Quito

Quito is the capital of Ecuador. It was founded in 1534 on the ruins of an ancient Inca city. Today, two million people live in Quito. It was the first city to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 (along with Kraków in Poland).

. . . Quito . . .

Quito lies between two mountain ranges and its altitude is 2,850 m (9,350 feet). It may take you a couple of days to get accustomed to the altitude.

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. Quito’s Old City is the largest in the Americas. It has undergone a huge restoration and revitalization program, mainly financed by the Inter-American Development Bank. It boasts no fewer than 40 churches and convents, 17 squares and 16 convents and monasteries. It’s been called the ‘Reliquary of the Americas’ for the richness of its colonial- and independence-era architecture and heritage. It’s a great quarter to wander, with several excellent museums and plenty of restaurants and terrace and courtyard cafes for a rest while sightseeing.

Modern, northern Quito (on a map, up until the southern tip of the old airport – now called Parque Bicentenario) is a fun place to explore, with plenty of museums, urban parks, restaurants, and nightlife. The southern and northern (from Parque Bicentenario up) districts of the city are more working class and seldom visited by tourists.

Quito’s Plaza Grande

Be prepared to speak some basic Spanish in order to get along. Quito is an excellent city in which to learn Spanish before heading off to other places in South America. The Spanish spoken in Quito is very clear and it is spoken slowly as compared to coastal areas. There are many excellent Spanish schools, where you can have private or group lessons very economically. These schools will also arrange homestay accommodation which is convenient, inexpensive and a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the culture and try the local food.

Very few locals speak English except in the touristy areas of North Quito which includes “La Mariscal” quarter, where most tourist businesses are located. La Mariscal occupies several square blocks in North Quito and is the place to be if you wear a backpack. Bars, restaurants, hostels and internet cafes abound. Young people from many countries tend to congregate there.

Ecuador, especially the Sierra region that includes Quito, is culturally a very conservative society. This is reflected in manner of dress. People of all socio-economic backgrounds tend to dress up in Ecuador. For men, this means a pair of trousers and a button down shirt. For women, slacks or dresses are acceptable. Men and women seldom wear short pants in Quito, although casual clothes have become somewhat more accepted especially among the young and on very hot days. Some popular nightclubs and restaurants enforce a dress code. Lastly, remember that Quito is said to have “all four seasons in a day”. Once the sun goes down it can get downright cold. Dressing in layers is a good idea.

. . . Quito . . .

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. . . Quito . . .

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