Quito, a capital that reaches for the skies
Perched atop the Andean Mountain range of Ecuador, Quito is one of the most elevated cities in the world. It has retained its diversity and historic heritage throughout the years, from indigenous populations to remnants of Spanish colonisation.
On the slopes of the Guagua Pichincha volcano, the Quito conurbation stretches over fifty kilometres in length for only ten in width. As you make your way through the Ecuadorian metropolis, you shall quickly adapt to its particularities: at an altitude of 2,850 metres amid the mythical Andes, your body will softly adjust to lower concentrations of oxygen, due to the elevation. It could also be a perfect training for those who wish to venture even higher, for instance to the top of the Cotopaxi, emblematic volcano that reaches close to 6,000 metres, south of the capital. You will rapidly soak up the city's motto: “Quito touches the sky”. The sky is no longer a limit, and you will burst through it when using the TelefériQo, which will offer majestic views over Quito.
Ecuador and its aptly named “four worlds” are an intercultural and multinational State, as inscribed in its constitution. In Quito, all you need to acknowledge the reality of this extreme diversity is to walk through the historic centre with a panama hat on your head. This urban exploration will also reveal traces of former Spanish colonisation, from the general architecture to the many places of worship. Despite the many earthquakes that shattered its base, including the 1917 one, the old town and its rainbow colours have been incredibly well preserved. Inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list since 1978, Quito is among the first cities to have been delivered such a status.
Feel the city's beating heart all around the Plaza de la Independencia, commonly nicknamed “Plaza Grande”. There is much to do and gaze at in this family-friendly and lively place: among its many-splendored buildings and institutions likely to make your head spin are the Carondelet Palace, which is the seat of the government, and the Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús (Church of the Society of Jesus) showcasing an impressive central nave. Do not pass by the Museo de la Ciudad that tells of Quito's history. The Iñaquito and San Francisco markets will give you the opportunity to discover flavourful local cuisine for a low price.
It goes without saying, you cannot take a trip to Quito without travelling around. The country's unique biodiversity led Ecuador to protect 20% of its territory. In the east, the Amazon shelters one of the largest global areas of biological megadiversity. About two hours from Quito by plane in the Pacific Ocean, the Galápagos Islands unveil a truly exceptional ecosystem, boasting some 9,000 species. Ecotourism is rapidly taking hold throughout the country, which makes it genuine paradise for nature lovers.
If you crave adventure, history, culture and extraordinary encounters, Ecuador is a promise of what beauty and magic the Andean world holds.