On our return to the capital city of Quito on Friday afternoon, we will take a tour of the Historical "Old Town". Quito, at 9,184 feet above sea level, is the only site on the planet where the equator crosses over highlands therefore making it one of the best natural astronomical observatories in the world. Long ago, the pre-Inca cultures were able to develop their astronomical knowledge with the the help of three mountains surrounding the city: Pichincha, Antiasana and Cayambe. Cayambe, standing at over 20,000 feet, is the only place in the world where you can be at 0 degrees latitude and with a temperature of 0 degrees.
The Historic Center of Quito has one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centers in the Americas. Quito was one of the first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO in 1978 due to its treasures of colonial churches, paintings, sculptures, and carvings. One of the greatest highlights of Quito is EL Panecillo, a 41 meter tall aluminum monument of the Virgin Mary, erected in 1976. It is composed of over 7,000 pieces of aluminum and is different than most depictions of Mary because El Panecillo has wings. She symbolizes the triumph over evil and protects the city of Quito.