Ecuador has embarked on a strategic campaign to draw international visitors, spending a record $60 million on tourism in 2014. Rising from the remains of the Inca empire, with a newly opened airport and a subway in the works, Ecuador’s capital blends colonial history, Andean culture and contemporary infrastructure.
1. Go colonial
Quito’s historic center, one of the Americas’ most well-preserved colonial city centers, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Climb the Basílica del Voto Nacional stairs before having lunch in Casa Gangotena, a boutique hotel overlooking the San Francisco Plaza. ($2 admission to La Basílica)
2. Visit the Chapel of Man
Overlooking Quito, La Capilla del Hombre is equal parts monument, museum and work of art. Created by Oswaldo Guayasamín, it pays tribute to the suffering and resilience of Latin America’s indigenous peoples. ($8 admission).
3. Dine with a view
No stay in Quito is complete without dinner at Pim’s Restaurant atop El Panecillo — the hilly neighborhood rising 656 feet above the city. ($19.50 for filet mignon)
4. Break a sweat
Bike, run or rollerblade the Ciclopaseo, a 19-mile route down Quito thoroughfares, closed off to cars each Sunday. The event is a fun — and healthy — way to see some of Quito’s top destinations. (Free)
5. Find your inner Kubrick
Fans of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange will feel at home in La Naranjilla Mecánica, an eccentric art gallery and LGBT-friendly restaurant designed in homage to the U.S. filmmaker. ($5)
6. Explore Quito’s Bohemian dives
Warm up with a hot canelazo (aguardiente with passion fruit or naranjilla juice) on your way through the Guápulo neighborhood, home to a number of art galleries and bars with postcard views of the Sanctuary of Guápulo in the valley below. ($3)
7. See the latest indie flick
Part restaurant, part theater, Ochoymedio is a showcase for Ecuador’s film industry. Located in the trendy La Floresta neighborhood, Ochoymedio screens movies from Ecuador and elsewhere in Latin America. ($3.50 admission)
8. Get out of town
Quito is a convenient departure place for day trips to the surrounding countryside. Nature lovers will enjoy the Mindo watershed and nearby Cuicocha Lake, while the town of Otavalo and its less touristy neighbor Cotacachi are known for their local craftsmanship. ($2.50 each way by bus)
9. Hike a volcano
The Teleférico cable car takes visitors to the Cruz Loma lookout on Pichincha, the active volcano looming over Quito. The more adventurous can trek to the top of Pichincha’s two peaks, but beware the high altitude. ($7.50)
10. Shop like a local
While tourists can visit the Mariscal district’s tourist market for kitschy souvenirs, a more authentic experience awaits them at the Mercado Iñaquito, a sprawling market and a local favorite.