Quito, Ecuador – Reliquary of the Americas

quito-plazaQuito, located in north-central Ecuador in the Guayllabamba river basin, is the place for an exciting week-long vacation in the epicenter of history, culture and the arts in this corner of the Americas.

As the site of one of the largest best-preserved historic centers in the world, Quito was the first to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978. The city is home to more than 40 churches, 17 squares, 16 monasteries, and a local population brimming with hospitality and friendship. Get prepared to speak some basic Spanish before you head there and then wander around the great quarter and understand why this place has been referred to as the “Reliquary of the Americas”. From the festive market town to the stunning colonial era architecture, you fall in love with a community that promises to offer more than the usual.

Reliquary Tour

Conjunto Monumental San Francisco is a magnificent church that contains several masterpieces, including the famous “Virgin of Quito” by Legarda. The sculpture, displayed at the main altar, depicts a winged virgin stepping on the devilís head. Built in the 1570s, the entire church was devoted to San Francis. This explains why the official city name would eventually be San Francisco de Quito.

On top of a large hill called El Panecillo stands a large statue of the La Virgin del Panecillo. This statue of the Virgin Mary can be seen from most vantage points in the city. A must visit as well is the Museo del Banco Central which is a repository of archaeological figures presented both in permanent exhibits and innovate high-technology slide shows.

Good Food***

Soups are a specialty in Quito. A tasty Locro soup (made with cheese, potato and avocado) will wake up your taste buds. For those ready to be a bit more daring, either the Yaguarlocro (potato soup with sprinklings of blood) or Caldo de Pata (a broth containing chunks of boiled cow hooves) should be an interesting choice. And if this challenge doesn’t seem good enough, try out the bull penis soup for that unforgettable meal.

Bakeries offer a sumptuous range of breads, pastries and snacks, such as empanadas. For breakfast, try the guacamole sandwich and the grilled plantain with cheese at Kallari (Wilson E4-266 at JL Mera Mariscal Sucre). Grab an outdoor table at Uncle Hoís (Calama E8-29) and make sure to order a tasty bowl of pho (noodle soup) and sea bass with chili. Local favorites at Hasta La Vuelta, SeÒor (Chile Oe4-22 Palacio Arzobispal 3rd fl) include ceviche and secos de chivo.

Getting Information

Help will come to those who ask for it. The Quito Visitors’ Bureau publishes a useful map that showcases the city’s famous scenic spots. Pocket guides are also available on various activities. Several information centers are strategically located around the city, and each station provides maps, leaflets, a souvenir store, and of course, safe lockers for leaving bags.

The South American Explorers Club is not just a place to get information but also the best place to stop by and meet people. Located at Jorge Washington 311 y Leonidas Plaza, the place has been established with a strong commitment to helping visitors to Quito with various traveling issues such as accommodation, tour organization and transportation.

***We recommend when dining locally, be cautious…eat in moderation at established hotels and restaurants. Only eat fully cooked items…avoid salads and uncooked vegetables. Drink only sealed bottled water. As in any third world country, a case of “touristas” is not worth the risk!

About Author:

Arie Boris has extensive travel industry experience, including business and sales development for commercial aviation, the International emergency assistance & travel insurance industry and a national association of travel agents. He was a contributing editor to several print and Internet travel publications, including Fieldings’ Worldwide Cruise Guide and was part of the start up team for CruiseCritic. He has written over 400 cruise ship reviews. Arie also produces and hosts Cruise Gourmet Voyages, a variety of fundraising & theme group cruises for various charitable and arts organizations. He has produced theme cruises for a variety of special interest groups including opera, comedy, spiritual retreats and fan clubs for TV shows like Dark Shadows and Dancing with the Stars!