This urban adventure starts at la Puerta de la Circasiana in El Ejido park. This iconic park was once the northern edge of the city and has a troubled past related to political unrest, religious intolerance and punishment for criminals. Nowadays it marks the division between the old and the modern city. It is also home to over one thousand varieties of native plants and ancient trees. The citizens of Quito love this park and parts of it can get crowded during the weekends, when merchants, artists and performers of all sorts attract the curious crowds.
Leaving El Ejido, we run past the new building of the Ecuadorian Congress (or Assembly) and step into Quito’s oldest park, La Alameda. Formally established in the late 18th century, this park was the first in the city created with the idea that people should have a nice, open area for recreation. It has a natural pond and it also holds in its interior the Observatorio Astronómico de Quito (Astronomical Observatory of Quito), which was established in 1873 and is still in operation. Another classic feature of this place is the Churode La Alameda, a small mound-like structure with a spiral path that we will climb to reach a more panoramic view of this Quitenian locale.
La Alameda park marks the entrance to the colonial part of Quito and is also our turning point as we make our way up the hill of Itchimbía. Climbing the 244 stairs, we leave La Alameda and the rest of the city below to arrive to Parque Itchimbía. It is a good climb in which we pay our dues in order to catch a beautiful glimpse of old and modern Quito. End of the climb, time for a stop! From the top you can see the sun rising behind the eastern mountains and hiding behind the Pichincha volcano at the end of the day. On a clear day you get a 360 degree view of Quito and its surrounding mountains.
Created in 1997 as a park, this particular spot was of religious and spiritual importance to the inhabitants of the area for centuries. After the Spanish occupation of the city it was used as a training and hunting ground for the army. Throughout the years this important green area was also used by citizens to gather medicinal herbs. A variety of native plants and trees as well as small wildlife live in parts of this small sanctuary. The Centro Cultural Itchimbía, or Palacio de Cristal, is the most important building in this area and it is used for a variety of cultural events in the city. We run around the top of this hill and then hit the downhill! Get those legs moving as you run down the stairs! Descending from el Itchimbia we hit La Alameda again and then a different part of El Ejido and we’re back where we started. Nice and short urban adventure, check!