Before the conquistadors arrived, the hill was known as Yavirac. The Incas celebrated Inti Raymi, the Festival to the Sun there. During the solstice, people from various regions gathered to sing, dance and drink.
According to the legend, the last Inca emperor Atahualpa built a sun temple of pure gold there. After they executed Atahualpa, the gold-hungry Spaniards quickly marched to Quito. But they didn’t find a single nugget on Panecillo.
What they didn’t know is that the gold was inside the heart of the hill. There, hundreds of beautiful maidens who never grow old care for the sun temple. It’s said Atahualpa’s mother was also there.
If you ever manage to find the secret entrance, many dangers await you. Eventually you will come to the home of an old woman. She will get off her throne of solid gold and ask the visitor to take what’s on one of two tables: a table with a huge gold stone plus pearls, rubies and emeralds, or, a table with a corn tortilla, a cob of tender corn and mote.
If you choose the first table, you will likely end up with a piece of brick and common stones.
But if you choose the second table, the tortilla suddenly becomes a huge piece of solid gold. The tender corn turns into nuggets of silver, and the mote becomes bright beads.
The person who narrated this tale lived in a mansion on one side of Panecillo. He won’t tell you whether he visited the sun temple, but he loved to eat tortillas, tender corn and mote.
In my book, Words To Thrive By for World Travelers: Footprints in Ecuador. I talk more specifically about All. Things. Ecuador. Feel free to purchase my new book: Words To Thrive By for World Travelers: Footprints in Ecuador, available both on Kindle and Paperback formats.
Personally, I prefer the kindle version as all my photos are in color in that version. However if you like a traditional paperback in your hands where you can make your own notes, feel free to purchase that version where the photos are in black and white.