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World Travel Guide > Guides > South America > Ecuador > Quito

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Quito Travel Guide

About Quito

Once a stepping stone for the Galapagos Islands and a stopping point for the Amazon, travellers are now unearthing the colonial charm and cosmopolitan buzz of Ecuador’s proud epicentre, Quito.

The crowing glory of a country that offers that rare fusion of jungle, mountain and scintillating coast, Quito was once a crucial, northern frontier of the enormous Inca Empire. Little remains today of the capital’s pre-Hispanic history, but the city raised from its ashes is still a wondrous sight.

So immaculately-preserved in fact, its historical centre was one of the first places to receive UNESCO World Heritage status. Visitors are taken aback when climbing the steep, golden streets of the old town or when admiring the pretty, well-kept houses that have been turned into restaurants, shops and hotels.

This city has more than 50 churches, chapels and monasteries to explore as well as some world-class museums. After all, this was home to Miguel de Santiago, the leader of the prestigious Quito School. Contemporary genius, Oswaldo Guayasamín, lived here too and his Capilla del Hombre is one of Latin America’s most treasured art stops.

Quito is blessed with considerable natural beauty too. Built on the eastern slopes of Pichincha Volcano, it climbs to nearly 3,000m (9,843 ft) amidst the lofty Andes. From the old town rooftops, gaze across the peach buildings that crawl towards El Panecillo and its curious winged statue of the Virgin. Better yet, take advantage of the TelefériQo gondola for some spectacular vistas.

Mariscal, the nucleus around which the city’s cultural life revolves, shows Quito’s willingness to combine colonial-age appeal with 21st-century efficiency. Its lively nightlife fills up with hedonists of all descriptions as the evening drifts in. It’s also home to Quito’s best restaurants, with some interesting contemporary takes on Ecuadorean cuisine and an emerging fine-dining scene.

Visitors eventually leave for a volcano trek, or to the jungle, or even for a flight to the Galapagos Islands, but few regret having spent more than a paltry night’s rest in one of the most dynamic and historically rich metropolises this side of the world.

Key facts

Population:
1,505,000 (latest estimate, 2005)
Latitude:
-0.189691
Longitude:
-78.491560

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Featured Hotels

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Hilton Colón Quito

Close to the historical district and Quito's airport, Hilton Colón Quito is a large compound, complete with the excellent Italian Portofino restaurant and a sushi bar. The main 19-storey tower overlooks Edijo Park and the Old Town. Large rooms have all the expected amenities. The hotel also boasts a fitness centre, a spa with Turkish bath and sauna, and an outdoor heated pool.

Community Hostel

Socially-minded and solo travellers should feel right at home with Community Hostel's daily schedule of activities, which include everything from a weekly food tour of the city to a Saturday night pub crawl. Situated in Quito's historic centre, the hostel also offers free Wi-Fi, security lockers, and 24 hour reception.

Casa Joaquin Boutique Hotel

Situated in the lively La Mariscal district, this boutique offering occupies the grounds of a restored colonial house and enjoys a rooftop terrace and large patio. Rooms include parquet flooring and all the modern fixtures and fittings you would expect, including a flat-screen TV, telephone and free Wi-Fi.

Café Cultura

This legendary hotel, in the heart of Mariscal Sucre area, is owned by a Hungarian painter who has turned every room into a work of art. Located in an old mansion house, it has a lush garden and a common area where you can dine in style or chat with other travellers, sitting by the fireplace. Wireless Internet is available.

Swissôtel Quito

Set dramatically on top of the cliff overlooking the picturesque Guaopolo valley, this hotel offers luxurious rooms as well as apartments for a prolonged stay, complete with all amenities one might expect from a high-class business hotel. It has six restaurants specializing in Swiss, French, Japanese and other international cuisines. The Amrita Spa centre boasts a gym and two pools - indoors and outdoors.

Hostal de La Rábida

Everything is white in this friendly Italian-run, middle-range hotel: the mansion house which it occupies, the rooms and the rabbit that lives in the little garden into which rooms open - hence the name. There is a cosy little restaurant serving Italian and Ecuadorean meals. Wireless Internet is available.