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Category Archives: Museums

9 REASONS TO VISIT QUITO

Quito is not just a stop en-route to the Galapagos Islands but one of the leading cities of South America,. Voted one of the Best Destinations to Discover, according to National Geographic Traveler magazine. Here are 9 reasons:

Quito is at the middle of the world

Quito is the capital city closest to the sun in both altitude and latitude. At a lofty 2,850 meters above sea level and is also near a place where you can straddle both Northern and Southern Hemispheres. A visitor site has sprung up at the “Centre of the World” where the equatorial line is drawn at Latitude 0 ° 0’0 ”. Despite the altitude Quito enjoys a spring-like climate, all year round.

An Unsurpassed Historical Centre

Quito was declared the first World Cultural Heritage site, with one of the best-preserved colonial centres in the Americas. Wander around restored gems such as La Compañía de Jesús, a baroque masterpiece; or the Plaza Grande, the main square surrounded by historical monuments; tour the religious complex of San Francisco. Ramble through La Ronda, a charming street that keeps traditional trades still alive. The historical centre is not just a museum, it is dynamic living place where inhabitants, religious devotees, public officials and merchants get on with their lives.

Quito’s Cuisine

Quito’s cuisine is one of the best kept secrets. Try traditional mestizo dishes that mix the pre-Columbian and colonial. A fusion of Andean and Iberian culture. Try locro: potato & avocado soup, fritada: fried pork, empanadas: tasty pasties, home-made chilli sauces, paila fruit ice cream, the list goes on. Other dishes are influenced from the Pacific with fish and prawns and coconut. Taste the gourmet chocolates made with finest cacao and the high-altitude coffee. Enjoy fresh fruits throughout the year: such as the tree tomato, naranjilla, cherimoya, granadilla and taxo, babaco and much more.

Handicrafts and art

Quito was an important cultural and artistic centre during colonial times. These skills have been passed down through the ages. You can still see artisans plying their trades in their workshops: drapers, hatters, tailors, goldsmiths and jewellers. Colonial Quito fostered religious art, its well-known Quiteña School, produced some of the most important colonial artists including the sculptors Bernardo de Legarda and Manuel Chili and the painter Miguel de Santiago; discover their works in the many museums and churches.

A Bit of Culture

Quito has many places with permanent and temporary exhibitions, theatre, music or film. Highlights are The Museum of the City, the Museum of El Alabado (with pre-Columbian treasures), a Wax Museum, the Sucre Theatre, the Centre of Contemporary Art and Music to name a few. For archaeology buffs, take a trip to the site museums in Tulipe, Rumipamba or La Florida. Children also have their spaces in the Yaku Park Museum, the Interactive Science Museum and the Train Museum.

Nightlife

Ask our local guide to recommend one of the many restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs in the sectors of La Mariscal, La Floresta, Guápulo and La Carolina. There you will find music, local and international cuisine and, above all meet the locals having fun.

Take a Train

From the district of Chimbacalle, in Quito, you can embark on a journey in “the most difficult railroad in the world”. An ambitious work of engineering linking the coast with the Andes, built the beginning of twentieth century. Now it has become a heritage tourist train, including the famous Devil’s Nose zig-zag through the Andes. Today you can take upscale pullman on a four-day journey or take the local one-day train. The slow pace better to appreciate the Andean scenery.

Shopping

Quito is ideal for retail therapy, you will find a variety of choice for all tastes and budgets. From modern shopping centres such as Quicentro Shopping or Mall El Jardín, or stores of Ecuadorian contemporary design in La Floresta district or La Mariscal; likewise in the Historical Centre you can look at handicraft shops such as El Quinde, with Andean alpaca clothing, gold, silver, filigree jewellery, leather goods and weavings. Unique products are vegetable ivory (tagua) from the Amazon and the famous straw hats (misnamed Panama Hats). In Quito you will find paintings, sculptures in street markets and in La Mariscal there are galleries and antique shops.

The Paramo and the Cloud Forest

Just an hour or two away from Quito, you can enjoy two different environments. Firstly, the haciendas located in the Andean moorland. Enjoy thermal waters, horseback riding, hiking, mountaineering, flower plantations and more. Alternatively head to the Northwest, you can discover the subtropical cloud forest, a paradise for bird watching, with more than 500 species. One of the best places to see dozens of species of hummingbirds and butterflies. Two completely opposite worlds, one warm and one cold.
To visit Quito as part of a tailor-made tour please see our journey ideas at Select Latin America.

RELATED: Top 10 places to visit in Ecuador

 

7 of the best galleries and museums in Rio de Janeiro

MAM Rio

Flickr: marcusrg

Flickr: marcusrg

MAM Rio (Museum of Modern Art Rio) is housed in a spectacular modernist building created by Affonso Eduardo Reidy in the late 60s. It is one of the most important art institutions in Brazil supporting young artists and projects. Sadly, in 1978 a fire broke out in the building destroying almost all the artwork including pieces by Pablo Picasso.

Website: MAM Rio
Address: Av. Infante Dom Henrique 85, Parque do Flamengo

Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR)

The Museu de Arte do Rio is one of the newest museums in the city. It opened its doors in 2013 as part of a revitalization project in the run up to the World Cup. The museum, a series of three building, is thriving and has a large permanent collection of Brazilian art work as well as rotating exhibitions. Even if art is not your thing, the building alone is worth a visit.

