Tiptoe Through the Orchids & Other Quito To-Dos

El Pahuma Orchid Reserve-photo credit Visit EcuadorSettling into the local life has become a sought-after luxury for attendees, and Norma Bock, meeting industry director for the Quito Tourism Board, says this culturally rich destination in the Andes is happy to deliver.

“There is no denying that comfort and high standards are huge factors for luxury groups, but now they are also seeking greater immersion in local culture as well. They don’t just want to see it—they want to immerse themselves in it.”

Groups will find a plethora of museums (many available to meetings and events), whether plastic arts at the Oswaldo Guayasamin Museum, the history of Ecuadorian currency at the Numismatic Museum or ceremonial masks at the Central Bank Museum. There’s so much to see and do that Bock says that “the destination can be lived through its cultural experiences.” While in town, the Olga Fisch Store speaks to this idea by selling some of the finest crafts in Ecuador and La Mariscal Artisan Market, near the Historic Center, sells crafts from more than 100 local vendors.

Nature excursions are also high on the to-do list for incentives as preservation of wild places is second nature here. The transformation of the city’s old airport into Bicentennial Park, a 300-acre green recreational space is giving the urban area a sustainable green lung. Quito’s Avenue of the Volcanoes offers the best hiking, biking and photography around, with quaint villages and grazing alpacas interspersed. Groups may also want to check out Condor Park near Otavalo, a rescue and rehabilitation park for condors, falcons, eagles and hawks that offers educational sessions and flight demonstrations. An hour’s drive from Quito, they can also trek through the 1,500-acre El Pahuma Orchid Reserve with a local guide and then dine on local specialties culled from Lima family recipes—fritada (deep-fried pork) and cheese empanadas, choclo (corn) topped with ají (hot sauce)—on their way out.

“It is impossible to put a price on the experiences in Quito,” Bock explains. “Many attendees appreciate the luxury of being able to visit and have access to unique places in the destination that help them get a unique look at the city.”

Quito’s hotels also give nod to authentic Ecuadorian culture. The boutique Illa Hotel in San Marcos’ artistic and cultural district is located in a renovated colonial-era house. The former colonial mansion will exude luxury—each of its three floors will reflect a different era of history—and private cars for meetings attendees that allow them to get out and experience the area on their own are in the works. A wellness spa, gourmet restaurant and terrace bar will complete the picture when it opens later this year. Quito is also positioning itself for bigger events with the development of the Metropolitan Convention Center, which will add more than 53,000 sf of meeting and convention space when it opens next year.

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