Ecuador’s capital city of Quito is located high in the foothills Andes, and certainly has the views to prove it. In addition to the natural sights of mountains and volcanoes, plenty of gorgeous architecture is on display throughout the city’s “Old Town” that is well-preserved from colonial times. To read more about Quito, click here
Unfortunately, people often overlook Quito, opting to simply use it as a stopover to their next destination. But in reality, the city has an abundance of different experiences to offer. Whether you want to spend a quiet day eating savory food at an unbelievable price while admiring remarkable architecture, or you prefer to admire the city from the top of a volcano you just conquered, both of these experiences are readily available.
Quito’s history dates back to the Quitu tribe in the time of the pre-Colombian Quechua civilization. The Quitus didn’t last until the Inca Empire, having been taken over by the Caras tribe hundreds of years earlier. The Caras held a long fight against the Incas until they were eventually defeated in the battles of Tiocajas and Tixán.
From there, Quito became an extremely important city in the Inca Empire. After the Inca ruler Huayna Capac died, two of his sons, Atahualpa and Huáscar, fought over control of the empire. While Huáscar was based in Cuzco in the south, Atahualpa was based in Quito in the north throughout the bloody civil war that critically led to their demise under the Spanish conquistadors.
When the conquistadors arrived in the midst of this war behind the lead of Francisco Pizarro, they captured Atahualpa. However, they still allowed him to more or less rule under their captivity. From captivity, Atahualpa ordered the execution of Huáscar, as he feared his brother would make a deal with the Spanish. The order was quickly followed out, though not long after the Spanish heard whispers of a powerful rebellion beginning to build and became paranoid, leading them to hastily kill Atahualpa.
To this day, many people in Quito strongly believe Atahualpa was the rightful heir while people in Cuzco believe the exact opposite.
Despite their enslavement and evangelization of the people in Quito, the Spanish are simultaneously a large reason that the city is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Quito is considered to be one the best-preserved cities of the Spanish colonial era, still lavish in baroque art and architecture.
A bold rebellion broke out in Quito in 1809-1810, while Spain was struggling against Napoleon Bonaparte in their homeland. The rebellion was squashed in 1810 with the brutal execution of those who had led the resistance. After that, Quito distanced themselves from movements against the Spanish and the city wasn’t liberated until 1822.
Quito’s airport has some of the heaviest airline traffic in South America, which has helped make for a wide array of accommodations. Hostels can run a little pricier than usual, but that’s to be expected in a capital city. Two quality options on the cheaper end are Hostal Alcalá and Yellow House Hotel. The two buildings are actually located fairly close to each other, and are both easy to spot with their bright yellow paint job. The rooms are simple, but you’ll have everything you need.
However, if you’re looking for everything you’ll need and more, Swissotel Quito is a nice 5 star hotel option. As a high rise building in a great central location, most of the rooms come with an amazing view of the city.
While Ecuador’s winter vs. summer is more of a wet season vs. dry season, the difference between the two isn’t completely drastic. Their winter falls roughly from June to September, but colder temperatures and rain can carry over as late as December. If you’re looking to spend a lot of time trekking through the Andes or make your way out to the Galapagos Islands, that provides more of a reason to avoid the wet season. In the city of Quito itself though, while the dry season may be the more desirable option, the wet season won’t necessarily make or break a trip.
Pork is quite a popular delicacy in the sierra region of Ecuador where Quito is located. You can find it oven or spit-roasted almost anywhere. And fritadas, lumps of deep-fried pork, are commonly served with mote, boiled corn that can be served in a variety of ways.
For a delicious gourmet meal with a price point that’ll prove it, Zazu is a fantastic place to go. You can find amazing traditional food whether the center of the dish is meat, seafood, or something more vegetarian-friendly. The accommodating service will also be almost as memorable as your meal.
For a meal that isn’t wildly cheap but won’t break your bank, Jumandi is a solid choice. In the cafe you can find Ecuadorian food, or even a nice breakfast. Mercado Central is a good place for a cheap meal. Many people go there just to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, but there are also stands where you can grab authentic Ecuadorian food at a low cost.
If you’re flying into Ecuador from another country, chances are that you’re landing in Quito’s airport. The trip from the airport into the city can take anywhere from a half an hour to an hour, but both buses and taxis are readily available and prices are fair.
If you’re coming to Quito from somewhere else in Ecuador you may be flying into the same airport or there are several buses that will drop you in different parts of the city. While you could fly in from Guayaquil or Cuenca, the bus rides from either city take 7-8 hours.
While the city of Quito has the ability to captivate solely with its own beauty, there are also a whole host of other opportunities nearby. Some activities in and around Quito include: