Ecuador’s capital and most populous city has long been a popular destination for travelers. Its designation as a world heritage site, proximity to stunning natural landscapes and largely untouched culture all contribute to Quito being a truly unmissable destination.
The second highest capital city in the world, Quito sits at an impressive 2,850 meters above sea level- an altitude that is physically obvious when visiting. The city is guarded by Pichincha, the only active volcano to directly menace a capital city.
The center of Quito is one of the best-preserved and least altered in the America’s, boasting endless cobbled streets and a multitude of classic Ecuadorian churches and true heritage architecture.
Quito has a vibrant and increasingly prominent LGBT community, with a plethora of gay bars and clubs for visitors to enjoy. The city’s annual pride celebrations take place in June as does the Quito annual gay film festival.
Visible from almost anywhere in the city, the Virgin of El Panecillo is the largest aluminium statue in the world. Unveiled in 1975 and standing at a jaw-dropping 41 meters tall, the statue is taller than Rio De Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer and attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Inside the base of the statue is a small museum where visitors can learn about the history and construction of the masterpiece. On clear days, stunning views can be enjoyed from the viewing platforms. An entry fee is charged but the cost is very reasonable.
The Virgin of El Panecillo is located on top of El Panecillo hill and is accessible by Gral Melchor Aymerich; the main road towards the landmark.
Quito sits high up in the Andes, and for travelers wanting to experience the rugged mountain range first hand, the Pichincha Teléferico will take you up the side of an active volcano to a truly breathtaking observation area.
The unique cable car experience was opened in 2005 meaning that the ride is relatively modern and smooth with the carriages comfortably fitting a family of four. At the top of the Pichincha Teléferico, there’s a range of eateries, souvenir shops and toilet facilities as well as multiple viewing platforms.
Teléferico riders can carry on climbing the Pichincha Volcano once they reach the cable car summit, where several hiking routes of varying levels of difficulty offer intrepid travelers the chance to leave the beaten track.
Infamously missing the mark by only a few hundred meters, Mitad Del Mundo was erected in 1982 to mark the official equator line that runs through Ecuador. Lying just 240 meters off the technical “center of the earth”, the 30-meter tall Mitad Del Mundo monument is the centerpiece of the Mital Del Mundo Square.
The village that has been built around the monument isn’t actually occupied by residents but closely resembles a traditional Ecuadorian village and features shops, a church and even a cockfighting ring. It’s here that visitors can find dining opportunities, information centers and stores selling souvenirs.
Located on the true equator line is the Museo Inti Nan; an interactive museum where visitors can take part in experiments and activities that demonstrate the truly unique nature of physics at the equator. There are a number of tour operators in Quito who offer day trips to Mitad Del Mundo, however, the destination is also accessible by bus and taxi.
The longest-running and largest gay club in Quito is Tercer Milenio Evolution. This mega-club is located very close to Quito’s “pink” gay district and attracts a mixed crowd of tourists and locals who go to enjoy the club’s strong drinks, lively atmosphere and drag shows.
Popular with the younger and more fashion-forward population of Quito; Kika is a trendy and inclusive club that caters to people across the LGBT spectrum. The venue is on the smaller side but still attracts a large and vibrant crowd on the weekends. Playing a mix of Latin and international hits, Kika is only a short 1o minute walk from the pink district.
There is plenty to do besides wandering the charming streets of Quito’s Old Town and, despite facing numerous earthquakes, the area is still one of South America’s best-preserved historical locations.
One of the most significant locations in Quito’s Old Town is the Carondelet Palace (the presidential palace) which is over three hundred years old and still home to Ecuador’s government. Changing of the guards takes place on Mondays at 11 am and is a worthwhile experience for any traveler keen to get a little extra out of their time in Quito.
Adding to the charm and wonder of the Old Town is Iglesia De San Fransisco. This impressively sized and sculpted Renaissance-era church is a hotspot for tourists, locals and traders alike. Here you’ll be able to tour the stunning church and learn about its fascinating history. The style of the church has constantly evolved since its creation in the 16th century as the result of a number of earthquakes and architectural changes.
by George Pizani | More: Gay Quito