Walking around Quito is like flying over the Ecuadorian timeline, a way of understanding Latin America’s complex past and evolving present. There is evidence of human presence tracing back to 8000 B.C. and somehow it really is palpable despite layers and layers of later civilizations piled up on top.
In the historic core of the city, the Centro Historico, ancestral herbal medicine recipes are passed on from generation to generation alongside the art of restoring religious icons, millinery and milling. For the past decade, Quito has been working on regenerating its rich core. Wandering the streets of Old Town, you can now access most places, including some previously run down.
To really understand the capital city, we took a tour with a local guide from Metropolitan Touring who took us to local businesses that best represented the vast array of craftsmen in the area. We sampled “agua de vida“, volunteered to experience a “limpia” (Andean energy balance) treatment by the herbalist in the San Francisco Market on Calle Rocafuerte, tried on hats and admired the handiwork of seamstresses specialised in making clothing for the Church’s cherubs.
We took a walk down La Ronda to participate in a chocolate making workshop with a local chocolatier – a Swiss man married to an Ecuadorian lady, seemingly uniting the best of both chocolate worlds. Ecuadorian cacao was historically exported to chocolatiers and chocolate makers around the world, but there are now more and more Ecuadorian chocolatiers and chocolate makers successfully exporting the finished product, which, by the way, goes perfectly with a nice cup of Ecuadorian coffee!
Quito is a complex city to understand – I highly recommend starting your trip there with a local guide who will explain all the intricacies of the capital.