Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this spectacular colonial city nestled in the Andes maintains the political and cultural pulse of the nation.
It's historical center is a vast labyrinth of colonial majesty and has recently undergone a massive restoration that has returned buildings, churches, and historic theaters to their former glory. To the north, the 'new town' is a vibrant and bustling city with world-class hotels, restaurants, the famous 'La Mariscal Sucre' neighborhood so popular with international travelers.
Quito is the most populace city in Ecuador, second only to Guayaquil, with a population of 1,397,698 people. It is Capital of Ecuador and the Pichincha province. Quito's square, La Plaza de La Independencia, is 2,850 meters above sea level, setting Quito first as the highest legal capital.
The city is located in the north central highlands of Ecuador and politically is known to be the "Headquarters of the Union of South American Nations". It was constructed on a long plateau in the Guayllabamba River Basin on the eastern slopes of a volcano named Pichincha.
Attractions within Quito
In the words of UNESCO, the center is "one of the most preserved and least altered historic centers".
Host to 40 churches and chapels, 16 convents and monasteries, 17 plazas, 12 chapter rooms and refectories, 12 museums and numerous courtyards, Quito’s historical legacy is only matched by the energy and conviviality of its thousands of residents.
A hill to the West of the city of Quito. It measures 9,895 feet (3016 meters) above sea level
La Casa de la Música
Located in Northern Quito, this cultural center regularly hosts live concerts and plays.
Monument of the Virgin Mary
Balanced on a globe above chained crocodiles atop El Panecillo, the towering figure of the Virgin Mary overlooks Quito and can be seem from almost anywhere in the city.
This 41 meter tall aluminum monument of the Virgin Mary, erected in 1976, symbolizes her triumph over evil. It is composed of over 7000 pieces of aluminum. This Virgin Mary piece of art is different than most because, Spanish artist, Agustin de la Herran Matorras, contracted by the religious order of the Oblates to build the Madonna, gave her wings.
Churches of Quito
Quito maintains many old-world churches built atop ...
Parks of Quito
Parks in Quito are plentiful, green and lush. The trees are grandiose and the flora buds year long. And the parks team with more than just nature, they are cultural meccas where friends meet, people exercise, and families play. To know Quito is to know it's bountiful parks.
A Eucalyptus forest with elaborate and meandering trails, this park is the largest urban park in South America measuring just over 1400 acres (New York’s City Park is only 843 acres). It is located in Northern Quito on the hill of Bellavista and behind the Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa. Some of the activities found in the park include mountain biking down suited trails, walking and running. And if you are solely seeking visual inspiration, there are many wonderful sculptures on display. Picnic sites are available and the Eastern zone of the park gives a good view of Cotopaxi, Antisana and the Guayllabamba river basin.
Resembling New York's Central Park, located in the Center of Quito's buildings' embrace, this popular park measures to 165.5 acres. It is bordered by the streets Rio Amazonas, Los Shyris, Naciones Unidas, Eloy Alfaro and Republica.
In the park you will easily find soccer games, basketball games, walking, jogging, flying kites, reading, picnicking, and people practicing karate, doing aerobics or simply people watching. A skate park allows the youth to flip, skid and roll all over the place. Paddle boats are available for rent at the Southern end of the park where there is a small pond. The Quito exhibition center has an exhibit showing every month on the West side of the park where you will also find artists performing on the weekends. A botanical garden and a vivarium can also be located within La Carolina. It began in 1939 and was originally the Farm of La Carolina. A giant cross can be seen where, in 1985 on a trip through Ecuador, Pope John Paul II held a giant mass.
If you are wanting to see old and new Quito from one spot, head to Quito’s third largest park, El Ejido, which is said to divide the two. Saturdays and Sundays a tourist can practice their Spanish as they haggle (negotiate) the prices of sweaters, carpets, ponchos and jewelry with venders from Otavalo. If art is your passion, you can find local artist copies of Oswaldo Guayasamin, Eduardo Kingman and Gonzalo Endara Crow.
