Quito, Ecuador's capital, rests in the narrow Guayllabamba River Valley at 9,350 feet above sea level. The city's western edge is dominated by the snow-capped Rucu Pichincha and Guagua (WahWah) Pichincha volcanoes. Farther afield, a dozen other volcanoes punctuate the Cordillera Central and Cordillera Oriental. The largest of these living giants is Cotopaxi, fifty miles to the south and visible from Quito. Its active, ice-clad cone juts to a height of 19,347 feet.
Quito's proximity to the heavens is balanced by its deep historic roots. This valley was settled by the Quitu tribe in the first millennium. By the 10th century, the Caras people had founded their Kingdom of Quito here. The Inca followed in the 15th century, remaking Quito as their northern capital and counterpart to Cusco. Less than 50 years later, Sebastián de Benalcázar captured the region for Spain. The Spanish conquerors added to the city's architectural strata, erecting monasteries, palaces, and churches.
Quito's historic center, Old Town, is the best-preserved colonial city in South America. In recognition of its Baroque, Pre-Columbian, Spanish, and Moorish architecture, Quito was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978—the first city ever granted this designation.
Quito has a powerful and eclectic ambiance. During the day, its narrow streets bustle with indigenous artisans, uniformed school children, strolling couples, and smartly dressed businessmen. The city is packed with markets, museums, churches, and plazas. At night, the historic center glows under pastel-hued floodlights, and the distant glitter of hillside homes merges with the stars.
Outside the city, visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor adventure; Mosaico arranges privately-guided horseback riding, whitewater rafting and mountain biking day trips in the neighboring mountains and river valleys. Another option is a multi-day side trip to the Cayambe Valley, Otavalo, or the area around Cotopaxi Volcano. Here you can stay in elegant haciendas; visit market towns and textile workshops; and hike, bike, or ride in the Andes. Quito is also close to the Mindo Cloud Forest and the Papallacta hot springs.
Quito lies just 15 miles south of the equator. Its latitude and altitude bestow a consistently spring-like climate. Throughout the year, temperatures rarely rise above 65° or below 50°. Very little rain falls during the July to October dry season, and only about six inches of rain fall in each of the November to June wet season months.
The new incarnation of Mariscal Sucre International Airport, located north of the city center, receives direct flights from New York (eight and a half hours), Houston (five and a half hours), and Miami (four hours). Other direct flights connect Quito with Lima, Peru and San Jose, Costa Rica, both of which can be reached in just over two hours. Flights to the Galapagos take about two hours.
Mosaico Travel Services arranges personalized travel in Ecuador and throughout South America. We organize luxury accommodation, private transportation, and tours with expert guides. Speak with a Mosaico travel planner today at 801.582.2100. We’ll take care of the details.
"Of journeying the benefits are many: the freshness it brings to the heart, the seeing and hearing of marvelous things, the delight of beholding new cities, the meeting of unknown friends, and the learning of high manners."