Quito is not a household name like it’s fellow great cities of South America of Buenos Aires, Santiago or Rio de Janeiro, however this diminutive capital of Equador has a richness of history and a geographical situation that is enough to leave many breathless. It has around 2 million people and is split roughly into three parts, the old town in the centre with a north and south district on either side.
The former Incan capital of the north was one of the two cities first recognised for it’s qualities with a World Heritage listing way back in 1978 along with Krakow in Poland. It is situated between two mountain ranges in a narrow valley at the foot of the Pichincha volcanoe at around 10,000 feet in altitude.
The old town is the largest in the Americas and is a wonderfully large town filled with colonial churches, squares, winding cobbled streets and charming old theatres. The entire old town has been recently restored bringing it back to it’s former glory but retaining the essential character which so endears it to travellers and locals alike. It’s a bustling place with hawkers selling all manner of goods, dogs roaming the streets, the smells of cooking and locals chatting in the streets.
To the north the scene is markedly different, it is where most of the tourist facilities are located and is a much more modern (albiet less interesting) affair with shopping centres, galleries, hotels, cafes and bars.
Quito is a great jumping off point for other destinations in Equador including the Amazon and the Galapogas Islands.