A panoramic view from Casa Gangotena's rooftop terrace

Set in the heart of Quito’s Old Town, Casa Gangotena has quickly established itself as one of South America’s finest boutique hotels. Gavin Haines certainly found it a calming influence.

First impressions

Occasionally I misplace my sense of humour. It goes missing between continents, like luggage, and today was one of those days. It was Quito Airport that did it, although my troubles began earlier with a delayed plane and the kind of turbulence that turns you to prayer. 

I landed at Quito Airport, which is a misleading name because it’s not in Quito. Nowhere near. When the traffic is bad, which is always, it can take two gruelling hours to reach the city centre – a new highway is under construction, but until it opens there are no alternatives to the congested old roads. No train, no monorail, no underground, no nothing. It beggars belief.

So when I eventually arrived in Quito I could feel that vein in my temple pulsating with rage. Then I entered Casa Gangotena and everything was alright. I’m not just saying that, it really was.

Casa Gangotena EnteranceThe hotel’s charming façade
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The staff restored my sense of humour with their smiles, warm chat and light refreshments. They had even knocked up some nibbles for their tardy guest, although I politely declined having grabbed some guinea-pig-to-go beforehand. 

Mercifully, the concierge fast-tracked the boring check-in ritual and led me to my room. We walked beneath antique chandeliers and hand-painted ceilings, past neoclassical pillars and art deco murals. It was a theatre of sophistication.  

It hadn’t always looked this way. Built by a wealthy family in the 1920s, the townhouse fell into disrepair in the 2000s, and by the time the current owners signed the deeds it was all faded charm and cobwebs. 

After a painstaking restoration, the building opened as a hotel two years ago. “It took 80 artists to restore the murals and ceiling patterns alone,” said the concierge as I gazed at them. And that concluded my bedtime story. 

Ideal for…  

Intimate sojourns in the heart of Old Town Quito.

The room 

It seems luxury comes as standard at Casa Gangotena, and while that might sound like a cheesy line from a marketing executive, it’s true. The hotel has 31 double rooms in all (plus three suites) and its entry-level boudoirs are classed as Luxury Rooms. But unlike Quito Airport, the owners of this hotel are not bending the truth – these rooms really are sumptuous, as they should be for US$375 per night (plus tax).

Casa Gangotena RoomCasa Gangotena's luxurious rooms
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As per the rest of the hotel, my bedroom is a restored masterpiece. I’m transported back to the roaring 1920s by high ceilings, towering window frames and art deco antiques thoughtfully arranged around the room. Only the air-con, Wi-Fi and large plasma television betray the era. 

Casa Gangotena BathroomWhite tiles and natural light grace the bathroom
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While there is nothing ostentatious about the room, it’s not exactly conservative either; the hand-painted ceiling is a marvel, the curtains are longer than the Bayeux Tapestry and the bed linen makes me re-evaluate my sleeping arrangements back home. 

In the bathroom it’s all white tiles, fluffy towels and art deco mirrors. There’s a large bath and shower, of course, with giant windows allowing natural light to pour in. 

Best room  

Although essential for this review, requesting a tour of the hotel was a bad idea because I became instantly envious when I checked out the Luxury Plus rooms. These extravagant boudoirs only cost a fraction more (US$425 plus tax) so it was with a pang of envy that I gazed at the elaborate murals, neoclassical columns and ornate stuccos. 

Eating and drinking  

The Peruvians might not agree, but Ecuador is fast emerging as a centre for gastronomy in South America.

Casa Gangotena Food 2Try locally produced, seasonal dishes
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Quito is leading the charge thanks to establishments like Casa Gangotena, which is helping to reinvent time-honoured Ecuadorian recipes and generally doing wonderful things with the country’s produce.

From Andean soups – long a favourite with those living in the mountains – to the famous ceviche, which is a staple along the coast, Casa Gangotena’s menu changes with the seasons and availability of produce. 

Breakfast continues the Ecuadorian theme with local fruits, juices and pastries; although bacon, eggs and pancakes offer a taste of home. Also included in the room price is afternoon coffee – Casa Gangotena’s answer to high tea. 


The owners of Casa Gangotena went to great pains to restore the beautiful garden and a fine job they’ve done. It’s a great place to sit and read, but if you want views head to the rooftop terrace which has a sweeping panorama over Plaza de San Francisco, the beating heart of what is regarded as the best-preserved colonial city in South America.

Casa Gangotena GardensSit down and relax in the peaceful gardens
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Room for improvement  

If I were nitpicking, I would say the service in the restaurant was a tad sluggish on occasions. I may also be inclined to question the room rates; starting at US$375 per night (plus 22% tax) it seems on the high side, particularly as there is no pool.   

Out and about 

Casa Gangotena is within striking distance of Quito’s main attractions. My favourite being La Ronda, an enchanting, cobbled street home to lively bars, buskers and traditional craftspeople who ply their trade in anything from piano repairs to chocolate making

San Fran SquareExplore Plaza de San Francisco, which is just outside the door
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There is a dazzling collection of churches, monasteries and convents on Casa Gangotena’s doorstep, which are worth visiting. But to really get a flavour of the Old Town, sign up for one of Casa Gangotena’s guided tours of the local neighbourhood to take in traditional markets and local businesses. Tours cost US$25 and all the money goes back to the local community.  

Address: Casa Gangotena, Bolivar Oe6-41 y Cuenca, Quito
Phone: +593 2 400 8000.
Website: www.casagangotena.com
Rooms start at US$375 per room, per night (plus 22% tax), which includes breakfast and afternoon coffee.

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