The elevation of 2,850 metres above the sea level makes Quito the second highest capital cities in the world after Bolivia’s La Paz. With a population of about 2,5 million, San Francisco de Quito is the most populous city in Ecuador. From 2008, it’s also the “Brussels” of South America because the city was designated as the headquarters of the Union of South American Nations.
The historic center of Quito has one of the largest and well preserved historic centers in the Americas. I must confirm the rumors about its beauty because besides Buenos Aires it was the most beautiful South American city I’ve visited. No wonder that together with Kraków, Quito was among the first two cities declared a World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1978.
The main square of Quito is located about 25km south of the equator AKA zero latitude. While I like the sound of it (zero latitude), I must say that I’ve skipped the opportunity of this glorious tourist trap so I won’t be able to provide you with a video of various scammers “proving” how the draining water spins the anti-clockwise in the southern hemisphere and clockwise just few yard north.
FYI, while the actual (Coriolis) effect is a fact, it needs far larger distance to show. The scammers just “help” the water a bit to get some cash of yours in return 😉 But I was sad to leave the Southern Cross out of my sight as I don’t know when I will see it next ):
Well, this is where it goes a bit tricky. The old town is full of banks and various offices and during the opening hours, there’s a heavy presence of police officers around. However, when the sun sets, the office workers as well as the police pretty much depart for the night and the city switches into it’s natural mode.
Just the taxi journey from the Southern Bus Terminal made me rather cautious and I admit, this was the first time I got a bit worried when the taxi driver picked up extra passengers on our way. FYI, the southern Quito is almost a no-go zone for gringos and driving through it at 6am confirmed that at least visually for me and just so you know, I’m not paranoid person but it did look very rough.
Personally, I haven’t had a problem but my guards were naturally switched to their full powers when I observed the change. Some friendly locals also warned me about not walking certain directions and the hostel I stayed in had a security guide for when the nights fall upon the old town.
As a consequence, I therefore don’t know much about Quito’s nightlife scene. However, being a place where many American expats settle, there apparently is quite a rich nightlife scene outside the historic centre.
I was told by my Ecuadorian mate to watch out for the overly-friendly people so I thought I pass that advice to you here 😉
I however didn’t mind being a proper camera-trigger happy tourist in the early hours. The city was less crowded and the sights were almost empty. The central square was full of cafés and places to eat and with my camera, I felt like a parody of myself doing exactly what I’ve seen tourists doing in Prague, London or Dublin when I’ve lived there.
There are many sites worth visiting. Except from random strolls around the historical centre, there’s vistas, particularly the Basílica del Voto Nacional and the Hill of Modern Art.
Sorry but I’ve decided to delete my further possible suggestions because at the time my drive for mass organised tourism dropped a lot so my research wasn’t up to my usual standards. There are however plenty guides offered to you at every hostel that explain things in further detail, in case you were around and interested of being a proper tourist. FYI: many people at the hostel were praising the “free” walking tours.
I have arrived to Quito by a night bus from a small Ecuadorian beach town of Puerto Lopez just north of Montañita. Because I’ve heard and read a lot about the safety on night buses in Ecuador I was rather cautious. No incident occurred to me at all but I have noticed higher level of security precautions on various stops. People were searched upon entering the vehicles and cameras were placed inside the buses.
Make sure that you will take an official taxi from the Southern Bus Terminal to avoid unnecessary uncomfortable feelings I’ve mentioned above.
I’ve stayed in Rebel Hostel near the historical city centre. It was possibly the cleanest hostel I’ve ever been. Upon my very early arrival, the owner welcomed me with a free breakfast. The whole place is a well oiled machine, with hardworking friendly staff leading the way. Dorm beds are equipped with a “shutter” so you get privacy but it felt like being in a coffin to me. If you over 180cm – make sure to book a room with longer beds or private.
Next possible destinations heading north
- Colombia’s Ipiales, Pasto, Cali and Desert Tatacoa
- Colombia’s Bogotá, Medellín, Villa de Lleyva and Ráquira
- Colombia’s Caribbean coast
- And here’s a general tourism info about Colombia, in case you were interested
Next possible destinations heading south
- Ecuador’s Montañita and Peru’s Máncora
- Peru’s Cusco and Machu Picchu
- Peru’s Arequipa (Wikitravel)
- Lake Titicaca
- Bolivia’s Sucre and La Paz
- Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats
Enjoy the beauty 😉