Casa Gangotena, located on the edge of San Francisco Plaza in the heart of historic Quito, offers discerning guests much more than the comforts and amenities of a Relais & Chateaux property. The hotel also provides unique opportunities for them to experience authentic Quito with the help of local insiders.

Visitors to Ecuador will find that this centuries-old city, majestically surrounded by a backdrop of the Andes Mountains, has a rich past that dates back to the Incas. From culture buffs to adventurers, there is something for everyone in Quito.

About Casa Gangotena

Although the original structure of the building dates back centuries, much of the mansion was destroyed by a fire in 1914. In 1924, it was rebuilt into a home for the prominent Gangotena family. In 2007, the home was purchased by one of the founders of Metropolitan Touring who began the process of converting it into the stunning boutique hotel it is today.

… guests can book insider tours unavailable to most visitors to Ecuador

In its present state, Casa Gangotena is the epitome of luxury and charm. Today’s guests can stay where presidents, aristocrats, industrialists and artists have once slept. They also can take advantage of bespoke tours and unique cultural excursions offered around Quito. MetroJourneys, the digital arm of Metropolitan Touring, offers personalized tours depending on ones’ interests; it has also collaborated with artisans, makers and experts to create experiences and behind the scene visits unique to this cultural hotspot.

Location, location, location

Quito (Credit: Pixabay)

Quito (Credit: Pixabay)

Guests could not select a more central location than Casa Gangotena. Set in one of the most beautiful, historic regions in the world, it’s easy to understand why the elegant property tops Best lists year after year.

In fact, Quito holds the title of the first UNESCO World Heritage Site on the planet, translating into high expectations for tourists. When visitors stroll along the cobblestone streets winding past historic homes with elaborate balconies, they’re be transported back to a bygone era.

Colorful La Rhonda Street

Colorful La Rhonda Street @Alison Abbott

Also notable is Quito’s geographical equatorial location. The weather is spectacular, with a consistently comfortable temperature year-round. The daytime temperature averages about 70 degrees during the dry season (June through September).

Casa Gangotena experiences with locals

The hotel is culturally immersed in a friendly, active neighborhood, San Francisco Plaza, a place where locals gather on weekends, eat street food and chat about their week with friends and family. In combination with Metropolitan Touring, guests can book insider tours unavailable to most visitors to Ecuador. While the mission of the hotel centers around guests, the property is also committed to preserving and promoting the cultural heritage and traditions of the indigenous people.

I had my eye on the limpia tour, as different forms of wellness travel are always on my mind. Limpia is an age-old healing process performed as a natural cleansing involving the use of herbs, oils and flowers. This is a typical type of Andean medicine used for maintaining wellness, treating disease and cleansing the spirit: healthy mind, healthy body. Señora Rosa Lagla, my practitioner, is a fourth-generation healer. The trade is a holistic one passed down among indigenous women and not open for outsiders to join.

The author takes part in a limpia healing experience in Quito. @Alison Abbott

The author takes part in a limpia healing experience in Quito. @Alison Abbott

Normally, patients are treated with their tops removed behind a curtain. I opted for the PG version and the treatment began with a thwacking of my arms and neck with short, leafy branches. Although I immediately broke out in itching hives and questioned my sanity, Rosa treated the rashes with rose petals and a salve laced with marijuana. Apparently, the rash was normal and purposely creating openings for the toxins to release from my body. I left balanced, restored and perhaps a little high, ready for my next authentic encounter.

Nearby is Casa del Alabado Museo. Open to hotel guests without charge, it is perhaps one of the most beautifully curated collections I have ever seen. Housed in a renovated building, it offers a charming café with a shaded courtyard, a welcome relief after a day of intensive sightseeing. Referencing the Pre-Columbian world view of indigenous American peoples, the exhibition rooms are broken down into small bites of related objects. With a focus on communication, rituals and nature, the celestial, underworld and middle earth are all related and intertwined.