Attention atronomy and meteorology fans: This long, triangular park not only marks the beginning of the Historic Center on Guayaquil street, but also contains in its center, the oldest observatory in Latin America. The Quito Observatory was opened by President Garcia Moreno in the year 1864. Included in the several monuments that can be found in La Alameda is a monument of Simon Bolivar, located at the parks triangular apex. If you are looking for something relaxing to do, there are two attractive lakes at the north end where you can rent row boats.
On the East side of the volcano Pichincha is a visitors center that features a theme park (Vulquano Park), Shopping, Go Karts Paint Ball, food courts and fine dining. It was built on the hill known as Cruz Loma and sits at about 13,123 feet. In 2005 opened its most famous tourist attraction, the Aerial tramway, which will take visitors up to 13,400 feet. Here you can find restaurants, coffee shops, stores, see beautiful views of the entire city of Quito or hike trails that lead further up the mountain.
DO NOT take a trail that has been blocked and always check with an employee about weather safety. Hats and jackets are advised as the wind factor and altitude tend to make for a cold and windy trip.
Attractions Near Quito
La Mitad de Mundo
Only 22 kilometers north of Quito you can visit where the Equator was thought to have been located in the early 1980’s.
Within the village, you have the opportunity to visit a museum displaying past Ecuadorian cultures, take pictures of the monument built in honor of the Middle of the World, take pictures with a leg in each hemisphere or of friends that you have on other side of the world, visit the planetarium, eat at a variety of restaurants and see a number of other exhibits.
A chapel allows couples to marry with one standing in the southern hemisphere and the other in the northern hemisphere. Geographers determined that the real Equator crosses some 200 meters north of the monument area. Since, the area has turned into quite an attraction. Here, you can take a tours exhibiting Ecuador’s early lifestyle, balance an egg on a nail head to experience the effects of gravitational pull, and see demonstrated the effects that each hemisphere has on a whirlpool of draining water (clockwise vs. counterclockwise).
Pichincha is one of the volcanoes surrounding the capital city that is still active (although no activity is expected in the near future).
It watches over the Western side of Quito in the Andes Mountains and is classified as a stratovolcano. Two of its several summits are Guagua Pichincha, measured at 4794 meters above sea level and Rucu Pichincha measuring at 4700 meters asl.
"Guagua" means "baby" in the local indiginous Quechuan language and this "baby" is actively monitored by vulcanologists. The last eruption was in the year 1660 which left 25 centimeters of ash over the city. The most recent eruption was on August 23, 2006. A few breaths of smoke deposited only a tiny amount of ash over Quito. On a clear day, the ice caps that cover a few of the volcanoes can be seen directly from within the city's limits.
Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve
Quichua for "Smoke of Water", Pululahua is believed to have been first settled by the Incas and it is the only inhabited and cultivated volcanic caldera in the world.
The volcano is inactive but its past eruptions, the last around 2500 years ago, have left a huge crater full of fertile soil. At 34 square kilometres, the volcanic crater is one of the largest in the world. The lava dome in the middle rises around 500 metres above the crater floor and is covered in lush cloudforest vegetation.
Small agricultural communities here grow various crops in the rich soil of the fields around the floor of the crater where a dense fog ("neblina") rolls in around midday every day and fills the crater. Cloud forest vegetation and crops thrive in the fog which is the only real source of water because it rarely rains at Pululahua. Visit in the morning to enjoy the fantastic views and photograph the attractive scenery before the fog rolls in. Pululahua was declared a Geobotanical Reserve in 1966 and is regulated by Ecuador´s Ministry of the Environment.
Quito Zoo exhibits the largest collection of indigenous fauna in Ecuador. Animals have spacious enclosures with hide-aways from the public if the animal so chooses.
Efforts have been made to replicate the relevant natural habitat and the animals seem healthy and well cared for. Quito Zoo plays a major role in educating the citizens of Ecuador about the wealth of wildlife in their country.
Just 12 miles outside of Quito, near the rural parish of Guayllabamba, an excursion to Quito Zoo can easily be done in half a day from Quito. It won't take more than a couple of hours to enjoy what the zoo has to offer.
Antisana Ecological Reserve
The pristine natural refuge known as the Antisana Ecological Reserve is simply breathtaking. Striking mountains unfurl into dense forest and deep gorges while crystal clear lakes reflect the mesmerizing mountain scenery around them.
