El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

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

Friday, June 21, 2013

New crop of chic Quito hotels

Photo: Casa Gangotena)

 Ecuador tourism is on the rise, and Quito, its UNESCO World Heritage Site capital city (a gateway to the Amazon, Andes and Galapagos) is in the midst of major developments. Those range from a new airport that opened in February to a slate of newish — or newly renovated — high-end hotels set to respond the growing demand of discerning travelers. Here is a rundown of some of this history-rich city’s hottest hotel havens.

New jewel-box boutiques have cropped up in brilliantly reinvented colonial buildings throughout Quito’s Old Town. Leading the pack is the opulent Casa Gangotena (from $458/night), which opened in October 2011 following an extensive $10 million, four-year renovation. In a 1920s-era mansion on the atmospheric Plaza San Francisco, the polished contemporary décor here mixes Art Nouveau touches with neoclassical architecture.

Expect painstakingly restored painted tin ceilings, wood paneling and stucco beams, along with 31 well-appointed rooms with high ceilings, tall windows and marble baths (most with tubs). Perks include a guests-only third-floor terrace with a picture-postcard view over Quito and a generous Ecuadorian afternoon tea served in an airy glass-enclosed patio.

Noteworthy newcomers offering a more value-friendly slant include the three-year old Mansión del Angel (from $150/night) set in a manse dating to 1908. This intimate 14-room affair is an Italian Renaissance-inspired stunner, with a décor scheme rich in plush fabrics, antiques and artworks; don’t miss the small garden spa with an unforgettable “death-by-chocolate” spa ritual.

Also in the Old Town, La Casona de la Ronda (from $180/night) opened a year and a half ago after a three-year restoration. Set on La Ronda, one of Quito’s oldest streets and a bustling nightlife haven, the 22 antique-strewn rooms in this former brothel surround a central colonial-style courtyard. Nearby, culture vultures will want to swoop in on the intimate six-room Casa San Marcos (from $128/night). Set in an unassuming early-18th-century manse, it’s a treasure trove of antiques, artworks and soaring colonial-inspired rooms. An on-site art gallery, antique boutique and terrace café round out the bohemian-inspired offerings.

Meanwhile, the city’s longstanding luxury mainstays, set in more modernized parts of town, have been keeping a keen eye on the budding competition. Swissôtel Quito (from $185/night) is in the midst of a massive spruce-up as the hotel remodels its spa, lobby and 275 rooms for a more refreshed contemporary look. Most of the work will be complete by year’s end. Nearby, the 30-unit all-suite Le Parc Hotel (from $260/night) is readying for the addition of two more hotel towers over the next two years; its rooftop bar will emerge from a revamp come July.

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