Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is a great place to stop off if you are heading for the Galapagos. My accommodation in this city, on the Equator at the centre of the world, was at the magnificent, and very friendly, Casa Hotel Las Plazas.
Built in 1874, it was the home of important figures from the republican era of Ecuador and a meeting place for Dr Isidro Ayora Cueva, president of Ecuador from 1926 to 1931. The building is now a unique hotel which has been restored to preserve its classic Renaissance style, creating a warm and exceptional atmosphere for its visitors.
The bedrooms are located around an internal courtyard which accommodates the reception area. There is a choice of luxury rooms, suites, and standard rooms all of which are ensuite, comfortable, have Wi-Fi and tasteful décor. Guests can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the old city from the hotel’s rooftop terrace. My insider tip if you are booking at the hotel, is to ask for a room away from the street – the taxi drivers do love to hoot their horns.
This intimate hotel with 17 rooms, which has a discreet entrance behind large wooden doors and up a flight of stairs, is perfect for the solo traveller and has a very homely feeling. The staff, some of whom take pride in wearing traditional dress, go out of their way to help. At breakfast they delight in sharing the Ecuadorian love of fruit juices bringing the fruit used to make the juice to the table and explaining where it comes from. My favourites were ‘tomate de arboi’ which, despite its name, does not taste like tomato juice it is much fruitier and babaco which has tastes of strawberry, papaya, kiwi and pineapple.
The tiny restaurant does not serve lunch or dinner but as the hotel is centrally located there is a good selection of restaurants nearby including Vista Hermosa just around the corner. To reach this restaurant diners enter one of the oldest elevators in the city. The restaurant boasts a roof top terrace overlooking the historic city which looks quite spectacular with the numerous churches illuminated in the evening. I enjoyed soup made with potato chola and chaucha, accompanied by cheese and avocado followed by a delicious dry goat stew with yellow rice, avocado, sweet plantain and steamed potatoes. Ecuadorian food really is good.
Casa Hotel Las Plazas, located on Venezuela, is just one block from the Plaza Grande and near important places of interest such as the Basilica, the San Francisco Church and the Presidential Palace. The area, one of the first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO, boasts a plethora of well-preserved colonial buildings, squares and churches.
Whilst roaming around the cobbled streets you cannot fail to see, high up on a hill looking down on the world going by, the statue of the Virgin on the Panecillo. Designed and built by the Spanish sculptor Agustín de la Herrán Matorras, it is made from 7,400 pieces of aluminium. It’s worth a trip up there to see the intricate way it was built and meet some friendly dogs who take shelter from the rain under a homemade dog tent created by some kind person to keep them dry.
But don’t try and walk up the El Panecillo hill to admire the Virgin. Quito is the second highest official capital in the world, and some visitors suffer from altitude sickness so much so that many hotels have oxygen on hand to sell to distressed guests. But if you enjoy heights and avoid altitude sickness, I can recommend a ride in the 2.5km cable car ride known as the TelefériQo which winds its way up the volcano Pichincha around 4100 metres above sea level for some wonderful views. The way to get around Quito is in a taxi, as some areas of the city are not safe for tourists and the advice is to go out with as few valuables as possible and keep your phone and cash close. Yellow taxis are safe and abundant in Quito, as is the traffic. They cost around five dollars a ride with most of the journey spent in a traffic jam.
Casa Hotel Las Plazas, Venezuela 6-57 y Olmedo, Quito 170401, Ecuador.
Tel: +593 02 286-934
Located in the historic centre of Quito, the hotel is just 100 yards from the Sucre Theatre and 350 yards from the Colonial Art Museum and Bolivar Theatre. Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) is 20 km away and a 55-minute drive.
Type of Hotel: 3-Star Hotel
Number of Rooms: 17 rooms with complimentary Wi-Fi and breakfast included in the nightly rate.
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tip: Ask for a room away from the street as the taxi drivers do love to hoot their horns!
Reviewer’s Rating: 10/10
Debbie Pugh-Jones enjoyed a career in journalism working for daily and regional newspapers and has travelled extensively, with many of her adventures being animal-orientated
Photographs by Debbie Pugh-Jones