Quito: gateway to the Amazon and gateway to the Galapagos
Jet lag: that’s the first thing that strikes you upon arrival in Ecuador! So no matter where you’re staying, head to the café inside Hotel Plaza Grande and order “Los Corridos” which is traditional homemade ice cream …. lights dim, bells chime and a waiter wearing a purple cloak serves the desert that sits on a smouldering bed of dry ice! The perfect antidote to jaded in-flight memories.
Quito’s high, over 3,000m (9,350’) so take it easy: stroll around Mercado San Francisco, where the locals shop sell everything from Disney-inspired kitsch toys to fresh cow’s tails and entire pig’s heads. There’s an interesting herbal remedies section. Check out the Piñata shops featuring Minions, giant beer cans and terracotta donkeys (A piñata is a terracotta container, dressed up as something eye-catching and filled with sweets. A popular party game is to whack it with a stick till it smashes and the sweeties tumble out). Then seek out some of the legendary South American coffee, and Casa Gangotena café, which overlooks Plaza San Francisco, takes some beating. Try the ‘bonitisimas’ (corn patties made with quinoa and trout) or my favourite, ceviche, which is fresh fish marinated in lime juice and served cold (much, much better than it sounds!)
Mid-day is the perfect time to visit middle earth, and Quito boasts 2. There’s the state run “Middle of the World Park” which erroneously claims to be Earth’s mid-point @ 0° latitude. But it isn’t. It’s actually several hundred metres out! Get a guide to show you the actual point and there you can do the ‘water down the plughole’ test (clockwise in the north; anti-clockwise in the south, or is it the other way around?)
Pululahue Volcano is 20 mins from the city centre. The Geobotanical Gardens cling to the slopes and the plants are remarkable to wander around. They also have various animals (Spectacled Bear, big cats and so forth which may or might not appeal). But you have to head to El Crater Restaurant, which is right on the crater’s rim, and try some cocoa tea.
If your stamina allows, visit Vista Hermosa, which is a rooftop restaurant, for supper. Live music and excellent people-watching provided free.
Get out of town: head to Rosadex rose farm which is two hours away through the volcanoes. It’s a lovely drive matched by a beautiful destination, far from the hum of the city. The roses are mostly for export, and too many are scentless, but beautiful to look at.
On the way back to Quito, stop in Guayllabamba to enjoy the “chirimoyas” a so sweet, and utterly typical fruit (no English translation for this one!)
All Latin cities have one now: a Teleferico Gondola. Quito’s runs from downtown up the Pichincha volcano (13,450’) so take it easy. The view from the top is just superb and you get a real sense of why Quito is built where it’s built.
And to round off your two days in Quito, a choice!
1. Urko restaurant, serves traditional Ecuadorian food with a twist; for example, their version of ceviche is called jipijapa (octopus). They also have the city’s best live music venue, Misquilla.
2. Competing for your custom is a visit to Ichimbia; another great view of the city while dinner at Café Mosaico is served.
To make any or all of this happen, give the office a call, or speak to our resident Quito guide, Paulina Vivanco: Paulina@ventureco-worldwide.com