AM: Begin this half-day city tour of Quito’s exquisite historic district. Wandering along the cobblestone streets of this UNESCO-declared “World Heritage Site,” you’ll find Quito’s colonial center packed with artistic and architectural treasures. Internationally considered “the best-preserved, least altered historic center in Latin America,” you should be prepared to discover picturesque colonial-era plazas, 17th-century churches, age-old monasteries, and beautifully restored mansions. These experiences include majestic churches, monasteries, and cathedrals – guardians of a stunning artistic and cultural heritage. Within these sanctuaries, you’ll find altars, pulpits, pillars, and arches adorned head-to-toe in gold leaf, allowing these elements to shine like jewels. Specifically, the visit starts at the Basilica del Voto Nacional, one of the largest churches in Ecuador and one of the most important works of Ecuadorian neo-gothic architecture. While the exterior of the building stands out for its stone carvings that represent plants and animals of the country, the interior consists of 24 chapels. Beneath the structure are crypts in which lie the remains of several former presidents of the Republic, and on top of the 100-meter-tall church is a beautiful gazebo that serves as a small cafe. Continuing on to the always-vibrant Plaza Grande (“Independence Square”), you’ll find this site surrounded by the City Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. Nearby, we’ll also visit the intricately detailed church of the “Compañia de Jesus” to find its spectacular interior inlaid in gold. Next, we’ll walk to the San Francisco Church, one of the principal religious monuments of the New World, with its impressive facade and atrium and its Baroque Moorish-influenced interior with the winged “Virgin of Quito” on its main altar.
In addition to magnificent churches, monuments, and museums, you’ll also get a feel for authentic day-to-day Quito life, catching glimpses of indigenous locals in their traditional Inca-influenced outfits and fedoras, each immersed in the hustle and bustle of everyday living. Strolling hand in hand, your “Historic Quito Tour” will end with a birds-eye view of the city from the panoramic “Virgin of Quito” monument atop Panecillo Hill, which overlooks the capital. This will give you a chance to appreciate Quito from above, and – if the weather permits – to catch a view of the spectacular “Volcano Avenue,” two parallel mountain ranges containing eight of the country’s ten highest peaks. What could be more romantic?
After lunch, you will continue to an Andes hot springs, which are common throughout this area. Because these waters have various medicinal and healing properties, resorts and spas have sprung up here, welcoming travelers who wish to undergo hydrotherapy treatments during their trips to Latin America. In Ecuador, the town of Papallacta is one of these destinations that possess volcanically warmed mineral waters containing sulfates, sodium, calcium, chloride, and magnesium – which give the water characteristics that are anti-allergic, de-inflammatory, diuretic, anti-rheumatic and sedative.