Quito, the capital of Ecuador,was founded in 1534 on the ruins of an ancient Inca city. The population is currently about 2 million.
Quito lies between two mountain ranges and its altitude is 2,800 metres or about 10,000 feet. It may take you a couple of days to get accustomed to the altitude.
Quito is said to have "all four seasons in a day". Once the sun goes down it can get quite cold. Dressing in layers is a good idea.
Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre is located around 8km from Quito's center and is the main, best and easiest way to get into the city.
A new, large international airport is presently under construction in a valley located in the northeast of Quito.
The easiest way to get to most Quito hotels from the airport is to buy a taxi ticket, which will cost about $3 US to get to the Mariscal hotel district.
There are dozens of hostels and hotels in town to accommodate all the visitors. Most people stay in the new town, which is closer to the nightlife.
Once you are in Quito, there are 3 separate North/South bus lines that run through the city: El Trole, Metrobus, and Escovia.
A good place to start is the Quito Visitors' Bureau. It has several information centres around the city. These include at the International and Domestic Arrivals terminals at the airport; the Parque Gabriela Mistral in the Mariscal District; the Banco Central Museum in the Masiscal District; and in the Old Town, on the ground floor of the Palacio Municipal on one side of Plaza Grande.
Quito is roughly divided into three parts: the Old City at the centre, with southern and northern districts to either side.
The greatest concentration of tourist facilities is in the North, including the airport. Quito's Old City is the largest in the Americas. In the last ten years, it has undergone a huge restoration and revitalization program. It's been called the 'Relicuary of the Americas' for the richness of its colonial- and independence-era architecture and heritage.
Modern, northern Quito (on a map, up until the southern tip of the airport) is a fun place to explore, with plenty of museums and urban parks as well as restaurants and nightlife. The southern and northern (from the airport up) districts of the city are more working class and seldom visited by tourists.
If you are learning Spanish, Quito is a great place to study. Many schools will also arrange homestay accommodation which is convenient, inexpensive and a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the culture.
Some places to visit:
Conjunto monumental San Francisco: The church dates back from the 1570s and was devoted to San Francis, since the Franciscan order was the first to settle in the area. Houses priceless masterpieces of religious art.
Museo del Banco Central: Adjacent to the Parque El Ejido, this is Ecuador's most renowned museum with rooms devoted to pre-Columbian, Colonial and gold works of art, etc.
Museo de la Ciudad: The Museo de la Ciudad is in the Old Town, on Garcia Moreno street, directly opposite the Carmen Alto monastery. A lovely museum with two floors encircling two quiet courtyards, the "Museo de la Ciudad" provides more of a social history of Ecuador than other museums in Quito.
Botanical Gardens: The Jardin Botanico is located on the southwest side of Parque La Carolina and features two glass enclosed orchidariums.
To the North, all tourists should visit the province of Imbabura, which has beautiful lakes such as Yaguarcocha and San Pablo.
To the North West of Quito lies the region of Mindo, a subtropical rainforest paradise, full of rivers, majestic waterfalls, unique wildlife and more.
To the east, lies Papallacta which is a thermal water resort town.
As always, when traveling, keep a close eye on your belongings, avoid walking alone after dark or in unfamiliar areas, and do not pay attention to anyone who tries to get your attention on the street.
Enjoy the beautiful colonial city of Quito!
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