The Panecillo

El Panecillo – a small natural hill in Quito named after its loaf-like shape – is an iconic landmark of Quito… it’s not iconic just because of its shape, BUT more so for the fact that on top of the hill is a statue of a virgin – La Virgen del El Panecillo (also known as la Virgen de Quito) – which can be seen from almost everywhere you venture in the historic centre of Quito.

We first learnt of the existence of El Panecillo way before we set foot in Ecuador!!! In fact we had EVEN been carrying around a magnet and a postcard featuring El Panecillo since La Senda Verde in Bolivia… Yes, almost SEVEN months carrying souvenirs from a place we’d never been…

Not normal behaviour? Yep, I agree!!! But hey – when we were volunteering at La Senda Verde we met a couple of people from Quito and they gave them to us as a gift…

Having been in Quito for a few days we’d already seen El Panecillo and the monument of the virgin from the ground… more than once… from several angles 🙂 But the time had come to actually go to the top of the Panecillo and visit the Virgin of Quito… and we weren’t going alone – we were meeting the two Ecuadorians from La Senda Verde – and going together.

They drove to our airbnb to pick us up, so we could all drive across Quito together to the top of El Panecillo, which is at 3,000 metres above sea-level.

The views from the top of the Panecillo were stunning – the whole city lay beneath you, and if you looked up you could see the monument to the virgin on top of its pedestal.

Our first glimpse of the city view.
A close-up of some of the historic centre.
Looking up at the Virgen de El Panecillo.
A close up of the Virgen.
CC, PB and their Ecuadorian friends at the top of El Panecillo.

After admiring the view for sometime it was time to pay and enter the monument to the Virgin – you have to enter with a guide who walks you through the displays inside and tells you some of the history of the monument…

The monument feels even more impressive once you learn that it is actually made up of 7,400 individual pieces of aluminium brought over to Ecuador from Spain by boat – and that the pieces of aluminium were all numbered so they could be put together on arrival in 1975 – like a jigsaw puzzle! Guess they couldn’t put it on a plane as the monument apparently weighs a total of 124,000kg!!!

A close up of the Virgin’s head and crown made of 12 stars (which apparently represent the 12 apostles).
CC, PB and their Ecuadorian friends at the top of the monument.
This is how the aluminium pieces of the jigsaw puzzle look from the inside!

Back on the ground, it was time for a stroll – there were a number of stalls on El Panecillo selling handycrafts and refreshments… it was here that we got to try a drink called canelazo for the first time… Canelazo is made from aguadiente, cinnamon and a fruit called naranjillo (little orange), and is served hot (great for a cold afternoon in Quito!) – it was pretty tasty 🙂

CC tries a cup of canelazo.

It was time to leave El Panecillo and head home… but with a detour to La Ronda on the way back to our airbnb… As we’d only visited this area during the day, our friends thought we needed to see it after dark as well!

It was still pretty quiet on La Ronda when we were there – things only get going quite a bit later! – BUT at least some things were open 🙂 We enjoyed a traditional Ecuadorian ice-cream (helado de Paila) with a non-traditional flavour – orange pisco… yum! 🙂 🙂 and had a wander around one of the restored buildings which used to be an old barber shop amongst other things.

PB with our Ecuadorian friends on La Ronda.

After a really nice afternoon and an awesome visit to El Panecillo – our 7 month old postcard and magnet now felt like they truly deserved their spot in my daypack!

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