National pride and assistance from UNESCO has aided in preserving and bringing back to life the dramatic colonial architecture of Quito’s historic centre, meaning that many of the old buildings are now quite spectacular, including the beautiful National Theatre. A new airport that is further from the city has also reduced air noise pollution and the historic heart of the city is now rejuvenated and restored very much to its former glory.
Bustling squares lined with benches and shaded trees are framed by magnificent baroque architecture as cobbled streets filled with little cafes and fascinating small boutiques and artisan studios radiate from these central plazas. It’s the perfect part of the city to be based during your stay and on first arriving in Ecuador. Venture out on foot just to soak up the atmosphere and take a leisurely exploration.
From the traditional magnificence of San Francisco cathedral to the newly restored splendour of the Teatro Colon and the quirky pre-Colombian exhibits of the Casa del Alabado museum, Quito’s new polished exterior makes it a fascinating and easy city to explore. Although you may venture into the rural markets in search of textiles and hats, you can find the most beautiful examples of these in the city too, from Panama hats to stunning hand-woven textiles or the Artisan Market in Mariscal.
When you have had enough of exploring Old Quito and its surrounds, return to the elegant luxury of a former colonial family mansion overlooking one of the quarter’s main squares. Relax in peaceful gardens by a fountain or take an aperitif on a rooftop terrace overlooking the church spires. Dining options here are also superb, from proudly Ecuadorian traditional cuisine to contemporary twists but using fresh local and unusual ingredients.
This is the perfect place from which to begin your discovery of Ecuador’s wonderful Andean highlands, as you can reach some startlingly different destinations within just an hour or two’s drive. Head west into lush cloudforest, a beautiful haven for birdwatchers. Venture north to Otavalo to explore some of the incredible artisan villages and south to the dramatic peaks of the Avenue of the Volcanoes and the colonial jewel of Cuenca. It also makes a wonderfully relaxing city to explore before you fly out to the spectacular Galapagos Islands, off the Ecuadorian mainland coast.