The Ecuadorians take their festivities seriously and it’s fiesta time in Quito this week to celebrate the anniversary of the capital city’s founding on December 6, 1534. It’s a great time of year to be in Quito as it comes alive with parades, parties, shows, and performances as well as some must-see historical traditions. Everybody takes to the streets happy and smiling because who doesn’t love a good party?.
Watch the coches de madera race. This is one of the city’s most-loved annual traditions in which children competitively race wooden carts around the city’s old town at speeds faster than their parents would like, starting in the El Tejar neighbourhood. Some children build the carts themselves out of wood and rubber wheels. The tradition dates back to 1973 when two brothers Marco and Jorge Aguilar decided to revive their childhood memories of racing around their neighbourhood in traditional wooden carts and organised the first race to raise money for charity.
Drink Canelazo. The high-altitude nights in Quito can get pretty chilly and the Quiteños remedy this with Canelazo, also known as puntas, that’s a hot alcoholic drink. While it’s consumed all year round, it’s often the beverage of choice during this festive week. It’s a homemade brew of the sweet smelling local citrus fruit naranjilla, cinnamon and some form of sugar cane alcohol. You’ll find street vendors selling it on virtually every street corner.
Ride a chiva. Be sure to hop on a chiva at least once this week. You can’t miss these famous party buses driving through the main streets and plazas blasting out dance tunes for reveller. They’re old wooden buses converted into mobile dance floors with poles to dance around. The chivas stop in prime nightlife spots around the city for the party animals on board to get on and off as they pass around the canelazo. However ride the bus with care. They are not the safest form of transportation as there are no windows and only ropes and dancing poles to cling to instead of seats. If you’re not sure how to catch a ride, befriend some locals and secure an invite.
Hang out in La Ronda. This iconic old street is at the heart of the week’s activities and is always packed with merry people in the streets drinking, dancing and playing music. However you’ll find block parties and processions in most parts of town as some of the neighbourhood also celebrate their favourite saint during this week.
Play Cuarenta (40). If party buses aren’t your thing, join the locals for a more civilised game of Cuarenta. It’s a longstanding tradition to play this local card game during the fiestas and whole offices will finish work early just to play it over a few beers. It’s an easy game to learn and any Quiteño will happily teach you the rules. It can be played either in teams or as individuals and the aim is to capture your opponent’s cards by matching their value and scoring points. The winner is the first person or team to get to 40.