Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Quito tourist attractions

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Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, Ecuador’s three most important cities, boast historical colonial districts combined with classical and modern styles and architecture. These districts contain countless tourist and cultural attractions and top quality tourist infrastructure that is suitable for holding international events, fairs, congresses and conventions. These three magic and hospitable cities, surrounded by mountains, are veritable troves of colonial treasures (paintings, sculptures and carvings), most of which are concentrated in the historical city centers. These colonial works are the unique product of European renaissance art and native and mestizo artistry.

Quito

Ecuador, Quito, Middle of the WorldIn Ecuador’s capital, considered by Incas, Spanish conquistadors and men of science as “the land in the middle of the world,” adventurous and treasure-filled colonial art contrasts sharply with the distinctive modern landscape of the city nestling in the foothills of the Pichincha volcano. South of the city is a natural lookout  El Panecillo dominated by a statue of the colonial virgin that soars 70 meters into the sky. Also to the south is the historical city center clustering around Independencia Square that was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1978.

From here, visitors can easily make out the city’s distinctive colonial constructions: the portico of San Francisco, the cathedral, the church of the Jesuits, the Sagrario, or Tabernacle. The Temple of la Libertad, Alameda park, with its astronomical observatory; the Cultural center with its changing exhibits; and the Central Bank museum with its collections of pre-colonial, colonial and contemporary art, are other alternatives. Quito is endowed with a good infrastructure of hotel chains, restaurants and tourist agencies. On weekends, people congregate in the city’s parks. Souvenirs or everyday purchases can be made on Sundays in El Ejido Park or at the markets in the old city. The famous “Middle of the World” monument is a short 45-minute bus ride away. It is an incredible experience to walk between the two hemispheres and from March 21 to September 20, it is possible to take shadow-free photographs.

Guayaquil

Ecuador, Guayaquil, Rio GuayasEcuador’s economic center, Guayaquil, is 45 minutes away from Quito by plane, and lies southwest of the capital on the coast. The district of Las Peñas, containing the city’s oldest buildings, which were reconstructed after the great fire of 1896, is one of the tourist attractions of this cosmopolitan city. Another of the attractions is Santa Ana hill with its colorful little houses. The uniforms, tools and first motorized pumps on exhibit at the Firemen’s Museum testify to the fires that have marked the life of this city. Santo Domingo is the oldest church in the city. An absolute must on the tourist itinerary is a visit to the Malecon 2000 seafront promenade, filled with bridges that simulate sailboats, towers, gathering spots and grassy areas. The Plaza Civica keeps the meeting between Bolivar and San Martin alive in people’s memories. The Playas and Salinas resorts near the city are favored weekend destinations for the city dwellers, who enjoy the sun, beach and splendor of the sea from the vantage point of one of their many restaurants.

Cuenca

Cuenca EcuadorThis handsome colonial city is 3 hours away by bus or 25 minutes by air from Guayaquil. Situated at an altitude of 2,535 meters above sea level, the capital of Azuay province is the country’s third largest city after Quito and Guayaquil. Cuenca, with the shining domes of its many churches dominating the skyline, is considered to be the most beautiful city in Ecuador. Because of its colonial buildings, UNESCO declared the city a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1999. The numerous historical and cultural museums share pride of place with parks parks filled with handicrafts, parks filled with flowers and parks filled with memories. The recreational area of Cajas to the northeast has 230 lakes and offers excellent possibilities for fishing, camping and hiking. The famous ruins of Ingapirca are only an hour and a half by bus from the city. A religious and administrative center dating back to pre-Inca times, Ingapirca consists of a fortress, terraces, temples and a castle known as “Temple of the Sun.”

Ecuador, Quito, La Basilica church

 

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Ecuador activities

Last Modified 8/1/06 6:30 PM