Quito City Tour – 25/1/2019

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”

Anita Desai

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.

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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.

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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.  

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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. 

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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.

Price:

  • Adults – $15 USD/ Children under 12 and adults over 65+ – $7.50

http://www.quitotourbus.com

 

TeleferiQo – 27/1/2019

After lunch at the Central Mercado in Quito we caught a taxi to the Motriz platform, in the foothills of the Rucu Pichincha volcano, to take the TeleferiQo, a gondola lift to the Cruz Loma Lookout.

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The TeleferiQo opened in May of 2005 and is one of the highest aerial lifts in South America, the highest being in La Paz in Bolivia.  The gondola begins at the Motriz platform, at 3.117 meters (10 226 ft) and takes about 18 minutes to reach Cruz Loma at 3947 meters, (12 943 ft) traveling about 2.5 km.

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The view as you ascend in the gondola is great, but once you reach Cruz Loma there are various lookouts or miradors that offer spectacular views over both Quito and the various surrounding volcanoes.

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Once you reach Cruz Loma there are various activities that are available:

  • During the weekends and holidays horse riding is available either as a half hour ride for $5 USD or a return trip to Paseo al Ruco for $25 and tickets can be bought online.  
  • There are various hiking trails that vary in length from 30 minutes to 8 hours, it is also possible to hire a guide.
  • Paragliding
  • Camping is permitted but you must bring your own gear.
  • Climbing can be done on your own or with a guide.
  • Downhill bike riding – You can transport your bike on the gondola and then navigate downhill on one of the tracks. The cost for a single turn is $3 (Mon – Fri) or $4 (Sat – Sun) or alternatively all day is $7 (Mon – Fri) or $8.50 (Sat – Sun)

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TIPS

  • Bring a lightweight jacket, the average temperature up at Cruz Loma is only 6 degrees Celsius and it is often windy.
  • A hat and sunscreen is essential due to Quito’s high altitude and the zero latitude means that you are exposed to higher levels of UV rays.  We have been caught twice in Quito without hats and been sun burnt. 
  • The best time for a gondola ride is in the morning and during the week as it gets busier as the day goes on and during the weekend.  There is a higher chance of rain in the afternoons.

Tourist Information for Teleferico

Opening Hours:

  • Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: 9 am – 8 pm
  • Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday: 8 am – 8 pm

Prices: (for tourists)

  • Adults – $8.50 Children (11 and under) – $6.50 Seniors (over 65) – $6.50 People with disabilities – $6.50

https://teleferico.com.ec/

 

Mercado Artisanal and Street Art – 28/1/2019

Ava and I had a girls shopping day which was a lot of fun.  We began by walking to the famous street, Calle La Ronda, a cobblestone street with brightly coloured houses and wrought iron balconies decorated with flowering plants. Calle La Ronda is a cobblestone street that dates back to the 14th century when it was an Inca trail, it was later remodeled in the 18th century by the Spanish.  The street became a popular hang out for artists, musicians and poets during the early 20th century. The street has been renamed Calle Juan de Dios Morales, but it is still recognised as Calle La Ronda.

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Calle La Ronda is described as a lively pedestrian only street, but I guess at 11 am when we were there was a bit early and there were very few people around. The street is filled with upmarket galleries, Artisan workshops, restaurants and chocolatiers.  A lot of the stores and restaurants were not yet open, we did go into a couple of chocolatiers and sampled some Ecuadorian chocolates. 

We caught a taxi to the new part of Quito to visit the Artisanal Mercado, unfortunately I put the wrong thing in google maps and ended up at an Artisanal shop instead.  Eventually after asking a few people we ended up in the right place and it was so worth the effort.  The market is fantastic!

I actually think it is one of the best handicraft markets I have been too in our travels.  There is close to 200 stalls spread over the block, selling everything Ecuadorian from silver jewelry, art, ponchos, sweaters, alpaca blankets, leather products, chocolates and much more.  I think we easily spent 1 1/2 – 2 hours wandering row upon row of stalls. 

My favourite stall or stalls, was run by one friendly man who had artwork ranging from paintings on feathers and coca leaves to canvases of different Ecuadorian animals and landscape scenes.  I will admit to going back a couple of times. 

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Not only is the market filled with handicrafts, but the walls surrounding it are covered with artwork.  The artwork features indigenous Ecuadorians, landscapes, cityscapes and animals.

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You are expected to haggle, but I found the prices didn’t move a lot in comparison to places like Morocco or Egypt. The streets nearby the market have individual artisanal stores with fixed prices, some are upmarket with unique products and others sell similar products to the market, but with less variety. One store I would recommend is Jiwaki, their prices are reasonable and the products are very unique.  I bought a lovely handbag there, but they also had some beautiful wall hangings which the owner makes on site.

After shopping until we were ready to drop, we wandered back to the main tourist area, Plaza Foch and had some lunch. The plaza is very touristy and marketed to the backpacker population, it was not really our scene, but it does have a variety of touristy eateries and we were starving. 

An interesting thing about Quito is the artwork.  There is artwork of varying forms everywhere on the tunnels

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the cafes and restaurants,

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the buildings

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and even the street signs.

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I highly recommend spending a couple of hours in the Artisanal market and some of the smaller stores in the surrounding area.