Quito Travel Guide

Quito © David Berkowitz

Quito, the capital city, is the central hub of Ecuador, and the starting point for all other destinations in the country. In a beautiful setting at an altitude of 9,350ft (2,850m), nestled in the Andes Mountains and the snow-capped 15,728ft (4,794m) Pichincha volcano, the city of Quito is a vibrant amalgam of modern business executives and the traditional culture of the 'indígenas', or local Andean people.

The city is divided into two areas: the Old Town, declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO, with its history and the architectural influence of the Spanish evident in its red-tiled roofs lining steep, cobblestone streets; and the more tourist-oriented New Town, with its shopping centres, hotels, embassies and travel agencies.

Quito is the cultural centre of the country. Indígenas make up a large proportion of the population and evidence of their culture is all over the city, from the handicrafts displayed on street corners and ramshackle shops selling traditional everyday goods, to the women in thick woollen clothing and felt hats queuing for bus tickets. Quechuan language pervades the streets and central plazas (squares) throughout the city.

A city rich in historical churches, monasteries and convents, containing a wealth of religious paintings and sculpture dating back to the 16th century, there are also a few museums worth visiting in Quito, like the Museo del Banco Central with its beautiful pre-Colombian artefacts, the ethno-historical Museo Mindalae, and the contemporary art museum Museo Guayasamin.

Quito is a beautiful city with natural settings to enjoy, like the tranquillity of the Botanical Gardens with their glassed orchid houses; and the magnificent views from the Pichincha Volcano, which can be accessed by hiking or via the Telerifico, the world's second-highest cable car.

Also a popular base for learning the Spanish language, Quito has over 60 language schools dotted about the city.

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