This Jesuit church is one of the great baroque masterpieces in South America. All the work took 160 years to complete (1605-1765). The facade won't fail to impress you -- the carvings are unbelievably detailed. Notice the Solomonic columns, symbolic of the Catholic doctrine that life's journey starts at the bottom (on earth), but by following the holy path it ends at heaven.

Almost every inch of the interior has intricate decorations. When you enter La Compañía, look for the symbols of the sun in both the main door to the church and the ceiling. The sun was a very important Inca symbol, and the Spanish thought that if they decorated the entryway with indigenous symbols, it might encourage local people to join the church. The walls and ceilings of La Compañía are typical of Moorish design -- you will only see geometric shapes but no human forms. The building has been under renovation for the past several years, and some of the gold leaf on the ceiling and walls has been restored to its original luster. Natural sunlight and candlelight really bring out an angelic brilliance.

Concerts are sometimes held inside this church, and the acoustics and setting are haunting. If you happen to be in Quito on November 1 (Day of the Dead), you can also visit the catacombs here. Plan to spend between 30 minutes and an hour.