In the heart of Argentina, the province of Córdoba is home to a wealth of history and beautiful...
text: Viviana García | photos: Pablo Corral Vega
The route from Quito to the mountainous sierra is an unforgettable experience. Discover the secrets of the highlands over three intense days.
You can see the south of Quito and the Cotopaxi volcano from the cater of Pichincha.
An aerial view of the Iglesia de San Francisco; Nightlife at the restaurant La Boca del Lobo on Plaza Foch in La Mariscal.
The Ecuadorian capital offers an endless array of impressive destinations. Start by visiting the historic old quarter, where the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús dazzles visitors with its baroque stone façade. Just a few steps away from this Jesuit church, in the Plaza Grande, the city’s Cathedral houses a collection of works by famous artists from the Colonial and Republican eras. The Plaza Grande is also the site of the Palacio de Gobierno, which you can tour in about 45 minutes, taking in the fine wood floors and ceilings, as well as portraits of the presidents of Ecuador.
The Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús in downtown Quito.
For lunch, your best bet is Bodega Meneses, also known as the Casa del Sánduche (House of Sandwiches). Order the mixto, piled high with four kinds of cold cuts, ham and cheese. In the afternoon, the neighborhood of La Ronda is a great place to shop for hats at Humacatama and to enjoy the pleasant piano melodies played by Huberto Santacruz. At night, plan a visit to Plaza Foch in the neighborhood of La Mariscal, an area full of bars, restaurants and discotheques.
The lovely Lago San Pablo in Imbabura Province.
Get up extra early to take the bus to Ibarra, capital of the province of Imbabura, north of Quito. The trip lasts three hours, but along the way you’ll pass through several unique towns. First is Pedro Moncayo, where you can have a breakfast of sponge cakes and hot chocolate at the café El Chocolate de la Abuela. Afterwards, head to the lagoons of Mojanda to fish for trout and look for animals like wild rabbits and wild turkey. If you continue on to Lago San Pablo, don’t miss the chance to stop at the Hostería Cabañas del Lago, which offers a variety of watersports.
The next stop is San Luis de Otavalo, where the main attraction is a folk-art fair: eight blocks full of local artisans selling knit handbags, woolen tapestries, ponchos, hats and more. For lunch, try the traditional eatery Yamor. Order a plato de fritada, a fry-up featuring pork, mote, tortillas de papa, empanadas and toasted corn. Wet your whistle with a yamor, a type of chicha (an alcoholic beverage) made with seven different kinds of corn.
The Plaza de la Independencia in Quito’s old quarter; Visitors can buy all kinds of folk art at the famous market in Otavalo
Just minutes away is the town of Cotacachi, famous for its leather goods. Along 10 de Agosto, you’ll find most of the stores selling jackets, handbags and shoes. Further on is Atuntaqui, a fashionable city recognized around the world for producing high-quality textiles. Here, you can shop for clothing and enjoy the sweets at the downtown café Coffee Time.
Finally, you’ll arrive in Ibarra. The “White City” is known for products made of wood and iron. Several stores sell furniture and décor items made from cedar, laurel and walnut. Top off the afternoon with a visit the Basílica La Dolorosa and then enjoy some helados de paila (ice cream prepared in a copper pan) at Rikkos Helados.
The restaurant at Hostería Mindo Lago. foto: mindolago.com.ec
Nature enthusiasts should head to Mindo, two hours from Quito. This magical destination amazes visitors with gorgeous landscapes, rivers and forests. First, visit the Bosque Protector Mindo-Nambillo, which has an orchid house and more than 400 species of birds, including parrots, ducks and hummingbirds.
Later, be sure to stop by the Paz de las Aves bird sanctuary, a private, 74-acre forest reserve, where you can see species like the cock-of-the-rock, the golden tanager and the brown Inca hummingbird. You should also visit the Jardín de Mariposas (Butterfly Garden) at the Hostería Mariposas de Mindo, where a guide will explain the four stages of this insect’s life. You can even feed these delicate creatures. At lunchtime, El Quetzal serves up succulent pork chops, mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. For dessert, treat yourself to their famous brownies.
Fishing for tilapia is another fun option, and the Hostería El Carmelo inn has its own special lagoon. Afternoon is the perfect time to head to the waterfall on the Nambillo river. The crystalline waters invite tourists to practice watersports like rafting or dive right in from heights ranging from 13 to 46 feet. At nightfall, pay a visit to the Hostería Mindo Lago to enjoy a symphony of frogs. You can’t see them, but you can listen to their songs on a magnificent nighttime tour of the forest. In
Where to Stay
$$ Hotel Real Audiencia, Quito
$ Hostal La Ronda, Quito
$$ Hotel Ajavi, Ibarra
Av. Mariano Acosta 1638
$ Hotel La Giralda, Ibarra
$ Hostería Mindo Lago
$$ Hostería Mariposas de Mindo
Where to EAT
La Casa del Sánduche
Calle Olmedo 880 & García Moreno, Quito
Bartolomé García 345 & Teodoro Gómez, Ibarra
Five blocks from Parque Central in Otavalo.
Calles Oviedo & Sucre, Ibarra
Calle 9 de Octubre, Mindo
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