The reserve stretches out over some 120 000 hectares of land and, if you do decide to visit it, you should make sure that you remember to bring your camera with you.
Situated within the confines of the reserve you will find the Antisana volcano, which rises to a height of 5 758 meters above sea level. The mountain has a reputation for being a hard climb, but it is likely that the striking views make it even more rewarding to hard-core climbing enthusiasts. The volcano is surrounded by striking lagoons that tend to reflect the Antisana Peak in their clear and undisturbed waters – a most memorable sight. In the native language, Antisana means 'dark mountain'. The volcano is estimated to be roughly 800 000 years old and, while it has not erupted in many thousands of years, the more recent lava that can be found on the slopes of the mountain have seeped out cracks in the side of the mountain. The reserve was created in 1993 and it is wedged between the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve and the Sumaco Napo Galeras National Park. Together the three areas possess immense natural wealth.
Cayambe-Coca Eco Reserve
Cayambe's indigenous people of today are descendants of the pre-Inca Kayambi people. The Kayambi were resistant to Inca expansion and were only definitively conquered by Inca Huayna Capac after a bloody 20-year war. Not long afterwards, in the 16th century, the first Spanish conquerors arrived in the region. The Kayambi people adopted the Quichua language (sometimes also spelled Kichwa), a dialect of the Quechua language. Quichua survives in some of the hamlets today, while in others it has given way to Spanish.
Cayambe, with it's permanent snow cap, is the highest point in the world crossed by the Equator at 4,690 m (15,387 ft) on its south slope and the only point on the Equator with snow cover. The volcano is located within the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve. The town of Cayambe takes its name from the volcano. Cayambe was first scaled by British climber Edward Whymper and his two Italian guides and companions Juan Antonio and Luis Carrel in 1880, and is a favourite of mountain climbers today.
Papallacta and Oyacachi
Thermal springs located northwest of Quito. 1.5 hr. drive. Surrounded by mountains.
Cotopaxi National Park
Cotopaxi, a stratovolcano in the Andes, is the second highest summit in the country, reaching a height of 5,897 meters.
Climbing Cotopaxi is alpine F/PD grade, and relatively popular, with sometimes 100 climbers attempting it on weekends. It is normally done from the mountain hut at 4800m on north side, without any intermediate camps. A 4WD track goes up from the national park entrance to 4600m altitude, just below the hut where wild Mustangs are plentiful. Adventure tourism operators in Quito offer mountain biking tours from that point downhill along the track.
Mindo Nambillo Cloud Forest
This mystic remnant of primary forest protects numerous endangered species from birds, to reptiles, to mammals - an astounding array of bio-diversity. To experience life under the canopy is akin to living in the Garden of Eden.
The Mindo area ranges from approximately 1400 to 4780m above sea level, and its most popular attractions are typical of the cloud forest flora and fauna. Temperatures range from about 15ºC – 24ºC (60ºF – 75ºF), and rain storms are common throughout the year, although the climate is driest from May – September.
2 hrs from Quito, waterfalls, hummingbirds, butterfly farms, horseback rides through the jungle or to the waterfalls, The Yellow House (a farm called San Vicente) offers INCREDIBLE trails to bird watch. Also available are zip lines which allow you to glide by your waist on a cable over the canopy below. If you want to get wet, tube rafting is a popular thing to do. An adventure is waiting!
Relax in hot spring water from the volcano Tungurahua. Walk through the "door to the Amazon basin" as Baños is nicknamed because it is located in the Ecuadorian Andes.
Activities found here include: bike rides, horse rides, good walks, white water rafting, and repelling. Baños is a city in eastern Tungurahua Province, in central Ecuador. Baños is the second most populous city in Tungurahua, after Ambato, the capital, and a major touristic center. It is known as the "Gateway to the Amazon," as it is located on the Pastaza River in the Amazon River basin, and has a newly paved road to Puyo.
Baños is located on the northern foothills of the Tungurahua volcano. It is named after the hydrothermal springs of mineral water located around the city. The city is also a Roman Catholic religious center, as some Catholic believers say that the Virgin Mary appeared nearby a waterfall. So a sculpture of the virgin, called Virgen de Agua Santa, was placed in the cathedral.
