| Important Towns
| Historical Routes | Archeological
| Indigenous Markets | Artisan
Crafts | Ethnic Groups |
Towns of Historical and Cultural
Situated in an Andean valley at 2,850 m above sea level at the foot of
Volcano Pichincha (4,794 m), Quito is a modern city with a living history.
One of Latin Americas most historically important cities, Quito
has been declared a Cultural Heritage of Humanity site by UNESCO. Noteworthy
for its architectural beauty, Quito is home to numerous churches and convents
built in the colonial period. The Metropolitan Cathedral, located in Independence
Plaza, is one of the citys most impressive historical and architectural
sites. Others worthy of mention are the following cathedrals and historical
sites: San Francisco, la Compañía de Jesús, San Agustín,
Santo Domingo, El Sagrario, La Merced, Carmen Bajo, San Sebastian, Santa
Barbara, and San Blas. A large part of their interiors, especially the
altars and pulpits, are gilded in gold and house innumerable works of
religious art. Some of their museums hold valuable collections of paintings
and sculptures belonging to the artistic genre which has been come to
known as the Quito School.
Another important building is the Carondelet Palace, the seat of the Central
Government. In Quitos historical center, with its steep, narrow,
cobblestone streets, the artistic and architectural influence of Spain
can be seen in the general architectural style of the homes, their balconies,
their tiled roofs, and their interior patios.
The city has its annual festival in December, when festivities such as
bullfights, the election of the Queen of Quito, national and international
concerts, street dances, and fireworks turn Quito into the site of a national
gala for an entire week. The celebrations are in honor of founding of
Quito on December 6, 1534 by Sebástian de Benalcázar.
Another colonial area, outside the of Old Town, is the suburb Guápulo.
Perched on the eastern slopes of the city, Guapalos most impressive
sight is its famous sanctuary to the Virgin of Guápulo, the oldest
sanctuary of its kind in the country.
In the center of the country lies Riobamba, the former Ecuadorian capital.
Its colonial surface reveals beautiful churches such as the Cathedral,
La Basílica, La Merced, and San Antonio. A rich collection of religious
art is on display in El Convento de la Concepción. With its cobbled
streets, the city lies alongside majestic snowcapped Chimborazo.
An old railway line, constructed at the beginning of the last century,
runs from Quito to the south of the country, passing through Riobamba.
Along the way it is possible to view the spectacular Andean Range with
its paramos, mountains, forests, flora, and wildlife. Along the way, youll
pass the Devils Nose (La Nariz del Diablo). Dropping down this hair-raising
stretch of track from the height of the Andes to the western lowlands
is a thrill for any passenger. This engineering marvel requires going
up and down through a series of zig-zags. The spectacular setting is very
close to the community of Huigra, in southern Ecuador.
To the north of Quito are the Cochasquí ruins, an archaeological
site containing burial grounds that belonged to Quitos first inhabitants.
The pyramids were erected with a material called cangahua.
The route leading to this area runs from Guayllabamba to Tabacundo.
Rumicucho is another complex of pre-Incan ruins. It can be found 4 km
to the north of San Antonio de Pichincha. El Pucará de Rumicucho
was a military fortress used strategically by the Incas in their conquest
of the northern Andes. In the Valley de Intag, in Imbabura, youll
find the strategically located Gualimán, a pre-Incan ceremonial
site with burial mounds, pyramids, and access ramps. The site is also
home to a small museum filled with archaeological vestiges. In nearby
Chimbo, in the province of Bolívar, the pyramid-shaped ancient
burial grounds at Cerro Zumbi, are an interesting site. Another archeological
hot spot is the Punín cementary, 30 minutes outside of Riobamba.
Dating back to prehistoric times, Punín is known for housing fossilized
remains of animals from the Pleistocene Era. Human remains dating back
over 8,000 B.C. have been discovered in the same area in the Chalán
Gorge. The area has a museum and also is home to the Sanctuary to the
Lord of Chuypi.
The most important indigenous market in the country can be found in Otavalo,
in the province of Imbabura. Dozens of communities congregate in the Plaza
de los Ponchos to display their textile works every Saturday. The techniques
used to produce the clothing, blankets, and tapestries dates back to colonial
times. There are also many other handicrafts offered including naive art,
ceramics, personal accessories, jewels, bags, and more. In Saquisilí,
in the province of Cotopaxi, there is another market gathering of eight
different neighboring communities who offer every class of agricultural
products, including cattle and sheep.
Artisan Goods and Handicrafts
Calderón, located 15 minutes from Quito, offers visitors a variety
of products handcrafted from bread dough. Small objects and ornaments,
smooth and colorful, that represent individuals synonymous with the country
as well as other themes are also on sale. They are typically sold along
the communitys main avenue. Southeast of Ibarra, in the province
of Imbabura, we find the small town of Cotocachi. Known as the Musical
Capital of Ecuador, it is also widely visited for its fine leather
crafts. Small and large stores in the center of the community offer fine
and delicate articles. Weekends are the best time to become familiar with
the art of leatherworking. In La Esperanza and Zuleta, close to Ibarra,
the woman skillfully produce fine multicolored embroideries. There are
also artisans here dedicated to leatherworking.
In Pujilí, in the province of Cotopaxi, the artisans are known
for their ceramic painting and glass works. Ambato, the capital of the
province of Tungurahua, is well known for the fine leather work of its
craftsman. Nearby, is Pelileo, which has become an important industrial
town, in addition to being a center of handcraft production. Pelileos
central attraction are the Salasaca Indians, who produce ornamental tapestries
with wool and natural fiber. Today, San Pedro de Pelileo is most widely
known for its production of denim clothes. In Bolívar we find San
José de Chimbo, 20 km from Guaranda, widely known for its manufacture
of guitars. Its woodworkers also participate in the construction of fireworks
displays. Guano, 10 minutes from Riobamba, is an important artisan center
for woolen textiles. The areas speciality is the production of rugs
and carpets. Forty six km away is Guamote, with its rich artisan production
of wool and natural fiber. Another textile and ceramics center is Alausí.
Two hours away from theRiobamba, the town boasts a high level of commercial
Several distinct indigenous groups all live in the Andean region. The
Awá is Carchis most prominent group. The Tsáschilas
inhabit vast regions in both Pichincha and in Manabí. The Quichuas,
the Andes largest single indigenous group, live primarily in the provinces
of Imbabura, Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, and Bolívar. The
major sub-groups of the Quichua are the Otavalos, Cayambes, Chibuleos,
and Panzaleos. Of these groups, the Otavalos are the most well known,
in Ecuador and internationally, due to their extensive textile industry.
Towns | Historical Routes | Archeological
| Indigenous Markets | Artisan
Crafts | Ethnic Groups |