Quito is the capital city and one of the urban highlights of a visit to Ecuador. It has a spectacular location in an Andean valley, surrounded by volcanoes. Despite the altitude (2800m) it never gets too cold, even at night, and you are guaranteed a lot of sunny mornings during any month of the year.
Unless you are a bureaucrat, the main attraction of Quito is probably the colonial architecture in the old town (also known as the centro histórico). Many churches, theatres and other buildings are beautifully maintained. The best day to visit is Sunday, when traffic is prohibited and you can wander more freely.
To the north, the new town contains excellent hotels, restaurants, museums, shopping centres and parks. From here you can go out to enjoy Quito’s cultural life. The Mariscal area is a mass of hostels, internet cafes, bars, tour agencies and Spanish schools. It’s backpacker heaven (hence it’s nickname gringolandia) and the perfect place to make some friends and organize the activities you want to do in Ecuador.
Quito is almost situated on the equator. In fact the line passes to the north of the city. You can take a bus to La Mitad del Mundo, to get the equator experience (see Around Quito). Heading out in all directions, the volcanoes and hills around the city provide lots of opportunities to go walking or just enjoy a natural area.
Quito is big but not huge, it’s potential to grow severely limited by the east slope of Pichincha volcano. A few kilometres further to the east the land starts to fall away into a series of ravines and valleys which now form part of the city. Therefore all the major streets and developments run along a vast north-south axis. However most of what you will want to see or do is in a fairly small area.
Quito has problems with traffic and crime. Avoid travelling at rush hours if you can and be careful where you walk, especially at night in the old town or El Mariscal, when it’s best to take a taxi to your hotel. Personally I’ve always found it to be a safe, friendly and really interesting city to visit.
Read more on the Quito: Info page.