Otavalo Native Mercado
This small village about 110 km from Quito is famous worldwide for it's handicrafts and textiles and the locals are dedicated to their craft, often with workshops in their home.
Close to Otavalo there is a volcano called Cotacachi whose crater maintains water turning it into an beautiful lake. A visitor may walk around the edges of the lake, or take a ride to the actual center of the volcano.
Otavalo is a largely indigenous town in the Imbabura Province of Ecuador. The town, which is in a valley, is surrounded by the peaks of Imbabura 4,610m, Cotacachi 4,995m, and Mojanda volcanoes.
The indigenous Otavaleños are famous for weaving textiles, usually made of wool, which are sold at the famous Saturday market. Although the largest market is on Saturday, there is a very wide range of wares available throughout the week in the Plaza del Ponchos, and the many local shops. Otavalo was an area made up principally of farming communities, but with the growth of tourism, the town has begun to focus more on the making of handicrafts which have made the Saturday market a popular stop with visitors to Ecuador. Tourism has become the town's main industry and as a result there are many more hotels, hostels, and tour operators than other similarly sized Ecuadorian towns, such as nearby Cayambe.
As Otavalo is famous for its textiles, many of the nearby villages and towns are famous for their own particular crafts. Cotacachi, the center of Ecuador's leather industry, is known for its polished calf skins. In San Antonio, where the local specialty is wood carving, the main street prominently displays carved statues, picture frames, and furniture.
Illiniza is a stratovolcano in Ecuador, located about 55 km (34 mi) southwest of Quito. Illiniza, a dormant stratovolcano, consists of two snow covered peaks: Illiniza Sur (5,248 m) and Illiniza Norte (5,126 m). Most guidebooks (for example, Lonely Planet Ecuador, Ecuador: A Climbing Guide) spell the mountain with only one "l" as in Iliniza. Its name is derived from the Kunza words for "masculine hill."
Whilst Illiniza Sur (the southern peak) is a more difficult climb due to its glacial nature, Illiniza Norte requires little or no climbing expertise, and may be done as a trekking peak. A guide is still recommended, however, as the path becomes hard to navigate as it approaches the summit.
The Illinizas are generally thought to be the best acclimatization mountains in Ecuador, and are frequently used as a preparatory climb to higher peaks such as Cotopaxi, Chimborazo and Cayambe.
Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge
The spectacular Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge is just 45 minutes from Quito and encompasses rare humid Andean shrub forest around an extinct volcano crater.
The main forest of Pasochoa was discovered by Dr. Fernando Ortiz back in the 1970s. Ecuador's Ministry of Agriculture allocated the area as a Protected Forest in 1982 so as to guard it for research, education and conservation purposes. As of 1982 the Pasochoa region came under the care of the Fundación Natura. Finally, in 1997 it was named the Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge and became a member of Ecuador's National System of Protected Areas.
Management of the Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge has set out several objectives for the reserve. They are determined to protect the plant and animal life of Pasochoa Volcano as well as to promote scientific studies in the area. Another goal is to teach visitors through environmental education and to offer opportunities for eco-tourism. In fact, tourists can enjoy a number of trails through the park. These interpretative trails vary in distance and difficulty levels. The administrative office of the Pasochoa Refuge has a lodge, camping spots, kitchen, picnic area, parking, conference center and guide services.
Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge has a remarkable biological value. There are several vegetation zones, but much of the plant-life is Andean forest. The area has approximately 240 plant species, of which a large percentage can be used for medicinal purposes and other uses. As such, the Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge is able to support a variety of animal species. In fact, the park is home to some 10 mammal species and 127 bird species. Bird watchers can look out for the 16 hummingbird species, as well as Andean condors, huirac-churos, semilleros, wild mountain turkeys, turtledoves and so forth. Other nature-lovers will enjoy spotting deer, Brazilian rabbits, pumas, skunks, bats, toads and frogs.
It is said that the area was affected by the eruption of Pasochoa volcano some 100 000 years ago. This resulted in a large bowl crater. As the zone has been difficult to access and was never suitable for agriculture or other forms of farming, the Andean forest is relatively untouched. It is therefore vital to protect this stunning natural area and the organisms that reside here. You are certain to have a wonderful time exploring the Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge along its lovely pathways.