Quito – most attractive historic centre in Latin America.   Leave a comment

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city and stands at an altitude of 2,850 m (9350 feet). The second highest capital city in South America, after La Paz in Bolivia, it quite literally takes your breath away.

Quito is located on a horizontal strip of land running north to south between beautiful mountains. The splendor of the city’s natural setting, combined with its attractive squares, parks and monuments as well as the warmth of its people, makes it a unique and unforgettable place.

Location : Andes mountain range 2.800 meters
Population : 1.4 million
Altitude : 2,850 m/9,350 ft
Temperature : 50 to 78 ºF (7 to 26 ºC)
Province : Pichincha
Currency : United States Dollar (USD)
Time zone : GMT -5
Language : Spanish
Foundation : December 6th, 1534
Airport: Mariscal Sucre International (UIO)

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is considered one of the most beautiful regions in Latin America. Located in the Andean mountains at the foot of Mount Pichincha 9200 feet above sea level. Quito has a spring-like climate all year. Beautifully preserved colonial churches, convents, palaces, and other buildings of note contrast with the contemporary architecture of modern Quito, a cosmopolitan city of great cultural diversity. Quito has been designated the “Heritage of Mankind” by the United Nations. Stationed at nearly 10,000 feet, Quito is almost twice as high as Denver, Colorado. Though because it sits only 25 kilometres from the Equator, Quito does not suffer through long winters like the Mile High City . On the contrary, Ecuador’s capital enjoys mild days and cool nights almost year-round. The climate in the Andes varies according to the altitude and the time of the year.

In Quito the temperature ranges from 7 ºC (50 ºF) at night to 26 ºC (78 ºF) at noon, and averages 15 ºC (64 ºF). There are two seasons, wet and dry. The wet season is called winter and the dry is considered summer. Quito’s summer lasts about 4 months, from the end of June to September.

Quito sees its fair share of rain from October through May, though even during this period the climate supports a multitude of diversions. There are enough sunny days during the rainy season to accommodate all but the most insatiable sun worshipers, and when the sun hides, Quito has plenty to offer indoors.

Despite the 1917 earthquake, the city has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America. The monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo, and the Church and Jesuit College of La Compañía, with their rich interiors, are pure examples of the ‘Baroque school of Quito’, which is a fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous art.

Accommodation options are basically divided into two sectors: (1) Historic Centre; and (2) Modern north (Mariscal). For more details on recommended option SEE HERE

The climate is spring-like and relatively comfortable, with warm days (sometime hot) and cool nights.

The main attraction of Quito, providing it with its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the ‘Old City’ or Colonial Quito. From the heart of the old Spanish colonial center, Plaza de la Independencia, it is easy to wander through the many cobblestone streets and explore the rest of the old city on foot. The photo pictured above shows Plaza de San Francisco, and the famous church and monastery of the patron saint of Quito – San Francisco – constructed by the Spanish in 1553.

The city expansion towards the north and the south started during the 1980’s, when the main tourist area in the north-central area of modern Quito started growing. The modern portion of the city, especially La Mariscal district is where the majority of hotels, hostels, bed & breakfasts, internet cafes, bars, and souvenir shops are located.

old quito
The History of Quito

The history of this beautiful colonial city, full of legends woven over more than 400 years, is still alive in the memory of its inhabitants. To find its origin it is necessary to go back in time to the 6th of December in 1534, when the Spanish conquistadors founded the city with 204 settlers.

Before then, the present-day site of Quito was inhabited by the Quitus, a tribe from the Quechua civilization in a strip of land that stretched from what is now Cerro del Panecillo in the south to Plaza de San Blas in the center. Called the Kingdom of Quito in the Pre-Hispanic period, buildings in this ancient city were made of carved stone and sun-dried brick. Later, Spanish architects incorporated the same materials into their grandiose constructions.

At the beginning of the 16th Century, the city adopted a monumental style with the construction, by the various Catholic missions, of the impressive temples of San Francisco, Santo Domingo, La Cathedral and San Agustín. The main events during this period took place in or around these temples, which helped promote religion among the people.

The truth is that Quito’s history starts long before 1534 when the Spanish founded it. Although pre-Hispanic traces disappeared with the conquistadors’ arrival, it has been said that before the Europeans arrived, Rumiñahuy, an indigenous warrior, set the city on fire and destroyed the temples of the Incas who lived there. Other legends tell of such characters as Atahualpa, last emperor of Tahuauntinsuyo, the Inca Kingdom, who was executed in 1533 by his Spanish captors, despite the fact that the Inca people paid a whole room full of gold and silver for his return. Figuring prominently in more recent tales is Xavier Chusig, a mestizo (someone of mixed Indian and Spanish parentage) who changed his name to Eugenio de Santa Cruz y Espejo to avoid discrimination and went on the found the first newspaper in the city. There are still other stories of Manuela Sáenz, the first woman to join the Bolivarian army and who became the chief lieutenant of “the Liberator” Simón Bolívar. For them, as for many others, Quito was the setting of their resistance and struggle.

old quito

The conquest brought many Catholic missions, whose presence is apparent in the more than thirty convents, churches and chapels in the historic center. Their influence was not in vain, and religious devotion was sown in people’s souls. In 1649, more than two thousand people crossed the city from north to south various times during the day and night, praying for God to reveal to them the identity of the thieves who had stolen the sacred chalice from the convent of Santa Clara.

The 28th of January, 1912 was especially memorable in the annals of the city’s history. A large crowd of people dragged the dead body of President Eloy Alfaro through the streets. Alfaro had headed the Liberal Revolution but was assassinated in the city’s prison and later incinerated at Parque de El Ejido. Another important event was the coup d’état attempt on September 1, 1975, when the army attacked the Presidential residence during the government of General Guillermo Rodríguez Lara.

 

Quito is today an enterprising metropolis and political center of the country. It has made an enormous effort to offset the damage caused by the natural disasters that have affected it over the years. Quito offers many options for a pleasant visit amidst its history, tradition and legend.

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