By: Ron Bernthal
FOUNDED IN 1534, QUITO sits at almost 10,000 feet, making it the second-highest capital city in the world. Located just 14 miles south of the equator, the city enjoys a spring-like climate year-round, from the cool 50s at night to the low 80s during the day. With a consistent 12 hours of daylight, Quito is, literally, one of the greenest cities in the world.
Quito’s unique geography provides visitors with a spectacular wall of snow-capped Andes Mountains and volcanoes just beyond the skyline as well as flower gardens and palm trees. In 1978 Quito’s cobblestoned, 16th-century Old Town, one of the best-preserved colonial-era districts in South America, became UNESCO’s first World Heritage site.
Business travelers can start the day with an early-morning swim or workout at Zumay Health Club at the 5-star JW Marriott Hotel, followed by breakfast at the hotel’s Bistro Latino, featuring a buffet along with healthy fruit and juices. A popular downtown meetings venue for Ecuadorian and multinational businesses since opening in 1999, the strikingly modern hotel offers more than 30 event venues.
Numerous off-site venues provide a different ambience. English is widely spoken at business hotels, but at venues like museums and art galleries in Old Town or at wineries and flower farms in the countryside, non-Spanish speakers may find it difficult to arrange meeting spaces. Contact a local tour operator like Link Experiences, with connections throughout the city, prior to your visit.
Getting around Quito by taxi is easy, but account for traffic congestion between destinations. The new Quito Metro, opening this year, will ease that burden considerably and help make the air cleaner. Local environmentalists are thrilled the new Metro will stretch 14 miles through the business center and suburbs, offering 15 new stations, including one in Old Town. Operating 5:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m., the Metro will allow visitors and Quiteños to travel around the city faster and more efficiently.
“This is a pivotal moment for the city,” said Felipe Correa, editor, A Line in the Andes, a book about Quito’s urban transformation. “Quito is a linear city, north-south, along a narrow and elongated valley with mountains on either side, so there are very few cities that can actually build a subway from scratch in such a consolidated urban area.”
In 2013, to make room for the Metro and other projects, the city moved its airport from city center to a location 11 miles from downtown. The new, green Mariscal Sucre International Airport boasts one of the longest runways in Latin America and earned South America’s Leading Airport at the World Travel Awards. It strives to maintain its high scores in the global Airport Carbon Accreditation program and also instituted a rainwater management program and works to maintain the biodiversity of the area. The city repurposed the 300 acres around the former airport into a city playground called Bicentennial Park, offering bicycling on the old runway.
The Eugenio Espejo Convention Center provides another example of repurposing, as the building once served as an important hospital center. After a remarkable architectural restoration in 2008, the center opened with enough meeting and exhibition space to host Ecuador’s largest conventions.
Quito took advantage of the more affordable e-buses coming into the market by electrifying two major bus corridors, purchasing about 120 e-buses and installing dozens of charging stations. Ecuador is only the second South American country to adopt sustainable electric mass transit. Such projects increased since Quito hosted Habitat III, a United Nations conference, in 2016. Some 30,000 delegates attended discussions among world environmental leaders about making cities sustainable, resulting in the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements.
For a small group lunch with business associates, reserve a table at Café Plaza Grande in the Hotel Plaza Grande, a boutique property adjacent to Old Town’s main square, home to the historic Carondelet Palace, Cathedral of Quito, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Municipal Palace. The café serves fresh fish, pork, steak, seafood salads and Ecuadorian specialties, including locro de papas (potato soup).
Around 5 p.m., an hour before sunset, get a table at Rooftop Bar & Terrace at Casa Gangotena, a restored Neoclassical mansion converted into a 33-room boutique hotel on Plaza San Francisco. While enjoying the Old Town view, order a locally produced gin like the quadruple-distilled Amaranto. Or try the non-alcoholic agua de frescos, also called horchata, a vivid pink infusion of plants and herbs traditionally served to refresh visitors arriving in Quito.
Quito’s environmentally ambitious city plans also include green architecture. Quito-based Uribe & Schwarzkopf will open the IQON residential tower in 2021, designed by the Danish firm BIG. The 33-story structure of concrete apartment “boxes” features terraces planted with native trees, with a hollow wall underneath to hold the roots. The entire façade becomes a vertical display of Quito’s biodiversity, and the building will act as an urban tree farm, as the trees will be replanted in city parks once they outgrow the terraces, in about five years.
EPIQ, a 24-story curved tower also by BIG, will open in 2022 with sustainable features such as a gray water treatment plant for reusing rainwater and a materials bank to reuse and recycle construction materials. It will sit next to a large park close to a new Metro station.
Global architects Moshe Safdie, Jean Nouvel, Philippe Starck, Leppanen Anker, Marcel Wanders and Carlos Zapata also launched projects that will greatly enhance Quito’s green and innovative urban environment.
A recent survey conducted by Louis Karno & Company Communications polled 100 American writers, editors and freelancers to offer an insider perspective on the industry. The survey asked: Where is travel writing headed in the short term, and what were they working on?
This summer, family travel at The Peninsula receives an upgrade with the debut of Camp Peninsula, a children’s experience that recreates the spirit of camping right in the heart of Beverly Hills. The journey begins with a special welcome from Peter Bear, the hotel’s lovable mascot, at check-in. After taking a picture with the life-sized teddy bear, kids will be whisked away by a Peninsula Camp Counselor to a luxurious guestroom where a charming teepee awaits. An afternoon of camp-themed games and activities, including a hotel-wide scavenger hunt, rounds off the family-friendly experience, fun for children of all ages. Whether it’s a luxe staycation or an extended holiday, Camp Peninsula is an ideal way to ensure the little ones are happy campers.
While we’ve become expert armchair travelers, at-home trainers, tutors and, well, you name it, here’s another project to put your energy toward: finally planning that bucket-list adventure with the family. Considering the logistics take some time, coordination and financial planning, having this time at home to plan, save, get organized and even pick up a few key phrases of the native tongue is a blessing in disguise.
IN THE MODERN AGE OF HYPER-AWARENESS surrounding environmentalism and sustainability, travel organizations the world over introduce new ways to lessen the impact on the natural world. Airports introduce programs to reduce environmental impact as much as possible.
While urban wine country might sound like an oxymoron, it’s actually a reality at the stunning City Vineyard in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. The water-side venue is the perfect host for your next event — whatever that may be, from 20 to 200 guests and from cocktail party to plated dinner.
What kid doesn’t imagine being a prince or princess in a royal palace? Germany can provide settings for kid’s best imaginings of royalty, with beautifully preserved and restored palaces that were once homes of real kings and emperors. Here are three our kids found the most awe-inspiring.