Quito is the capital city of Ecuador located in northern center of the country on the slopes of the active volcano, Pichincha. Other volcanoes in the Central Cordillera, such as Cotopaxi, are also visble from the city. Quito was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, the first along with Krakow to gain this designation.
The city has a population of 2.2 million, making it the second most populous Ecuadorian city after Guayaquil and, in terms of elevation, the second highest capital in the world at 9,200 feet (2,800 meters) above sea level as measure from the central plaza. The equator is located 16 miles (25 kilometers) to the north of Quito, also measured from the central plaza. Despite its proximity to the equator, the city’s high elevation results in relatively cool temperatures throughout the year – around the year, temperatures range from 66 to 68F (18-19C).
Quito as a settlement has a long history extending back for many centuries. The Quitu tribe and then the Caras tribe inhabited the area, and the latter founded the Kingdom of Quito in the 10th century AD. Unable to resist the expansionist army of Tupac Inca, the Quiteno kingdom was eventually integrated into the Inca Empire in the 1460. They were also later conquered by the Spanish conquistadors.
In the period of Spanish colonization, Quito became an administrative center and also a regional religious center, site where over 20 churches and convents were founded. Beginning in 1810, Quito was one of the centers for the independence movement which was eventually achieved in 1822.
Quito’s colonial center is in the center of the city. (The southern section is mostly industrial and working-class residential. Modern Quito is in the northern section with high-rise building, the financial district, and mixed-class residential.) The center of Quito is one of the most well-preserved examples of colonial architecture and its streets are filled with churches, streets, and plazas. Here travelers will find examples of beautiful example of neo-Gothic architecture including the Basilica del Voto Nacional, the Metropolitcan Cathedral, and the Church of Santo Domingo.
Quito also hosts one of the largest urban parks in South America, known as the Parque Metropolitcano Guanguiltagua and located in the north of the city. Travelers can also visit the 13,000 foot (4,000 meter)-high Cruz Loma complex on Pichincha volcano by hoping on the TeleferiQo aerial tramway. The city also hosts several museums with collections of art and artifacts.