advertisement

Work on the basilica began in 1883 and is still unfinished. Visitors are permitted inside this concrete marvel, which is modeled on Paris's Notre-Dame. The large central nave feels cold, with so much unfinished concrete, but if you look up you'll see fabulous stained-glass works all around. Be sure to stop into the small side chapel, La Capilla de Sacramento, which features a mosaic tile floor, painted walls, columns, and a beautiful high altar of Mary. Most people, however, come here for the spectacular aerial views of the Old City and to see La Virgen de Quito in the distance. For the best views, you have to pay to take the elevator, or climb the 90m (295 ft.) to the top of the towers. Note: The elevators don't always work, and the final "ladders" to the top are very narrow and quite steep. As you cross the bridge to enter the towers, look for the carved condors -- the stonework is impressive and the condors appear ready to fly away. The basilica is also famous for its mystical gargoyles in the form of local Ecuadorean icons, such as pumas, monkeys, penguins, tortoises, and condors that guard the outsides of the church. There is a cafe on the third floor -- a good place to catch your breath after taking in the breathtaking views. Plan to spend 30 to 40 minutes here.