Located in the foothills of the Andes, high-altitude Quito was constructed on the site of an ancient Incan city and now serves as the vibrant capital of Ecuador. Its historic core was designated as one of the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with 16th-century churches and colonial buildings lining its magnificent central square.
Things to do in Quito
Stroll through the beautifully preserved colonial heart of Quito, which is home to Spanish Baroque churches, world-class museums and the palm-lined Plaza Grande. Not to miss is the highly ornate Compañia de Jesús Jesuit (often referred to as Quito’s Sistine Chapel) and the Museo del Banco Central where pre-Columbian and colonial artefacts are on display.
Watching over Quito is the Virgin of El Panecillo, a 45-metre-high madonna statue that was constructed from 7,000 pieces of aluminium. It was inspired by the Virgen de Quito sculpted by Bernardo de Legarda, which now adorns the altar of the Church of St. Francis. Climb to the base of the Virgin of El Panecillo for sweeping views across Quito.
A short drive north of Quito is the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, which is dominated by a 30-metre-tall monument marking the exact location of the Equator. Learn about the Franco-Spanish Geodesic Mission that defined the equatorial line’s placement, then browse the exhibits about Ecuador’s indigenous peoples. In addition to traditional clothing and textiles, Museo Etnografico houses a collection of Ecuadorian musical instruments.
Getting around Quito
Mariscal Sucre Quito International Airport is a 45-minute drive from the centre of Quito and has flights to destinations across Europe and the Americas. Long-distance buses connect to Quito from towns and cities in Ecuador while local buses travel throughout the city. Quito’s colonial heart is ideally explored on foot.