Quito is the capital city of Ecuador and stands 2,800 m (9,186 ft) above sea level, making Quito the second-highest capital city in the world behind La Paz in Bolivia. Its official, less popular name is San Francisco de Quito.
Quito is most often visited for it’s proximity to the celebrated middle of the world, equator line (La Mitad del Mundo). In addition, Quito’s old city (Centro Histórico), also boasts the most exquisite Spanish colonial architecture that attracts photographers from around the world. Cathedrals dot the landscape and the Andes mountains wrap the city valley. Looking off into the distance at the 45 m (148 ft) tall aluminum monument of a madonna that stands overlooking the city from a hilltop, I felt I was in a special place.
What To Do In Quito
La Mitad del Mundo
A 30 meter (100 ft) tall monument and museum marking the equator. Ride an elevator to the base of the monument for spectacular views of the park marking the 4 direction points.
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Museo de Sitio Intiñan
The real equator line lies only 240 meters (10 minute walk) from the celebrated monument of La Mitad del Mundo. The landscape still represents a small indigenous village, whom discovered the point over a hundred years ago, before GPS. Participate in fun experiments which can only be done on the real equator line.
Plaza de La Independencia
Plaza Grande is the city’s central square, surrounded by administrative buildings, museums, tourist offices and one of the oldest cathedrals in South America.
Basilica del Voto National
Located in the historic center of Quito, this basilica is a must see attraction. It is the largest Neogothic Basilica in the Americas, but still remains unfinished today. The highlight is climbing to the highest point of the church’s tower, if you dare to climb steep ladders inside and spiral ladders outside. You will be rewarded with some incredible views.
Quito is surrounded by volcanoes, some of them snow-capped and visible from the city on a clear day. The closest volcano to the city is Pichincha, located to the west. Access the volcano via Teleferico (cable car) for cityscape views. Looking for a day hike? Continue on foot for 3 hours climbing to the top of Rucu Pichincha summit at 4680 m (15,354 ft). Hike at your own risk and bring warm clothes.
Also known as Gringolandia, this trendy neighborhood of bars and posh restaurants caters to both Quiteños and western tourists. You can party 24 hours near Plaza Foch, where tables and chairs spill into the streets busy with taxis trying to catch a fare. There are also an unlimited number of travel agencies located here.
La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús
The Church of the Society of Jesus, known as La Compañía is also just a few blocks from the main plaza in the historic center. The church has a Latin Cross design and south nave. The gold leaf interior is what blows your mind. Pay an entrance fee to see the most artistic skilled work in all of Quito’s churches.
Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco
Church and Monastery of St. Francis known as El San Francisco, is a colonial styled church and monastery located in the garment district of the historic center. A beautiful open plaza rests in front of the church. Dine at the touristy outside restaurant and watch the pigeons circle the plaza.
The Metropolitano Guanguiltagua Park is the largest city park in all of South America. Away from the city center, enjoy long walks, jogging and biking.
Parque El Ejido
Dividing the old and new city is El Ejido Park. On the weekends the park is crowded with visitors shopping for art, jewelry and crafts. Children pedal gokarts while adults enjoy the sun and entertainment of the bustling park. On Sundays, Avenida Amazonas is open only to pedestrians. Rent a bike and ride down the street leading to El Ejido Park.
Museo del Banco Central
The Central Bank Museum is the best museum in Quito, displaying artifacts from all of Ecuador’s regions and cultures, including pre-Inca. Enjoy classic and modern art from Ecuador for a small entrance fee.
The Itchimbia Park overlooks the city on the Itchimbia hill and is home to a glass museum with varying exhibits.
Before heading up to the top of Itchimbia, enjoy eating at Café Mosaico with the most incredible dinning view in all of Quito.
View the entire Quito, Ecuador photo gallery.
Ecuador Travel – Things To Know
Transportation in a cab, if it doesn’t have a meter, involves negotiating for all your rides. Ask the hotel or hostel you are staying at what it should costs to visit certain areas in order to obtain a fair price. The trolley is the cheapest fare in town, but protect your belongings during the crowded rush hour.
Pickpocketing and robbery stories are often heard when in Quito. Be aware of your surroundings, save your photos often, strap cameras across your chest and don’t carry much money. If you plan on staying out late enjoying the bars and clubs around Plaza Fosch, find a partner when walking home and avoid dark side streets.
The bus pollution can be overwhelming considering the city lies in a valley, trapped by the Andes mountain range.
Quito is also a great place for settling down and taking some Spanish lessons. I took classes for a month at the Cristóbal Colón Spanish School.