Website: Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR)
Address: Praça Mauá 5, Centro

MAC

The Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói is housed in what is perhaps the most iconic of buildings in Rio de Janeiro. Designed by the world-famous architect Oscar Niemeyer in the mid-90s, the sweeping 360-degree museum allows panoramic views over Niterói and Rio de Janeiro. Although the exhibitions are not as good as MAM or MAR, the building is worth the journey. Try to visit on a Saturday when the tickets are free. 

Website: MAC
Address: Mirante da Boa Viagem, Boa Viagem

Museu do Folclore

Although rarely visited, the Folclore Museum provides a fantastic introduction to Brazilian folk art. The museums sizeable collection of works including religious and Candomble costumes, ceramics and works, mainly originating from the northeast.

Website: Museu do Folclore
Address: R. do Catete 181, Catete

Museu do Índio

One of the most fascinating museums in the city, the Museu do Índio focuses on the history and culture of the indigenous tribes of Brazil, providing an insight into the lives, customs and how they fit into modern Brazil. The museums impressive collection includes thousands of publications, images, films, documents and recordings from the end of the 19th century to the present day.

Website: Museu do Índio
Address: R. das Palmeiras 55, Botafogo

Museu da República

 

The Museu da República is housed in Catete Palace, originally Brazil’s presidential palace until the early 60s. Inside you’ll find much to offer on Brazil’s political history, art and a theatre. The site is where President Getúlio Vargas committed suicide. Visit on Wednesdays when the entrance tickets are free. 

Website: Museu da República
Address: Palácio do Catete, R. do Catete 153, Catete

Museu Historico Nacional (MHN)

The National History Museum is one of the most important museums in Brazil housing a huge archive of literally hundreds of thousands of items including the largest numismatic collection of Latin America. If you are going to visit just one museum in Rio de Janeiro, this is the one to visit. Built in 1922, the museum spans a 20,000 square metre space.

Website: Museu Historico Nacional (MHN)
Address: Praça Marechal Âncora, Centro

To begin planning your tour of Rio de Janeiro or Brazil get in touch with us today.

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Sixe Paredes Futurismo Ancestral: An Offering To Peru

Futurismo Ancestral photo © David Horwell

Futurismo Ancestral photo © David Horwell

From today a magical exhibition of Peru will be exhibited at Somerset House. Inside this historic venue alongside London’s river Thames I was transported by the spirits of the Andes and Nazca desert. In an extraordinary show Futurismo Ancestral, the Spanish street artist Sixe Paredes has blended elements of Pre-Colombian culture with modern elements. At first I was disappointed with the first room which has a few large abstract tapestries and weavings, but on entering into the bowels of Somerset house through a series of trapezoidal arches one enters an underworld like no other art gallery. In these cave-like passages replete with drainage pipes and doors leading to who-knows where. In what is called the ‘Deadhouse’ I  arrived at colourful modern versions of Quipus the ancient Peruvian counting strings that glowed in the dark chambers. My favourite was the multi-coloured knitted masks, these reminded me of the festival of Paucartambo which is held every July in a remote Andean village; I had once visited this festival as a young backpacker. It was Sixte’s travels too that inspired him. Undoubtedly the almost fluorescent colours of the patterned tapestries will stick in the mind. In the subterranean vaults there are carefully lit modern versions of ceramics that held ancestral importance as vessels for ‘chicha’ the sacred drink of the Incas. There are daily events including Peruvian music, food, performance and film. Paredes had a team of other artists and volunteers helping him build this unique show. If you miss this but would like to visit Peru for yourself please contact us. Click HERE for more information on this exhibition.

RELATED: 10 classic things to do on your first time in Peru

Mexico City’s Island of Dolls

dolls mexico
Flickr/Esparta Palma

If you are looking for something a little different on your travel’s how about a visit to the spine-chillingly creepy Island of Dolls (Isla de las Munecas) in Mexico City. This is probably the most morbid tourist attraction in Latin America. Thousands of decaying dolls of all shapes and sizes hanging from trees surround you from every angle.

So where did it all start? Legend has it back in the ‘50s the islands caretaker, Don Julian Santana, was unable to save a girl who drowned in the canal. He found a doll on the bank he assumed was hers and hung it from a tree. Later he believed that her spirit was haunting the island and began to collect more dolls to keep her at bay.  Although Santana died in 2001 his cousin now looks after the island and believes that the dolls come alive at night. To get to the Island of Dolls you need to take the metro line 2 south to Xochimilco changing at Tren Ligero.

RELATED: A guide to Mexico City street food

Casa del Alabado Museum Quito

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It is rare to wander into a museum and be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the exhibits and the way they are shown. I like small museums that you can see the entire collection in an hour without being overwhelmed or bored. This museum was perfect. Only inaugurated in November 2012 the  Museo Casa del Alabado is an art museum devoted exclusively to Pre-Columbian Art, located in Quito old town. The museum is housed in a Spanish residence just off San Francisco Square that was built in 1671. The name means ‘Praised be’ in Spanish. The ages of the pieces range from 4,500 B.C. to 1,500 A.D. mostly ceramics with some bronze and gold treasures. They were dug up on Ecuador’s coast which had thriving civilizations long before the Incas. The exhibits are divided into the Under-world, the Middle-world and the Upper-world according to the cosmology. The first includes creator myth imagery, the second graphic depictions of fertility and reproduction and the third the warriors, half-human half-animals and (my favourite) some very stoned-looking shamans. The lighting is good and they don’t mind photography without flash. The museum is a fitting tribute to those long-forgotten artists.

RELATED: New Suites at Napo Wildlife Centre

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