At over 2800 meters above sea level, this equatorial capital city is cool both in temperature and vibe. Quito offers both a glimpse of the Ecuador’s colonial past along with its move towards a more modern future with the city literally divided between Old Town and New Town.
Declared a Unesco World Heritage Site, Old Town is full of as many grand churches and cathedrals as bustling street vendors and honking taxis. From the massive stark white Monasterio de San Francisco to the Gothic Basilica del Voto Nacional, Quito’s religious buildings offer an interesting glimpse of the changing influences and architecture from the past five centuries. There are also several leafy main plazas to sit and enjoy life pass you by as you take a break from wandering your way through the small cobblestone streets.
For international eateries, guesthouses and some of the city’s best nightlife, gringo’s generally head straight to the neighbourhood of Mariscal Sucre. Located in Quito’s New Town and within walking distance to many of the city’s attractions including the Old Town, El Mariscal provides a good place to base yourself for a few days in Quito. Prices here are typically more expensive for accommodation than the rest of the country.
The best views of the city can be glimpsed from the small hill to the South, El Panecillo; a major landmark in Quito. Topped by a huge statute of the Virgin de Quito it offers great views of the city and the surrounding volcanoes. It’s best to take a taxi to and from the hill as there have been muggings reported on the stairs leading up to the top.
Of course no trip to Quito would be complete without a visit to the Mitad del Mundo – the middle of the world. Visitors have their choice of visiting two different complexes. The original larger site was declared 0°00 latitude in 1736, before the invention of GPS, and the smaller, Museo Solar Inti Ñan, 300 meters north which we now know lies on the true equator thanks to modern technology.
Here you can participate in a number of fun “scientific” experiments that prove you are standing on the equator. From balancing an egg on a nail head to watching the water swirl in opposite directions on either side of the equatorial line, it’s a fun and interactive, albeit a bit cheesy, experience.
Jen’s Overall Recommendation: Quito’s year round cool climate make it comfortable for walking around and exploring the city, but will leave you craving sunshine and warmer temperatures after a few days. Treat yourself to an international dish in El Mariscal, the best variety of eateries in the country.