Interior of Casa del Alabado Museum ©Alison Abbott

Interior of Casa del Alabado Museum ©Alison Abbott

Another excursion, led by a Franciscan priest, takes visitors through a maze of hallways, alters, and galleries. If you’re a fan of local beer, this is where the magic happens. Here you will see antique equipment and processes that have aided the monks in brewing beer on this site since the 20th century. Later, the tour heads to a famous Quito brewery for a taste test. Beer not your thing? Take the tour of the San Francisco Choir and Bell Towers. Normally closed to the public, hotel guests can be among few to climb the steps of the tower for amazing views of the surrounding city.

Roof with a view

Speaking of views, one of  Casa Gangotena’s highlights is the rooftop lounge. It was my refuge after returning to the hotel. Service is called through a bell in the tables, and enjoying breakfast, a cocktail or snack amidst the panorama is divine.

On a clear day, you can catch a glimpse of the Cayambe volcano. Rocking chairs make a nice perch to catch up on emails. In addition, the majestic Virgin of El Pancillo sculpture overlooks the rear of the building and seems to keep watch over the city, guiding it into the night.

The Panecillo Virgin keeps watch over Quito. ©Alison Abbott

The Panecillo Virgin keeps watch over Quito. ©Alison Abbott

The rooms

With many choices from singles to suites, the rooms of the Casa Gagnotena do not disappoint. Spread across three floors, the spacious accommodations offer modern amenities without losing the charm or design of the original mansion.

The light-filled rooms surround a glass-roofed inner courtyard and feature high ceilings allowing sunshine to stream through diaphanous curtains onto plush carpets and Art Deco furniture. During my stay, I found all the comforts of home.

A luxurious and large marble bath finishes off the space. Organic toiletries scented with local florals tempt lazy relaxation in the deep soaking tub, separate from the shower.

Aside from the luxurious rooms, Casa Gangotena has all the amenities a modern traveler might desire, from room service to high-speed, wireless internet. These also include a safe and an endless supply of fruit. Getting to and from the airport is a breeze with their transportation service.

Inviting public areas

The cozy bar at Casa Gangotena. @Alison Abbott

The cozy bar at Casa Gangotena. @Alison Abbott

The local welcome drink, a heady concoction of rose and herbs is available 24/7. The resident mixologist was surprised when I asked him to mix said drink into a cocktail. After tasting it himself with a smile, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it added to the menu.

Gasa Gangotena culinary ceviché experience. ©Alison Abbott

Gasa Gangotena culinary ceviché experience. ©Alison Abbott

At those times when you don’t feel like leaving the hotel (although you’ll likely be tempted to explore the beautiful city at your back door), you can take advantage of the property’s many relaxing common spaces, including restaurants, and start the day with the complimentary, enormous buffet breakfast. After a day of seeing as much of Quito as possible, it was a welcome relief to know that the on-site restaurant had such delicious food. The chef puts a very modern twist on traditional Ecuadorian dishes. Ceviché was especially spot-on.

No matter what brings you to Quito, a stay at the iconic Casa Gangotena is a great choice for the start of an Ecuadorian experience in the heart of a UNESCO jewel. Surrounded by architectural and historic riches, guests will quickly find their curiosity piqued to learn more about the people and culture of this unique colonial city.

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • The hotel is owned by Metropolitan Touring making the transition seamless for activities and tours to other parts of the country.
  • Baths have lighted makeup mirrors for those of us with challenging vision.
  • Another unexpected pleasure: Afternoon tea is served in the center courtyard with both sweet and savory bites.
  • The hotel offers a partial day rate for those who have late flights (often the case when departing from Quito), when rooms are available.

Take note

  • Much of the Old Town is cobblestone. Wear appropriate shoes.
  • Most travelers don’t talk about the altitude until they get into the highlands. Quito tops 9,000 feet and most will still feel the elevation (I certainly did). Take precautions and talk to your physician about possible remedies.
  • Located at the equator, the sun rises at 6-6:30am and sets between 6-6:30pm), at approximately the same time every day year-round.

Disclosure: The author’s stay was hosted by MetroJourneys.

To read more about Alison’s experiences in Quito, Ecuador, check out her blog, 

Ecuador’s Top Ten Experiences in Quito

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