After Class Activities
Our program allows you plenty of time to discover your new country, culture, traditions, and everyday life after your class is over. Take a guided tour of the colonial center of Quito. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, modern buildings are forbidden, therefore, the old town has retained its colonial charm despite the city s modernization. Some tours contrast old and new with a visit to the museum of Guayasamin, celebrating Ecuador s most famous contemporary artist.
Optional weekend excursions: Cotopaxi Volcano (19,000 ft), Indian market at Saquisili, "extinct" volcano of Pululahua, thermal baths at Papallacta, white water rafting or trekking in Pasochoa National Park. Quito offers the best travel connections to anywhere else within Ecuador and is only a half hour flight from the Amazon Basin, 2.5 hours from the Galapagos Islands and less than two hours to the north is Otavalo, South America s largest and most famous Indian Market. Get yourself started for a trip to Quito with the links below:
Main Sights: Get to Know Quito
The Pichincha volcano culminates at 4776 metres. Quito is located between the high plateau of Turubamba and Rumibamba, which was already inhabited by Indios at the pre-Columbian time. In spite of the foothills of the site, the founders considered that it was possible to create a city there even if its plan were to look like a true chess-board. It s worth doing some hiking.
La Mitad del Mundo
Located about 30 km north of the Quito city center is La Mitad del Mundo, or Middle of the World, or more generally known as the Earth’s equator. A 30 metre tall pyramidal monument identifies the point where 0°0 0 latitude cuts through Ecuador as it divides the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. A line marked near the monument is the most famous attraction and many visitors take the requisite picture of straddling it with both feet. An interesting fact is that with GPS technology, accurate measurements were taken with a different geographic datum and determined that the actual equator lies about 240 metres north of the marked line. The area is quite commercialized, and nearby is a small museum, art gallery and hand-craft stores. The area is accessible by cars, buses and taxis.
Plaza San Francisco
The foundation of the San Francisco place goes back to 1534. Very quickly after its foundation, Quito became a town of art. Between XVIth and XVIIth century, a so great number of remarkable buildings was built, that today, Quito presents, as a whole, as much of interest than a museum in the open air.
Excursions: Explore More of The Region
Many students take a few days to visit these dramatic and beautiful islands that lie on the Equator, 600 miles west of Ecuador and the South American coastline. They were formed as a result of intense volcanic activity and are still among the most volcanic islands in the world. The isolation of the islands has permitted certain species of animals to evolve in isolation. These animals are found nowhere else in the world. It was on these islands that Charles Darwin, upon observation of the interaction of rare birds, reptiles and sea lions, began the thinkings which would lead to his famous "Theory of Evolution" based on natural selection.
A visit to this impressive wildlife sanctuary will be a memorable experience for those who really appreciate nature. Some of the animals you will see include: Giant Tortoises, Fur Seals, Sea Lions, Land and Sea Iguanas and countless species of birds. Tours can be booked either in Quito or Cuenca and most students plan 2 or 3 days trips.
Cotopaxi National Park
If you decide not to fly and travel by road, the "Royal Road of the Incas" now known as the Pan-American Highway will transport you to Cotopaxi National Park, site of the world s highest active volcano.
Numerous Pre-Columbian archeological sites in the countryside surrounding Quito await! Explore pre-Incan pyramids at Rumicucho and Pambamarca, the fort at Rumicucho and the burial mounds at Hacienda Zuleta. These tours are best for people with a real interest in archeology, as the sites in and of themselves are not Palenque-sized nor as grandiose as Machu Picchu.
About 2 hours east of Quito on the road to Baeza, rest the hot springs of Papallacta. The baths range from ice cold to hot as hell. Weekday visits are recommended over weekends, as the resort can become quite crowded on Saturday and Sunday. The pools at La Merced are somewhat nearer to Quito, but most operators arrange tours to the more scenic Papallacta area.
Museums: Experience The History of Past Generations & Cultures
Museo Etnografico Museo Fundacion Guayasamin
Located in the Bellavista neighbourhood of Quito, this museum is a permanent home to paintings of Ecuador’s most well-known artist Oswaldo Guayasamin. His colorful paintings often depict the struggle the Latin American people. The museum also display artifacts from the pre-Columbian era works and Colonial art from the famous Quito School. In addition, the Capilla del Hombre (The Chapel of Man) was a project created by Guayasamin and is a chapel dedicated to both God and man. Works of art displayed provide an insight into poverty and struggles of Latin Americans and the hope that may lie there.
Museo de La Ciudad
The Museo de la Ciudad, or City Museum) is housed in the former San Juan de Díos Hospital. The exhibits include crafts, pottery, old city maps and information about traditions and customs that date back to the pre-Columbian era and follows to the present day.
Centro Cultural Metropolitano
Located in the interior of the old Central Bank building, the Centro Cultural Metropolitano is a prime example of a re-purposed historical site. The modern museum is enjoyed by many visitors as the neo-Classical structure is home to several small galleries that feature free exhibitions by local and international artists. Outside, the relaxing courtyards have cafés and patios for patrons to enjoy.
Convento y Museo de San Francisco
The beautiful Templo de San Francisco is one of the largest and most important catholic religious centers in Quito. It contains a lot of religious art including sculptures and paintings from the Spanish Colonial era. The building was designed as a temple for the San Franciscan order and includes many inner patios and corridors. Some of the monks still live on the at the temple and it is where the base radio is located for the order.
Sports: Go Out and Be Active
Horseback riding guided day tours are available for beginners to advanced riders. Most day programs are managed through one of the nearby haciendas or the Green Horse Ranch located in the geobotanic reserve of Pululahua, an ancient volcanic crater filled with tangled vegetation.
The popularity of whitewater rafting in Ecuador grows daily. Ecuador has emerged from whitewater obscurity to fame and is now known as one of the world’s premier whitewater playgrounds. The rapids originate from the mountains and flow towards the Pacific. Along the way, these rivers create great conditions for whitewater rafting, suitable for both experienced and beginner rafters. Near Quito you can race through humid tropical forest, which you’ll have little time to notice as you negotiate the class II/III rapids, making for a thrilling, not-too-dangerous day out. For a little more “peligro,” there’s the “raft-eating” class III-IV rapids of the Rio Toachi.
Climbing and Hiking
You can escape the bustle of Quito to the fresh air of its surroundings where opportunities for
rock climbing, mountaineering (locally called andinismo), trekking and hiking are numerous. Cotopaxi National Park, created in 1975, is home to 34,000-hectares of pristine nature and the world’s tallest active volcano. Climbing the volcano is not for the inexperienced and requires essential gear. The Pichincha Volcano also offers great hiking along a grassy ridge that gradually rises towards the summit. Guided hiking tours are recommended.
Where else can you paraglide from a volcanic peak close to a major metropolitan center? Several paragliding schools can be found within an hour of Quito. Take a week-long training course or entrust yourself to an experienced pilot on a tandem flight. Paragliding flights last 10 to 25 minutes depending on the air currents and it is best to experience it in the morning for maximum airlift.