El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Getting to know all of Quito

Tourists come to Quito, visit the central historical district, the Mariscal, and some of the other attractions around the city (mostly in the northern part of the city) and they leave thinking they have seen Quito.  But what they have seen, really, is a small slice of the urban pie, while the largest part of Quito -  the rural area– goes unnoticed and unexplored.

The city of Quito is larger than most people realize.   Most think of Quito in an urban context, but that really is only half the story.  Quito, in its entirety, is divided into eight district zones.  Those zones are further subdivided into administrative areas known as parishes (parroquias, in Spanish).  Together, 32 urban parishes and 33 rural parishes comprise the Metropolitan District of Quito.   Rural Quito is really larger than urban Quito.

The tourism division of the Metropolitan District of Quito, known as the Empresa Metropolitano Quito Turismo, began a process several years ago of incorporating the 33 rural parishes into their tourism strategic planning. Known as the "Plan de Desarollo Turistico Parroquia," Quito Turismo provides training and technical assistance to each parish to help strengthen tourism in these outlying areas, all of which have a rich biodiversity and the potential to develop sustainable tourism projects.

Additionally, all 33 rural parishes have benefited from the intervention of the Instituto Metropolitano de Patrimonio Cultural - formerly known as the Fondo de Salvamento Del Patrimonio Cultural – and commonly referred to as FONSAL.  Over the past decade FONSAL, now the Metropolitan Institute of Patrimony (IMPQ), has intervened to improve and renovate the churches, parks, squares, and infrastructure of each parish.  In all, $17 million was invested, to the benefit of half a million residents throughout the rural parishes of Quito.

Some of the rural parishes, such as Guayllabamba and Pasachoa, have been recognized as great day-trip destinations for families for years, while other areas are just now gaining attention.

Lloa, 11km south and west of Quito, benefited from a $350K investment FONSAL in 2007 which gave the central square and surrounding houses a face lift.  The square is merely a point of departure to discover the other destinations throughout the parish including hostels, hacienda farms, nature trails, panoramic vistas, natural hot springs, and small cheese factories.

Nono, 15km northwest of Quito, is one of the oldest parishes in Quito with a population of 1,500.  It sits along the Ecoroute, an alternative road that connects Quito with the Parish of Mindo, and passes through the Tandayapa Valley, one of the primary bird-watching spots in the Ecuadorean Andes.

And Nanegalito, 70km west of Quito, is the location of the museum and archeological site of Tulipe, a series of pools and structures from the Yumbo culture which inhabited the region 1,200 years ago.  FONSAL invested more than a million dollars in restoring, investigating, and preserving the site in the past decade.

So if you think you are well-acquainted with Quito, but you have not visited Lloa, Nono, Nanegalito or the other 30 rural parishes, then we suggest an escape to re-discover the capitol of Ecuador.

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