Built on the ashes of the northern Inca capital following the 1533 Spanish conquest, Ecuador's capital city brims with colonial riches. Although set in the north-central part of the country, it makes a convenient launching point for travel to anywhere in Ecuador, including the Galápagos Islands and the Amazon.
Scenic Quito is ensconced in a long, narrow valley at the foot of the restless Volcán Pichincha. The elongated city measures 30 km (19 miles) from north to south, but only 4 km (2 miles) from east to west. This sprawling metropolis of 1.4 million people lies only 24 km (15 miles) south of the equator, but because of its altitude it enjoys a mild climate all year. Quiteños are fond of saying that their city gives you four seasons in one day—a statement supported by the springlike mornings, summery afternoons, autumnal evenings, and wintery nights.
Quito's Old City is a maze of colonial mansions, stately churches, candlelit monasteries, and crowded cobblestone streets. Wandering the Old City's narrow lanes lined with blue-and-white houses is the highlight of any stay here. Nonetheless, after a morning in the crowded city center, an afternoon in the spacious New City—with its cafés, galleries, and shops—is a welcome change of pace.