“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
After an overnight flight from Madrid, we arrived in Quito at 6.30 am, unable to check into our apartment until 3 pm. We filled in a couple of hours by sorting out a sim card and having breakfast, followed by dropping off our luggage. We were all a bit tired and not really up for wandering around the city so we decided to do the 3 hour double decker bus tour around Quito.
The double decker city tour is no different to ones in other countries, with its many stops. There are two major stops that the bus waits 30 minutes at the first, El Panecillo and then 15 minutes at a park. The remaining stops, if you choose to get off you will wait an hour for the next bus to arrive. The tour encompasses both a bilingual guide and a recorded guide in places, unfortunately the bilingual guide was difficult to understand. Something to keep in mind is that although Quito’s temperature varies little throughout the year, it does get hot in the sun, so bring a hat, we didn’t and will be red-faced for a while. The tour is very slow going as the traffic in Quito is horrendous and at times it would be far quicker to walk. The experience was okay, had we been able to understand the guide it may have been better.
El Panecillo Hill
The highlight of the tour is definitely El Panecillo Hill, standing at an elevation of 3 016 meters (9 895 feet) above sea level and offering magnificent views over Quito. The view of the city with the cupolas of the many churches are visible among the colourful houses with their russet hued roofs. The backdrop to the city is the beautiful Andes mountain range. Apparently the hill’s name dates back to colonial times, when the residents thought the hill resembled a loaf of bread or ‘Pan’ which is incorporated into the name, ‘El Pancello Hill’. In the early days of Quito’s history there was a military fort for the protection of the city.
The Virgin of Quito (also called the Winged Virgin of Quito, Dancing Madonna and Virgin of the Apocalypse)
The statue of the virgin was created in 1976 by Spanish artist, Agustin de la Herran Matorras and is a replica of a statue from 1734 by Bernado de Legarda, that is kept in the altar of the San Francisco Church. The statue is a mosaic made of 7 000 pieces of aluminium and other metals and stands on a pedestal reaching a height of 45 meters. Although the Virgin is frequently depicted standing on a globe with a snake chained to her feet, this one is unique because she is depicted with wings and locals claim she is the only one in the world with them.
El Panecillo hill originally was the southern border of Quito, however as Quito has grown the poorer southern urban areas now face the back of the Virgin. A cynical person might say the Virgin blesses the wealthier areas, while turning her back on the poor or you could just say it shows the growth patterns of Quito over the past century.
The tour continued throughout both the old and new parts of the city, past parks and gardens, colourful neighbourhoods and the many churches that are found in Quito.
Left: The Saint Barbara Church built in 1550, top right: Basilica del Voto Nacional, the largest church in Quito and bottom right: the Church and Monastery of San Francisco
Tourist Information for Quito City Tour
The city tour has hourly departures and operates between 9 am and 4 pm. They operate various other tours as well.
- Adults – $15 USD/ Children under 12 and adults over 65+ – $7.50