Quito (population: 2.23 million) might be crime-ridden and may still exude an underdeveloped feeling, but it does boast of a stunning setting high in the Andes. Surrounded by mountain peaks, Quito feels warm and relaxed, with concrete homes creeping their way up the slopes and roads full of traffic giving way to empty neighborhoods that promise exciting explorations. Quito is one of the best places to check out that Sierra culture through its shaman healers, hat makers and market stands.
Old Town, the biggest attraction of Quito, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is full of architectural wonders and colonial buildings. 17th century facades pulsate life while picturesque plazas offer fascinating insights into the local culture. Tourists also love visiting the gringolandia, an area full of bars, eateries, guesthouses and travel agencies. The Avenue of Volcanoes, a road that passes between two volcanoes, is a must-see while in Quito. Shopaholics will fall in love with the unique experiences of the Otavalo Indian Market, known for its herbal remedies, exotic fruits and textiles. Quito also acts as a gateway to the Amazon, the ideal destination for bird-watching in Latin America as well as the Mindo cloud forest reserve, famous for its rare flora. And finally, don’t forget to add a trip to the Galapagos Islands to your itinerary. Home to the boobies, marine iguanas and tortoises, Galapagos literally feels like an island from another planet.
Getting Around Quito
The best way to commute in Quito is to use a taxi. The city is full of taxis and most rides are incredibly cheap. If you’re exploring Old Town, ditch the cab and start walking. The area is quite compact and walking introduces you to a number of colonial monuments that you would otherwise miss out in a cab.