By Mark Shaffer
One of the most fascinating places we’ve been to… Quito, Ecuador! Our trip this issue, took us south of the equator, to a town rich in history, romance and excitement! There are so many reasons to visit Quito, it would take this entire magazine to write the whole story. But once you’ve been there, you will want to go back for more. We spent five days in this town, and didn’t know what to expect, but what an incredible and memorable surprise! From the classy hotels, to the cobblestone streets of yesterday, you will love this city beyond a doubt. From the rich culture, to the delicious food, to the love of music, I highly recommend Quito on your bucket list, if not sooner!
THE CITY:Originally named “San Francisco de Quito” this beautiful city is the Capital of Ecuador, (Spanish for Equator), with a population of 2.7 million, a bustling city full of ancient history in perfect harmony with big city modern culture. Quito sits high in the Andes mountain range, in South America, at an altitude of 9350 above sea level. With one thousand years of incredible preserved history, you will fall in love with the charm and passion that went into Quito. There are three main regions to know about Quito itself: South Quito, somewhat industrial, is primarily where the hardworking locals live and play. Central Quito is known as the Historical District, with it’s massive ancient churches, cobblestone streets, and the Presidential Palace. North Quito is the modern Quito, with incredible shopping malls, beautiful hotels, and all of today’s modern big city features. A city for both the young and old, you will fall in love all over again, as Quito is a City of Romance. I suggest you bring someone you care for, or plan on meeting that special somebody there, but don’t go alone; you’ll want to share this experience with someone incredible as the city itself.
WHAT TO PACK:There’s no need to dress up in Quito, unless you have a fancy dinner or special event planned. Jeans are totally accepted everywhere. For gentlemen, I recommend comfortable t-shirts, tennis shoes, jeans and perhaps a few dress shirts for going out, but that’s it! Ladies, you won’t need your high heels here. Be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes, and casual attire. Maybe a sweater or two for the evenings, but if you’re a Vegas local, you won’t need a jacket at all. Make sure you bring your camera, comfortable walking shoes, and your vitamins. The altitude here is high, and you’ll want to stay healthy for your vacation!
THE WEATHER: You can always count on a consistent temperature in Quito, around 67 degrees daily high, and nightly lows around 45 degrees. While it’s cool, (or “Frio”) to the locals, I found it a refreshing break from the heat of Las Vegas. This is a city built in the mountains, and has some rainforest effects at times, so to avoid the rain, I recommend June, July or August for your trip. If it does rain, no worries, there are hundreds of umbrellas for sale on every corner. (Only $3.00, so save your suitcase space, and don’t pack one.)
THE AIRPORT: In a word, Wow! The new Quito Airport was built only two years ago, and feels like brand new. It is absolutely gorgeous, with all of today’s modern amenities, check-in kiosks, restaurants, shops and great customer service. The new Quito Airport rivals the cleanliness of McCarran’s new T3, however includes the warmth of the city itself- a little out of town, but a wonderful and memorable taxi ride into Quito! About 60 minutes into town, I think you will enjoy “tour like” journey to your hotel. I suggest you fly in, or out, during the day, for the views are spectacular of this beautiful mountainous region, from either side of the plane. The old airport, located in the heart of the city, is now a huge park with concerts and special events on a regular calendar.
ACCOMMODATIONS: There are many beautiful accommodations: Beautiful Hotels, Hilton, Mercury, Swissotel, Radisson,and more. We stayed at Quito’s Hilton Colon, and highly recommend this incredible luxury property to anyone! It’s nothing but first class service from the moment you pull in to the beautiful Hilton Colon! You are greeted with courtesy concierge captains at your car, helping with all yourluggage and registration needs. They are all bilingual, so there is no language concerns at this fantastic resort. Once you check in, you will find an incredible hotel, with luxury amenities everywhere. The lobby is adorned with elegant roses and travertine floors in a comfortable lounge atmosphere. The rooms are superb, with every benefit imaginable, and large window views of the Quito skyline. The beds are the best and you will want to stay in bed all day, but don’t- this hotel is a true resort with much to see. The restaurant is always ready for breakfast, and delivers some of the best food any Hilton can offer. The menu has all your American favorites, as well as some classic Ecuadorian delights. The lobby bar is very intimate, with a classic warm charm of days gone by. The Sushi bar sits just outside the lobby lounge, and hosts your favorite pescetarian delights.
GETTING AROUND: There are several options for making your way around Quito. You may choose to rent a car, take the bus or walk around. However, the most popular mode of transportation is any one of the 8,800 taxis available on every corner! I couldn’t believe how convenient and reliable the taxis in Quito are. I consider it the best form of transportation, and it cost us about 1 or 2 dollars, for just about everywhere we went. At the most, I think we spent 5 dollars for getting around the local city. However, if you book a taxi from the airport, it will run $50 for that enjoyable, one-hour journey. On one day, we took a city tour, booked a taxi for the entire day, and only spent $100. Best tour I ever had. We found a bilingual taxi driver, he took us to all the sites, showed us everything, and even took pictures of us at the stops. A very enjoyable, personal and private tour of the city.
ENTERTAINMENT: Live music is prominent in Quito, with bands performing at just about every bar and lounge. From Rock, to Salsa, Dance, Top 40, and Karaoke, this city is not lacking in fun, live (and I must say), excellent entertainment! The “Party Center” is the FOCH Center, where all the action is, and centered in Quito. Bars, restaurants, clubs, karaoke, and so much more! Another hot spot we hit was Calle La Ronda- a cute little cobblestone street, in Old Quito, lined with bars, restaurants, gift shops, more bars, more restaurants, and not a dull moment anywhere on the street. We closed the night on Calle de la Ronda, and shot one last photo.
THE CULTURE: In Quito, I found the people very friendly and helpful. There is a rich, deep culture that goes back a couple thousand years, that is evident in the people’s love for their land. I could write an entire novel on the history of Quito, but this trip, we explored the current culture, and how the people of Quito live today. What we found amazing was that they, in many ways, are just like Americans. They take their kids shopping, they play music in the park, they shop, dine, dance, go to concerts, church, and celebrate Mother’s Day buffets at the hotels, (which we did as well), and enjoy the amenities of their city and culture, just as we do here. It’s beautiful to find that in this big world, we are so similar in our love for life. Many of their holidays are the same as ours. When you travel there, you will also enjoy the fact that practically all hospitality services are bilingual, making it very easy to get around and enjoy your vacation.
SECURITY: Before this trip, I was advised to be very safe down there. Well, I am back, and safety was the last thing I had to think of. First of all, the city is very clean, safe, and booming. Everyone there is doing fine. Like New York or Las Vegas, every city has areas that are not the best to be in after dark, but all-in-all, Quito is very safe, and no different than any big city in America. In fact, maybe safer than most US cities, in the fact that there are police on every corner, and you are never more than a few feet away from security. They take care of their people, and take care of the tourists. Quito is totally safe, and you will enjoy every sight, sound, and taste of this fabulous city, with its beautiful blend of ancient history, and modern culture. You will fall in love with Quito, as I did, and I don’t think anyone leaves Quito, without leaving a few tears of joy, of their own. Happy Travels!
*Note: the non-rainy season is best for travel in July, August and September.