Tucked in a little pocket valley just behind the mid-century Hotel Quito are the sweet winding streets of Guapulo, one of Quito’s oldest barrios.
The neighborhood spills down the street from a mirador just behind Hotel Quito, and the views at this spot are spectacular. On a clear day, you can see far across the adjoining valley bordered by volcanic Andean peaks. A statue of Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana presides over the mirador, his stony gazed fixed to the east, a commemoration of his expedition to the Amazon which embarked from this point.
As I make my way down the steps from the mirador, and then along the winding cobblestone streets, valley views start to become obscured by delightful grafitti-covered walls and picture-perfect colonial-style homes with flowers spilling out of window boxes. It’s easy to see why so many travelers are taken with this ‘hood.
The graffiti decorates store-fronts, cafes and bars — which Guapulo seems to have a fair share of. But my visit is on a sleepy weekday afternoon, and most businesses are shuttered at this hour. There’s a quiet calm in the streets, and a sense of intimacy is amplified by the tight bends in the routes that snake down the hillside like rivulets, revealing a new vignette with each turn. I come around a corner and find a group of mamacitas sitting peacefully in an awning’s shade. “Buenas tardes,” I say to them, a delighted traveler’s smile fixed on my face. “Que linda,” one of them replies, making me blush.
As I near the bottom of the hill I can see the tiled mosaic rooftops of the Sanctuary of El Guapulo, a beautiful church dating back to the mid-1600s. On this visit, I will skip the church in favor of a leisurely stroll back up the hill. Having arrived to Quito (at 9350 ft) just the day before, the uphill climb takes its toll. Luckily there is plenty to stop and admire on the way.