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Fancy visiting a city nestled in a valley and surrounded by imposing volcanic peaks? If so, a trip to Quito should be on your agenda. The jaw-dropping setting alone will guarantee you have a great visit. Quito is a photographer’s paradise; not only is the landscape spectacular, but Quito’s Old Town boasts amazing colonial architecture and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Quito has recently undergone a major renovation, making the city even more spectacular while still ensuring it remains true to its indigenous roots. If you wander the bustling streets, just 10 minutes away from the Old Town, you will find a collage of modernity formed of multi-story buildings, chic cafés and swanky restaurants. It’s no wonder how Quito got the nickname gringolandia (white-person land), but locals are also attracted to its colonial charm. They navigate the streets scattered with musicians, stray dogs and enticing gift shops, ensuring you always feel encapsulated in the Ecuadorian ambience.
A massive restoration project was completed in 2006, making Ecuador’s capital city even more irresistible. The title of Best Preserved City Center was bestowed on Quito by UNESCO in 1978. Take a stroll through the inviting Plaza de Armas and marvel at the colonial façades of stately mansions encompassing this central city park. There are more than 50 churches, cathedrals, and convents to explore among cobbled streets peppered with nostalgic homes converted into restaurants and modern shops. Quito is a quaint blend of ancient and modern. For instance, sleek and stylish New Town Quito is only 20 minutes from its colonial counterpart. Recent developments have made it even easier to admire this city from the ground as well as the air: Telefériqo raises passengers to the heights of nearby Pichincha Volcano to get a bird’s-eye view of this Spanish settlement turned travel hotspot.
Some popular attractions in the city include: Museo del Banco, a prominent museum chronologically showcasing artwork from all phases of Ecuador’s history; the head-turning architecture of La Compañía church; and the moving Capilla del Hombre, a monumental artistic tribute to everything human, showcasing in particular the struggle of Ecuador’s indigenous people. Enjoy the lively notes of eclectic live music pouring out of El Pobre Diablo restaurant after taking a day trip to La Mitad del Mundo, “the middle of the world” monument, where you can stand in the northern and southern hemispheres at the same time. Climb the steep slope of El Panecillo hill to see up close the Virgin Mary statue who vigilantly keeps watch over Quito’s residents.
To start your travels in Ecuador, there’s no better spot than Quito. You can book a trip to the exotic Galápagos Islands, take a trek into the Amazon Rainforest, or just relax on the miles of beaches, but before you leave to other parts of this vibrant South American country, take some time to get immersed in the unique atmosphere that is Quito. There is much to explore and experience in this northern Inca capital which has proven the test of time and embraced modernity while staying true to its past.