Under the shadow of the imposing Pichincha Volcano at 2800m above sea-level, Quito is Ecuador’s attractive, bustling capital. Founded in 1534 by Sebastián de Benalcazar, much of the city’s colonial heart has survived to this day, a picturesque, white-washed maze of historic churches, cobbled plazas and traditional townhouses that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. At its heart, the government house and stunning 17th century cathedral overlook Independence square while the iconic church and monastery of San Francisco dominate the neighbouring plaza. Huge efforts have been made to regenerate the district and the old town now buzzes with hotels, restaurants, bars and galleries, all beautifully lit at night.
On the small Panecillo hill overlooking the colonial centre, the Virgin of Quito gazes down on the city, a wonderful viewpoint over Quito. However, on clear days, visitors flock to the chairlift up Pichincha, for breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
Just north of Quito, Ecuador straddles the “Equator” at the official “Mitad del Mundo” line and museum, a tourist attraction that draws visitors from far and wide. Built in the 1980’s to replace an older monument, the site is actually out by 240m, an earlier pre-Inca marker built hundreds of years earlier had it positioned perfectly!