The capital city of Quito is Ecuador's largest and most populous city, with almost 3.5 million people within the metro region. At 9,350 feet in elevation, it is the second-highest capital city in the world and the closest to the equator. In 2008, Quito was designated as the headquarters of the Union of the South American Nations. As one of the world's first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO in 1978, Quito has one of the best-preserved historic centers in the Americas.
While in Quito, I was on my own to explore the city. I knew I wanted to see the best the city had to offer, but because of its massive spread, it's not the type of place that's easily walkable. So, I decided to start in the heart of the city at the Basilica of the National Vow.
The Basilica is the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas with a spire height of 377 feet. With the first stone laid on July 10, 1892, the basilica was constructed for almost the next 20 years. Pope John Paul II blessed the basilica on January 30, 1985 and inaugurated on July 12, 1988 but remains technically unfinished. According to local legend, the completion of the basilica would signal the ending of the world.
When visiting, you will want to make sure you have enough time to walk the grounds and explore the various nooks and crannies. While the basilica itself is gorgeous, you will not want to miss the experience of seeing the sprawling expanse of Quito from the top. You can take an elevator from one of the main towers to the top, then walk across a catwalk through the attic, before arriving on an outdoor walkway. While you're high up, there's more to go! Be sure to locate the iron staircase that takes you to the very top- it is from here that you will find yourself eye-level with the clock towers while gazing out upon unparalleled views of the city landscape and surrounding mountains.
Once your knees stop shaking from experiencing the shear height, you will want to take some time to appreciate the unparalleled views of the city. On your way back down, be sure to take a peek at the workers repairing and assembling the beautiful stained glass found throughout the basilica.
I like hidden gems, hole-in-the-walls, and offbeat destinations