El Panecillo – Quito, Ecuador - Atlas Obscura

El Panecillo

A short volcanic hill in Quito doubles as a stellar observation point of an iconic statue. 


The El Panecillo—which translates to “small piece of bread” in Spanish—is a small volcanic peak in central Quito. Originally called “Yavirac” by the indigenous people of Ecuador, the hill once housed a beautiful sun temple at its peak before being destroyed by Spanish conquistadores.

Today, the hill is an ideal observation point for unbeatable views of Quito and a close up look of the Virgen del Panecillo, a majestic sculpture that stands tall above the city. 

In 1976, the artist Agustín de la Herrán Matorras was commissioned by the Oblates religious order to build a Madonna figurine. The sculpture—which now stands at over 45 meters in height—was engineered and erected by Anibal Lopez and inaugurated in March 1976 by Pablo Muñoz Vega, the 11th archbishop of Quito.

This Virgin Mary statue is the first one that shows the Madonna in a state of movement, in a dance formation, and perhaps the only one with wings.  Native people suggest the statue to be symbolic of chaining evil away from good. 

Know Before You Go

This city landmark spot is recommended as a guided tour for photo opportunities in Quito. According to a bronze placard affixed to the Virgin Mary monument on top of El Panecilla, the figure represents the Woman of the Apocalypse as in the Book of Revelation.

The best time to go to El Panecillo is mid-morning (to avoid tourist crowds). One can also get ground transportation like Uber to the top, but be aware of spotty cellular service at the top of the hill. The hill and Virgin Mary statue area are open during regular business hours with a small fee to enter the grounds and viewing platforms.

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