After breakfast, we will enjoy an orientation tour of Ecuador’s capital city, Quito. We will walk down quaint cobbled streets, lined with beautiful brightly-coloured colonial houses, whose balconies are dressed in flowers.
The town is watched over by the winged Virgin of Quito, sitting up on the Panecillo. Meaning ‘little bread roll’, the Panecillo, so named for its bread-like shape, is a parasitic crater formed by magma from Pichincha Volcano. We will walk down streets previously walked by the Incan people on their way to the Panecillo, which is thought to have been a centre of worship to the Sun and Moon Gods.
When the Spanish arrived, they transformed this Incan avenue into a place heavily influenced by Christianity. Seven crosses were erected along the length of the avenue in an effort to make the indigenous people believe in their God.
We will walk along this street to the Plaza de la Independencia. On the square’s southern side lies one of the oldest cathedrals in South America, and the modern sacred heart of the city – Quito Cathedral, an impressive white-walled building with green-glazed ceramic domes.
The symmetrical Palacio de Carondelet, the Presidential Palace, runs along the western side of the square. Its balconies were a gift from the French Government and are originally from the Tuilleries Palace in Paris. We will also take a look in at the ancestral interior courtyard of the Centro Cultural Metropolitano, which has over the years been used as tobacco factory, prison and university. Walking a little further, we come to the Natioanl Library and the the incomparable Iglesia de la Compañia, a Jesuit church overflowing in Baroque art. The gold that covers its interior hides the church’s tragic history, of the fire that devastated it and earthquake that shook it.
Afterwards, we will head north-west out of Quito where the landscape becomes dry and sandy. In this desert-like place, we will pass the small towns of San Antonio de Pichincha and Calacalí. As we drive along you will notice that the vegetation becomes denser and the leaves of the plants and trees become larger until we reach the Mitad del Mundo - the middle of the earth - as calculated and measured by the French Geodesics Mission. Ecuador literally means Equator and was named after its famous feature.
We will also stop at the archaeological site of Tulipe. Here we’ll see the ruins of ceremonial pools used for ritual baths and sacraments by the Yumbos, a pre-Incan population. We will learn about their way of life and their managing of the important trading route between the coast and the highlands. The Yumbos and the Spanish conquerors were contemporaries and at the museum a guide will tell you more about how the arrival of the Spanish affected the Yumbo people.