Quito, Ecuador's capital has a unique geographic location, nestled on a high Andean plateau at 2820 meters above sea level, and surrounded by mountains the product of thousands of years of violent natural formations that are excellent lookout points. The Pichincha Volcano stands high above the city and is a spectacular backdrop to Quito.
The Itchimbía hill, together with the hills of El Panecillo, and San Juan, were the limits of the initial Spanish city of Quito, founded in 1534, and the first city in the World to be declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Quito spreads out from its original 500-year old Colonial Downtown where its initial inhabitants built churches that are perfectly aligned so that the Sun illuminates the main altars during the solstices and equinoxes.
Itchimbia means “Sacred Hill of the Radiant Sun”, a name given by the Quitu-Caras, the pre-Incan inhabitants of this land, as the sun rises behind this elongated hill every day. Ceramic remains dating back to 1250 AD have been found on Itchimbía. There are several cozy coffee shops and restaurants in the area; the ideal time to get there is just before sunset, to witness how the lights of the city start to shine at the same time as the natural light starts to fade.
El Panecillo, meaning a small bread roll, is crowned by a huge statue of the winged Virgin of Quito, with a privileged location and a 360° degree view of the city and surrounding mountains. It is believed that the Temple to the Sun God was located atop this hill before the arrival of the Spanish.
At San Juan, is the massive neo-gothic Basilica, whose high towers, easily accessible for visitors via an elevator, offer the most breathtaking view of the city; and a few blocks uphill is the Park of the Moon and Restaurant El Ventanal, a window with a privileged perspective of Quito’s Old Town, from where unseen corners like the inside gardens of the cloisters can be seen.
And if you really wish to go up high, take Quito’s Teleferico to Cruz Loma with 18 cabins that carry six guests on an 8-minute ride, which starts at 3045 meters, up to the summit at 4050 meters, on Cruz Loma. At the top, apart of several lookout points, visitors can enjoy a stroll along paths surrounded by Andean shrub forest.
Don’t miss the spectacular panorama of Quito From Above.