Quito has been deemed a World Heritage City and at 10,000 feet, it is the second highest capital city in the world. Beyond the breathtaking views, Quito offers religious monuments, historic sites, fantastic culture and so much more!
Another great aspect of Quito is the spring like temperatures, thanks in part to the high altitude. Be sure to visit during the ‘dry season’ for the most amiable traveling conditions.
- Two mountain ranges surround Quito, and with the high altitude of 10,000 feet, you’ll want to give yourself a day to become adapted to the change in altitude.
- If you don’t know Spanish, it would be worth your while to learn some basic phrases before you go. Except for the more touristy spots, very few residents speak fluent English. No need to be fluent in Spanish, but it helps to be able to ask for directions, rent a hotel room, understand the menu and exchange basic pleasantries like please, thanks etc.
- If you are flying into Quito, then you’ll fly into the Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre, located about 8km from the city center. The airport is quick and easy way to get to Quito. On the other hand, the Terminal Terrestre bus terminal is a scary, dark and dirty place. If you are traveling with loads of bags, most travel guides recommend steering clear of the public transportation system and taking a cab to your accommodation (very reasonably priced). If you are coming into Quito by bus, it is helpful to know that most drivers will let you off at any spot along the route, so you could get off at your destination instead of heading into the bus terminal.
- Quito has a trolley system that follows north/south right through Quito. It is very reasonable and very clean! The Metrobus is another option, check out the map for its routes. Don’t bother renting a car as it just isn’t worth it since buses and taxis are so cheap. In addition, with no traffic rules, you could be very stressed out navigating the streets in your rental! If you are getting a taxi, be sure to only use the yellow ones that have a number on the door because these ones use meters. If they don’t, be sure to negotiate your price before setting off.
Quito is somewhat divided into two sections, the Old City and the New City. The Old City is where you will want to go if you like looking at ancient cathedrals and public buildings. You’ll also find that Quito is divided into a North and South sector as well. Likely, you will spend the majority of your time in the North because that’s where the newer buildings and touristy areas are located. Generally, the housing and oldest historic buildings are in the South.
These are the places to see, hope you enjoy them during your visit!
- Iglesia La Compañía de Jesús – You simply have to book in time at this UNESCO site of one of the 100 most important monuments in the world. The church’s construction began in 1605 with many renovations taking place over the centuries. Behold the fantastic gold work and the fantastic decorations covering the inside of the church.
- Monastery of San Francisco – Located just a few blocks from the Plaza de la Independencia (another area that is a must visit and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) this monastery is the oldest colonial building in Quito. You can enjoy the Museo Franciscano that features art, furniture and paintings.
- Parque El Ejido and Parque La Alameda – Visiting these two parks are the perfect ways to behold the true beauty of the city. You’ll find locals, artists, students and vacationers enjoying a picnic, selling handicrafts, relaxing or playing sports. As you walk around, you’ll notice ponds, monuments, and an astronomical observatory.
- National Museum of the Central Bank of Ecuador – Don’t be fooled by the name of this museum – it really is far more fascinating than the name suggests. For a low entry fee you can see a vast collection covering Ecuador’s history. In fact, the Archaeological Court’s collection dates from 12,000 BC to 1534 AD, the date when the Spaniards invaded the area. It is a fascinating museum that you don’t want to miss.
- Guayllabamba Zoo – Opened in 1997, the zoo is actually located 29kms north of Quito, but it is well worth the short trip. Covering an area of 12 hectares, you can see almost 180 animals. In addition, the zoo features 45 species of native fauna displaying the diverse Eco-regions of the Ecuador area (the Coast, the Amazon region and the Galapagos Islands).
Beyond these attractions listed above, Quito and the surrounding areas offer so much to see and do. I hope you get a chance to visit this magical, historical and breathtaking city, it is well worth every penny. Happy travels to you!