Region & Time Zone: South America, Greenwich Mean Time
Passport Required: Yes
Languages Spoken: Spanish, Quechua, English
Tap Water: Bottled water is recommended
Currency: US Dollar
Power: Standard US plug
A little background
Located on a plateau in the Andes Mountains, San Francisco de Quito, or more commonly known as Quito, is the capital city of Ecuador. The city's history, from pre-Colombian times to sovereignty, is well documented throughout the city, in the architecture, museums and monuments. The first group of inhabitants to make Quito their home were the Quitu people, who were later conquered by the Incas. Later on in 1532, Quito was conquered by the Spanish who sought to establish it as a fully Spanish city. During this colonial period, many religious groups including the Augustinians, Franciscans, and Jesuits constructed churches of massive size and beauty that stood through the independence of Quito, and are still frequented by visitors today.
With its festive and rousing plazas, beautifully restored colonial architecture, and narrow streets, Quito's Old Town is a treat for the senses. Commonly referred to as Centro Històrico by locals, Old Town is filled with churches, chapels, and monasteries that were constructed and used many centuries ago by artists and laborers native to the land. Because of this, the structures are very personal to Quito, and they are surrounded by mysterious legends, and tales of history. Old Town is the place to visit if you want to immerse yourself in a true city, Ecuador-style. With brisk-walking pedestrians, boisterous buses, and loud, attention-commanding traffic officers, you are sure to feel the city's buzz.
Casa del Alabado
Located in downtown Quito, Casa del Alabado is one of the most recognized art museums in the region. It houses exquisitely preserved pieces of Pre-Columbian Art. The actual museum also holds some historical value, as well, as it was originally used as a Spanish residence in 1671. Many of the creations in the museum were crafted by anonymous artisans from the indigenous cultures of Tolita, Valdivia, Chorrera and others who populated the area that is now Ecuador. The museum seeks to preserve the cultural heritage of these artisans and showcase how they saw the land and life, through their art.
Middle of the World
Known as "Mitad del Mundo" by Ecuadorians, the Middle of the World is a visual complex that is located in the province of Pichincha, about 20 kilometers outside of Quito. This complex consists of one large monument, and several smaller ones surrounding it. For all you history buffs, the largest monument, at 30 meters high, was built to honor and celebrate the first French Geodesic Mission. This mission sought to measure the roundness of the Earth and the length of a degree of latitude at the Equator. Although these geographers were about 250 meters off the mark of the equator in 1736, it was an incredible accomplishment at the time. The monument is complete with a yellow painted line to indicate what they thought was the exact equator. Visitors love to add Middle of the World to their itinerary to take advantage of the photo opportunities. Standing or sitting on the line proves that you can indeed be in two places at the same time, namely the northern and southern hemispheres!
Those seeking out the biodiversity in Ecuador should head to the town of Mindo. Located just outside Quito, Mindo is a small town in the heart of one of Ecuador's cloudforests. These forests are known for their moist, foggy environments with low-level cloud covers that usually spread out at the canopy level. The forest is inhabited with over 450 different bird species, so many visitors who flock to Mindo do so to bird watch. However, the forest is also home to butterflies, orchids, and hummingbirds, so be sure to bring your binoculars if you want to see these creatures in flight!