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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Travel Tuesdays: Guest Blogger Abby Clark

Top 10 Things to See and Do in Quito

The capital of Ecuador, Quito is often a draw for tourists passing through on their way to the Galapagos. However, the city and surrounding area are worth a visit on their own, and offer many activities for all interests.

Quitsato Sundial
While many tourists have their photos taken straddling the line at the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, the true Equator lies 244 m north. Marking the line is the Quitsato Sundial, a 52 ft. wide stone mosaic that shows the time and month, as well as solstices and equinoxes. There is an onsite museum (Museo Cultura Solar), and everything is accessible by bus from Quito.

Climbers looking to stay active wont be disappointed in Quito. Most of the rock is volcanic, so it is important to climb only in recognized climbing areas, to be safe. The Rocódromo offers a wide variety of indoor climbing, with routes as difficult as 5.12, as well as bouldering. For outdoor climbing, you cant beat Las Canteras de Cumbaya; only a 10 minute walk from Quito, these volcanic slabs offer a dozen or so climbs, from 5.7 up.

Cafe Mosaico/Cultural Center/Itchimbia Park
This three-in-one activity makes a great day trip. Take a walk through Quitos largest city park, and stop to visit the beautiful glass and metal Itchimbia Park and Cultural Center. To create the center, the Santa Clara market was moved across town and now sits in the park where it can be seen from many parts of the city. Have lunch at Café Mosaico where you will get an unbeatable view of the city.

The abundance of volcanos and mountains in the area around Quito make it an ideal location for outdoor enthusiasts. Many trails that range from easy walks to mountaineering are easily accessible from the city. The popular Cotopaxi Park has short hikes, trails leading up to the volcano, and even guided tours. Nearby, the Pichinchas offer three summits: Guagua, Rucu, and Padre Encantado. Most of these routes do not require mountaineering experience, although it is important to take the time to adjust to the altitude.

With its location between the sea and mountains, Quitos cuisine is unique, influenced by various cultures and ecosystems. Fresh seafood, plantains, beans, and meat can be found in many delicious combinations. Vegetarian meals are easy to find, and you can get a good meal for relatively cheap.

Take a class
If eating the exquisite food isnt enough, consider taking a cooking class at one of the many local schools. Some classes are combined with tours to maximize the experience. There is also an abundance of Spanish language courses available for short or long term learning.

Look at the stars
Located in Alameda Park, the observatory and Astronomic Observatory Museum was established in 1873 and contains telescopes that have been functioning since 1875. On clear nights you can visit to gaze at the stars, and during the day look at the variety of instruments and equipment dating back to over 100 years ago. The building itself and the surrounding gardens are also worth the visit.

La Compañía
The Church of the Society of Jesus is a Jesuit church that was built between 1605 and 1765. Because of the long duration of construction a mix of influences can be found in the architecture, including Moorish, French and Spanish Baroque, and Neoclassical. The church is constructed from a mix of materials, including volcanic rock from nearby volcanos. The interior is ornate, with intricate carvings and gold leaf.

Go to the markets
One of the delights of Quito is the many markets. Mainly food and craft, markets can be found on almost every day of the week. One of the biggest, and most tourist-oriented, is in La Mariscal district (which is considered the tourist district). It is fun for last-minute souvenir shopping, but there are better markets in the city, such as the Santa Clara market for food, Ipiales for flea markets, and the market at El Ejido Park.

El Panecillo
This 656 hill gets its name from its resemblance to a bread roll. The elevation of the peak is over 9840 above sea level, and offers an incredible view of Quito and its surroundings. Aside from the view, the main attraction of the peak is the 150 aluminum statue of the Virgin Mary, with a viewing platform near the top (stair access only). Taking a cab or guided tour is recommended, as many muggings are reported on the walk up the hill.

About the author: An enthusiastic adventurer, Abby Clark loves exploring famous as well as remote little destinations around the world. She currently writes blogs and guest blogs for Best Quote Travel Insurance---a company which offers Super Visa insurance for travel.


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