Quito is one of my favorite cities in the world. The usual things that make a city great (culture, food, people, etc.) are found in this capital city of Ecuador. But Quito has made it to the top of my favorite cities list because it’s so photogenic.
There’s a few reasons why.
The city is located in the highlands of the Andes Mountains, meaning a good landscape shot is guaranteed.
At an elevation of over 9,000 feet above sea level, the city has a unique look at the sky. So get ready to use #cloudporn frequently on your Instagram photos during your trip.
Add in the colorful buildings throughout the city and the fact that the historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and photographers, you’re in for a treat.
On my third trip to Ecuador I spent a few days in Quito, so I wanted to share this little guide to taking photos in Quito, where to find the best spots for photos and the equipment I used to take my photos.
Before getting into the 5 best places to photograph in Quito, here’s what I use for taking photos (and for all photos in this post):
1. iPhone SE
When the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus came out, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to upgrade from my iPhone 5s. The main issue was the size. I have very tiny hands and find the 5s to be the perfect size. At the same time, I like to be discreet when taking photos while traveling, and the 5s fits perfectly in my clothing pockets.
I still wanted to upgrade though because of the better camera in the iPhone 6s. I’m glad I waited a little longer and got the iPhone SE when it came out. The phone is the same size as the 5s, but has the same camera as the 6s. My dream had come true and I use it for the majority of my travel photography.
I tend to drop my phone a lot. And things happen while traveling, so this case is an essential. I also like the cases from Urban Armor Gear. They’re thin and if you don’t like the screen to be covered, this is a good choice.
That’s it! Though I have access to a DSLR camera, I prefer iPhone photography as the device is small to be discreet and to pack light (whichever camera I use also usually depends on where I’m traveling).
And now, here are 5 best places to photograph in Quito:
1. Plaza San Francisco from Casa Gangotena
Casa Gangotena is a beautiful hotel in the historic center of Quito. I had the opportunity to stay there (you can read the review here). One of the best parts about staying at the hotel was its location.
It’s at the corner of a lively and popular square, Plaza San Francisco. On the hotel’s terrace, you can get a birds eye view of the square, the church and convent, street, stunning sky and mountains in the background.
2. Plaza Independencia from Hotel Plaza Grande
Hotel Plaza Grande is one of the most expensive hotels in the city. It has the only presidential suite in the entire Quito. I didn’t get to stay at the hotel (this time!) but had lunch at their restaurant and an opportunity to take a tour of the hotel.
The hotel is located at the corner of Plaza Independencia. This is the main square of Quito, where the Presidential Palace is located, so staying there is almost like being neighbors to the White House. From the Hotel Plaza Grande’s terrace, you can get a unique view of all the famous landmarks of Quito including the Presidential Palace, Plaza Independencia, El Panecillo (with the angel statue) and Cathedral of Quito.
3. La Ronda Street
Known as the oldest street in Quito, La Ronda is a pedestrian area with lots of colorful buildings. These buildings house restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels.
It’s worth going to walk, visit a chocolate shop and see the plants hanging from the windows of the colorful buildings.
4. Basílica del Voto Nacional
Basílica del Voto Nacional is an unfinished Roman Catholic church. The building itself is worth photographing, along with the view that the location provides.
To get to the basilica, you need to walk uphill from Plaza Independencia. Once you get to the basilica, you need to pay to get inside. In order to get an absolutely breathtaking view of the entire city (including a view of El Pancillo, the most recognizable point in Quito), you have to climb. Since the basilica is unfinished, there’s just steep ladders and wooden planks held by rope that you need to walk and climb on in order to get to the top.
It really is not for people who don’t like heights. But if you really want an incredible view, it’ll be worth the climb.
5. Courtyard at Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco
Back to Plaza San Francisco, it’s worth going inside the church and monastery of San Francisco. Go up a staircase for a view of the perfectly manicured hedges in the courtyard of the convent with a fountain in the middle, surrounding palm trees and farther past the walls of the building, mountains!
These are 5 places to photograph in Quito! But before getting out to photograph, here are some tips:
1. Be aware of the altitude and sun
Even if you’re physically fit, you may experience altitude sickness in Quito. Make sure you pay attention to how much water you’re drinking while out and about and know your limits. If you feel tired, stop for a moment. For me, I usually feel fine on my first day. But on my second or third day I may experience headaches and need to take it easy.
Also, because the city is in the highlands, the sun is intense. Have a hat and or sunglasses with you while you shoot.
2. Watch your belongings
Like anywhere you travel to, safety is first. Though I’ve heard it said that Quito is not as dangerous as it used to be years before, pay attention to your belongings! The city is known to have pick pockets, so be aware if you put your phone in your pocket or camera in your backpack.
I would recommend getting a FlipBelt.
3. Be adventurous
Grab a guidebook, and start looking for some great places to shoot! Just as usual, be aware and if possible, go with a guide. I was walking with a guide and pointed to a certain street that I wanted to walk to to get to El Pancillo after the tour. It’s a good thing I told the guide, because she warned me not to go because it wasn’t a safe road. It looked fine from the outside so I’m glad I got a tip from a local.
Moral of the story is, it’s good to be adventurous but somewhere that looks like a safe place, may not be. So just be careful and enjoy photographing Quito!
Been to Quito? Have a favorite place to photograph? I’d love to know! Leave me a comment below.