Highlights and main attractions of Quito

Set at a dizzying altitude of nearly 3000 metres, the Ecuadorian capital of Quito is surrounded by volcanoes and the Andes mountain range. It is impossible not to be overwhelmed by the views of the city, sprawled along the sides of the long, narrow valley that envelops it. The many panoramic vantage points to be found make it one of the most spectacular settings to be found all South America’s major cities. 

The atmospheric Old Town of Quito is a mesmerising place of grandiose buildings, immense green plazas and brilliantly white cathedrals, all worthy of exploring as part of your visit to Ecuador.

Where is Quito?

Exploring in and around Quito

Broadly divided into two parts, the ‘new’ and ‘old’ town, Quito offers a combination of unique indigenous culture and modern day Ecuador. The Old Town has enjoyed an extensive restoration effort since 2006 and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978, filled with colonial heritage, including architecture dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. It is widely considered to be the best preserved of its kind in South America and its steep, narrow streets offer sights at every turn. Catch your breath among the hustle and bustle of its impressive plazas and explore the maze of historic streets on foot, soaking up the atmosphere as you go. The New Town is filled with good restaurants, hotels and services.

An introductory tour of Quito would include the main squares or ‘plazas’ of San Francisco and Independencia, the cathedral, Presidential Palace and lavish gold interior of the Compania de Jesus church. You may be lucky enough to witness the changing of the guard on horseback. Equally spellbinding are the sweeping views from the statue of the Virgin of Quito.  A visit to the Equatorial Line at the ‘Middle of the World’ monument is a popular choice, where it is possible to stand with one foot in the northern and one in the southern hemisphere, you can even balance an egg on a nail thanks to the equal gravitational force. 

Those looking to explore some of the nature near to the capital should head to Mashpi, a private rainforest biodiversity reserve that is surrounded by forested mountains, with the spectacular Mashpi Lodge at its heart.

The city has a tremendous variety of accommodation, with some of the smaller, character properties offering the ideal place in which to begin your immersion in Ecuadorian culture. Patio Andaluz is a restored colonial house set in the historic quarter with high attic ceilings, or Casa Gangotena affords views over San Francisco square with just 31 luxurious and comfortable rooms over three floors.

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