Welcome to Quito
Quito has been described by many travellers as the most beautiful city in South America. With its elevation and location near the Equator, its climate is considered a "permanent spring." However be warned that sometimes many seasons can be enjoyed in the same day. Quito is a city of two halves. The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the colonial centre and is the heartbeat of the city. Stroll through its cobbled streets and admire the many churches, historical monuments and museums. To the north is the modern New Town where you will find most of the hotels, bars, restaurants and cafes. Take the cable car to enjoy the view of the whole city from the top of the highest mountain, or take a day trip to the town of Otavalo, famous for its market and a bewildering variety of goods ranging from antique pottery to wool sweaters and hand-woven tapestries.
Quito, the capital city, is the central hub of Ecuador, and the starting point for all other destinations in the country. In a beautiful setting at an altitude of 9,350ft (2,850m), nestled in the Andes Mountains and the snow-capped 15,728ft (4,794m) Pichincha volcano, the city of Quito is a vibrant amalgam of modern business executives and the traditional culture of the 'indígenas', or local Andean people.
A city rich in historical churches, monasteries and convents, containing a wealth of religious paintings and sculpture dating back to the 16th century, there are also a few museums worth visiting in Quito, like the Museo del Banco Central with its beautiful pre-Colombian artefacts, the ethno-historical Museo Mindalae, and the contemporary art museum Museo Guayasamin.
Quito is a beautiful city with natural settings to enjoy, like the tranquillity of the Botanical Gardens with their glassed orchid houses; and the magnificent views from the Pichincha Volcano, which can be accessed by hiking or via the Telerifico, the world's second-highest cable car.
Also a popular base for learning the Spanish language, Quito has over 60 language schools dotted about the city.
Information & Facts
The weather in Quito is consistent to that of a subtropical highland climate. The city has a fairly constant cool climate due to its elevation and proximity to the equator. The average temperature during the day is 66°F (19°C), which generally falls to an average of 50°F (10°C) at night. The average temperature annually is 64°F (15°C) There are only really two obvious seasons in the city: dry and wet. The dry season (summer) runs from June to September and the wet season (winter) is from October to May.
Getting around Quito is easy and very cheap. The long, narrow city is served by three types of buses. The 'populares', light blue in colour, cost only around 18 US cents a ride, but are generally very crowded. Pink "Interparroquial" buses carry passengers to the outer suburbs, and bright red 'selectivos' are the more luxurious option which cost around 25 US cents a ride and allow no standing passengers. Eco-friendly electric trolley buses, called 'troles', follow two north-south routes along the Av. 10 de Agosto and the Av. 6 de Diciembre. Taxis are plentiful and also inexpensive, costing only a US Dollar or two for an average ride in the city.
Spanish is the official language, but Quechua is the main language spoken among the indigenous people.
The US Dollar (USD) is the official currency in Ecuador. In 2000 the sucre was replaced by the dollar as the legal currency, but despite dollarization, the sucre will likely persist in rural areas for a while longer. It is recommended that travellers bring both US dollar notes and travellers cheques as other foreign currencies are difficult to exchange outside of Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca. Small denominations in good condition are the easiest to exchange outside of the main cities. In the main centres most currencies can be exchanged at banks and exchange houses ( casas de cambio) at variable commission rates. ATMs are available in the cities, and major credit cards are accepted in tourist areas and large hotels although a commission of 6-8% is often charged.