Few cities have a setting to match that of Quito, the second highest capital in Latin America. It sits in a narrow valley running north to south, at the foot of the volcano Pichincha (4776 m). It is a city of many faces. At its heart is colonial Quito or the centro histórico, the first UNESCO World Heritage Site city in the world, where pastel-coloured houses and ornate churches line a warren of steep and narrow streets.
Colonial Quito is home to 86 churches and countless historical buildings and museums. It is a treasure trove of art which bears witness to the amalgamation of Spanish and native cultures. It all lies at the foot of Panecillo, a hill topped by an immense statue of the winged Virgen de Legarda. The city has made great efforts to revitalize its colonial core and the area is patrolled for safety. Illuminated church towers create a beautiful nighttime cityscape and horse-drawn carriages are available to take visitors for a ride.
North of the colonial centre is modern Quito, an altogether different place. Its broad avenues are lined with fine private residences, parks, embassies and villas. Here you’ll find Quito’s main tourist and business area: banks, tour agencies, airlines, language schools, smart shops, restaurants, bars, and cafés and a huge variety of hotels in the districts known as La Mariscal and La Carolina.
Quito is surrounded by scenic countryside well worth visiting on one-day or multi-day excursions. There are nature reserves, wonderful thermal baths, mountains to climb, quaint villages and – of course – the monument to the equator, all within easy reach of the city. The western slopes of Pichincha, also close at hand, are covered in beautiful cloud forests where nature lovers can indulge their taste for adventure.