Quito Travel Guide
Situated 9350ft above sea level, only 14 miles south of the equator, Quito is one of the most beautiful cities in South America. Since 1978, when UNESCO declared Quito a World Cultural Heritage Site, government legislation has ensured that the building of modern structures is strictly controlled. Today it still retains much of its colonial charm, the old centre in particular filled with white washed houses with red tiled roofs and a plethora of lovely churches and monuments.
The 16th century Monastery of San Francisco is the oldest church in Ecuador and amongst the first Spanish colonial style churches to be built in South America. One of the most pleasant streets in the City is La Ronda a colonial era alley and a favourite place to stroll amongst locals and visitors alike. The skyline is dominated by El Panecillo (little bread loaf), a hill crowned by the huge statue of the Virgin of Quito. If you can cope with the altitude it is well worth the climb as it offers amazing views over the city. At the foot of El Panecillo, the Indian Market is a colourful affair where vendors dressed in genuine traditional clothes sell carvings, jewellery and handicrafts. The modern section of the City is its business hub and is comprised of mainly offices and places of work, however the Avenida Amazonas is a great place to enjoy a coffee and spend an hour or so relaxing and people watching.
If you tire of this beautiful City it's worth taking the short trip to La Mitad Mundo (the middle of the world), where you can actually stand on the equator, which is represented by a yellow line painted on the ground. It's all a bit tacky but something about the Ecuadorian sensibility makes it quite entertaining in a bizarre sort of way. Especially amusing are the number of ways folk find to commemorate their visit - shaking hands over the line, kissing over the line, lying across it, walking along it or even jumping from side to side so they can say with all honestly they've crossed the equator a hundred times.
One of the major bonuses of Quito is the price. This is one very cheap place to visit. The food is excellent and comes in large portions; you can eat like a king for just a few pounds. Transport is also inexpensive which means you can travel around the city and surrounding area for next to nothing. There are the usual big city problems - crime, traffic, pollution, poverty but no more than any other South American city and the people on the whole are friendly and polite (bar the occasional 'gringo' hater). The altitude means, that despite its proximity to the equator, Quito's weather remains spring-like the whole year round. It is also an excellent base for exploring the rest of Ecuador, but make sure you spend some real time exploring this wonderful city first.
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