Ecuador is a unique country in its characteristics, history and beauty, like the union of fire, water and earth.
Ecuador is known for diversity - both natural and cultural. With 92 animal species per km2, Ecuador has been also known by highest biodiversity in the world. Visiting its four unique regions: the Amazon rainforest, Andean peaks, Pacific coastline and archipelago of the Galapagos Islands, you get the impression that you have visited the whole world! The fact that included communities still practice many of the cultural traditions of their ancestors (the original language, festivals, dressing style and artistic expression) contributes to this diversity.
Ecuador belongs to a group of smaller countries in the Americas. It lies on both: the southern and northern hemisphere, divided by the Equator, which it was named after. It is bordered by Colombia and Peru, on the east and south and the Pacific Ocean on the west.
San Francisco de Quito, which is the full, formal name of the capital of Ecuador, is located at 2,850 meters above sea level, which is higher than any alpine ski resort.
Its historic quarter is full of magnificent churches, monasteries and steep cobbled streets. It lies at an important intersection point of the roads which were built by the ancient Incas and finished by the Spaniards. The result is very spectacular. The city is surrounded by several mountains, scattered below the Pichincha volcano, which erupts occasionally, with the thick clouds of dust. Taking into account seismic factors, locals will surely agree that it has been very bad location for the construction of a large urban center. As a result, they live each day as if it was their last. The largest population inhabits the northern part of this narrow city. The beautiful part of the south is mostly avoided, since it has almost collapsed. Regeneration of Quito is ongoing and should save the most valuable architectural gems from the period of Spanish colonization.
To get a feeling of such an atmosphere, you should visit La Compañía, a Baroque church built by the Jesuits between 1605 and 1765. The interior is a combination of extravagant master builders’ artistry and minimalism. However, while the church was built, the Jesuits have been losing their reputation on the ground of Latin America, so the entire row was expelled just a few years after the cessation of construction. On the way from religion to politics, you must go to Independence Square (Plaza de la Independencia) which is located a few dozen meters away from La Compañía. There is also a neoclassical Presidential palace and the seat of the Government of Ecuador, open to visitors on weekdays. The square is still dominated by the Independence Monument (Quito launched the first mass protest against the Spanish in 1809) and today is the main gathering place.
Go further to the Square of Santo Domingo (Plaza Santo Domingo) where is the namesake church, which was built by Dominican monks in the eighties of the 16th century. Behind the square, in Montufar street, 352 you will find perhaps the most interesting place in the old town. It is the Escuela Taller, a school where young artists learn traditional skills - from carpentry to masonry. A little further is the bohemian quarter La Ronda, full of cafes, but for a good meal it, is best to visit Casa Gangotena hotel, on the Plaza de San Francisco, whose chef Andreas Davila justifies the title of the best restaurant in town. After an invigorating meal, you can visit the beautiful church and the monastery museum founded in 1536, on the same square. It is a home to approximately 50 monks who still live there. Just around the corner is the Casa del Alabado, building from the 17th century, which serves today as an archaeological museum.
It is a must to visit the local indoor market at the junction of San Francisco Rocafuerte and Chimborazo streets. In addition to the incredible variety of fruits and vegetables, you can find different kinds of spices here. You can try the cleansing, purifying treatment with herbs, which costs only about three US dollars, but you can get a similar service in most hotels.