. It was named after the man who won Ecuador its independence. Here, for a moment, you can imagine you’re a member of local high society.
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