Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is a city of about 2.6 million residents located at an elevation of 9,350 feet. It’s the highest capital city in the world and is located about 0.62 miles south of 0° latitude – two characteristics that make this city very distinct. ‘Ecuador’ means ‘equator’ in Spanish. The city is bordered to the west by Pichincha Volcano, which beautifully looms over the city. Quito has a subtropical highland climate and because of its elevation and proximity to the equator, has a fairly constant cool climate. The average temperature at noon is 66° F and the average nighttime low is 49° F. Due to its geographical location and elevation, Quito receives a great amount of solar radiation, being one of the locations on the planet that receives the most. However, due to the elevation, the air does not heat up so there is a big difference in temperature depending on whether you are in the sunlight or in the shade.
Quito, with Pichincha looming over
Quito is the second largest city in Ecuador – Guayaquil on the southern coast is the largest – and is the head of government. It is home to the presidential palace, named Carondelet; the National Assembly, which is the legislature; and the Supreme Court. Due to its large and very well preserved colonial district, Quito, along with Krakow, were the first cities ever to be declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1978. Quito’s colonial district, or Old Town, is considered to be one of the most important historic areas in Latin America. It houses about 130 monumental buildings, including dozens of churches.
The skyline of this gorgeous city is marked by several snow-capped volcanoes. Cotopaxi Volcano is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world and its perfect cone-shaped peak can often be seen from Quito. I’ve heard Cotopaxi referred to the as the most vain of the volcanoes – always wanting to be seen. Also commonly seen from Quito are El Reventador, Antisana, and Cayambe volcanoes.
Antisana Volcano as seen from Quito
Cotopaxi Volcano as seen from the roof of my third-story apartment building in Quito
Although Quito is home to 2.6 million people, it maintains a small-town feel while offering the modern conveniences and cosmopolitan air of a large metropolis. One can never be at a loss of things to do in this beautiful, diverse city. Here are my five of my favorite things to do on the weekend here:
– Visit the neogothic basilica to admire the sculptures of animals from the Galápagos Islands on the exterior and climb up to the clock towers for a gorgeous view of the city
– Go to The Middle of the World at 0° latitude and not only see the monument, but also visit the ethnographic museum and do experiments with phenomena that only occur at 0° latitude
– Go shopping at the artisans’ market in Quito and admire the work done in silver, with tapestries, and the weavings.
– Dance my heart out at a salsa club and enjoy the healthy environment of salsa dancing that Quito has to offer (dancing instead of drinking)
– Take the cable cars up Pichincha to the top for an absolutely breathtaking view of the city and surrounding valleys and volcanoes. Go horseback riding and have a picnic.
And that’s all here in the city – not to even mention the short day trips available just 90 minutes outside the city! Those of us who live in Quito are truly fortunate!