San Francisco de Quito is the capital of Ecuador. It is actually the highest capital in the entire world with an elevation of 9,350 feet above sea level. Following are some places that are well worth the visit in this wonderful old world town, however, do keep in mind that being at such a high altitude can make it difficult to breathe and one must be careful not to exert themselves.
1. Old Heritage
UNESCO World Heritage Sites usually list various monuments or natural sites. In Ecuador, the entire city of Quito is known as a Heritage Site due the fact that it is one of the least altered and best preserved historic centers in the Americas (North, Central and/or South combined). It was the first Heritage site named by UNESCO, long with Krakow (Poland), in 1978.
2. See the Volcano
Not only is Quito located in lush South America; it sits on the eastern slopes of an active stratovolcano (a steep volcano built by many layers of erupted hardened lava) named Pichincha in the Andes.
3. The Middle of the World
Ecuador does quite literally mean the Equator in Spanish, the term used worldwide to determine where the planet splits into the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Quito’s central square is only 25 kilometers away from the line that demarks the earth’s zero latitude and a monument and a museum are erected there in honor of la mitad de la mundo.
4. Old Worship
Cerro Panecillo is a beautiful place to start your trip and give you a chance to see Quito in all its glory before starting your exploration of the city. Not only can you observe the wide difference between the old Inca styles and the new Spanish modern architectures from this viewpoint but the snowcapped volcanoes surrounding the town are also on display from here. The hill, topped by a statue of the Virgin of the Americas reminiscent of the one of Christ in Rio de Janeiro, was used by the Incas for sun worship.
5. Travel by Air
The teleferico, Spanish for a cable car, transports you to top of Cruz Loma at 14,000 feet up. The views of the city from so far up are ones to see, as are the breathtaking mountains all around you and it is definitely an experience not to be missed to be able to experience what life at such altitude is like. For the adventurous ones, it is possible from there to hike up to the summit of Ruccu Pinchicha and back in 6 hours but be sure to bring warm clothing and plenty of water.
6. Good Company
Apparently, the 16th Century Jesuit church of La Compania de Jesus took 163 years to build and finish as it is seen today. The cathedral is the most ornate in the country and although severely damaged by an earthquake in 1987, the Cultural Heritage Fund finished restoring it in 2002. It is considered a masterpiece of Baroque and Quiteno Colonia art.
7. Incan Royalty to European Beliefs
On the grounds of an Inca Palace, El Monasterio de San Francisco was built to honor Quito’s patron saint only 50 days after the city was founded in 1534. It is thus the oldest church on the American continent and the San Francisco religious complex, along with its monastery, is the largest structure in colonial Quito. The Inca heritage is honored through the newly introduced religion through ceiling frescos representing the natives’ divinity of the sun.
If you need to know more about the volunteering opportunities in Ecuador, you can simply drop us a mail at [email protected] and our Program Advisors will get back to you, soon.
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