Don’t let UNESCO put you off Quito.

By | Category: Travel destinations

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is the American Capital of Culture for 2011. But if you start reading some internet background, you come across the fact that Quito was UNESCO’s first world cultural site along with Krakow in Poland. The honour was well deserved but in the original document from 1977 proposing the city, the inspectors said, “Quito forms a harmonious ensemble sui generis, where the actions of man and nature are brought together to create a work unique and transcendant of its kind.” Forget this gobbledegook. What has Quito got that won it this award? Why should you visit?
Think of Ecuador and your first thought might be that it is twinned with Buxton in Derbyshire. That would be my last thought but it is true. My first thought would be the Galapagos Islands that are now protected and known throughout the world. Few could tell you much about Quito though. The city’s tourist website describes the city as sausage shaped being 25 miles long but only about 4 miles wide. In the middle is the colonial heart, the south is where most people live and thus almost tourist free and the north is where the airport, the business and the cultural centre is. This, then is where the visitors go. For more information see www.quito.com.ec.UNESCO awarded Quito its status because it is the best preserved and largely unaltered historic centre in South America. So visitors tend to go for the historic, cultural and colonial feel. But preserved from its colonial foundation in the 1530’s. Of its life before then little remains but in museums such as the Museo de la Cuidad, the Rumipamba Archaeological and Ecological Park and the Museo Nacional del Banco Central del Ecuador. But the Spanish heritage is everywhere not only where you might expect in churches, cathedrals and government offices but in everyday houses. It could be one of the older Spanish cities with Moorish influence.
The city is overshadowed by volcanos, and is the second highest capital city in South America. Get out of the city and you can see the craters.Head just north and you come to the Mindo-Nambillo Ecological reserve where a cloud forest stretches for miles. As with clouds there is rain, quite a lot of it but that means waterfalls all year round. And wildlife and forests So just 90 minutes outside the capital you are in another world. Here is Tulipe which may have been a pre-Columbian ceremonial site. Nearly 2,000 pyramids suggest this was an important area long before the Spaniards arrived.
It is for these reasons that UNESCO highlighted Quito, probably the same reasons that it has been awarded the American Capital of Culture status this year.

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