Destination Guide: Exploring Quito, Ecuador
For first-time hikers interested in tackling the Amazon or Inca trails, it's pretty common to first take some time acclimatising in cities like Quito. With so much to offer, we wanted to provide you with some insights into this stunning place.
Quito is the largest city and capital of Ecuador. It was the first city to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and as such has become a very popular place for tourists interested in experiencing ancient ruins and culture firsthand.
Quito is situated in the heart of Ecuador, at an elevation of just over 9,000 ft – making it the second highest capital city in the world after La Paz in Bolivia. The high altitude can take a while to get used to, so be prepared for altitude sickness.
The city is surrounded by two stunning mountain ranges that are often capped with snow. Although modern Quito dates back to the 1500’s, there are records from ancient Quito from as far back as the 980 AD. Over the years the city has seen several battles and changes of ownership, including the Spanish invasion in 1534. It wasn’t until 1822 that Quito became independent from the Spanish.
Quito is quite clearly divided into two parts – modern and ancient. Modern Quito is largely to the north and is where the majority of Quito tourism sites are located. However, ancient Quito is the oldest ancient city in the Americas and is a wonderful area to explore.
Getting to and Around Quito
Most people arrive in Quito via the Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre, situated approximately 12 miles from the city centre. There are regular flights to Quito from many major cities around the world including Amsterdam, Madrid, Houston, New York, San Jose and Buenos Aires.
The easiest way to get around Quito is via bus or taxi – both of which are very inexpensive and convenient.
Popular Quito Tourism Sites
Quito has some wonderful things to see and do no matter what time of the year you visit. Some of the most popular Quito tourism sites date back hundreds, even thousands of years.
The Conjunto Monumental San Francisco is one of the most visited Quito tourism sites; the church dates back to the 1570’s and has many beautiful works of art on display.
Another popular Quito tourism site is the Old Town. Simply walking around the Old Town will give you a wonderful insight into what the city was like many years ago. There are a range of colonial and independence era buildings as well as piazzas and churches to visit.
The Teleferico is the world’s second-highest cable car offering amazing views over the whole city and surrounding volcanoes and mountains.
Other popular Quito tourism sites include: Museo Mindalae, Calle de la Ronda, Casa de la Cultura and Mitad del Mundo.
Climate in Quito
Due to Quito’s proximity to the equator, the climate is quite consistent all year round. Its elevation also makes it a lot cooler than other surrounding cities. Expect average midday temperatures of around 66 F. There are however two seasons – wet and dry. The wet season runs from October through May, and the dry season from June through September.
Speaking in Quito
Spanish is the official language of Quito, and it is almost essential that you understand at least basic Spanish to be able to get around. Many people, particularly in tourist areas, will speak a little English – but a Spanish phrasebook is very important when you are travelling here.
Staying Safe in Quito
Unfortunately Quito has quite a bad reputation for being a dangerous city to visit. The key is to stay in safe areas and avoid visiting places along in the dark at night. Many locals target travelers, so try to blend in with the crowd by wearing local dress and keeping maps and cameras hidden.
Never carry large amounts of cash or valuables with you – leave them in a safe at your hotel.