Quito Ecuador – An Overview of Quito

Introduction to Quito
Quito is one of the most compelling cities in Latin America. Nestled in a long, narrow valley in the Andes on the slopes Volcano Pichincha to the west, Quito enjoys a spectacular natural setting. The Ecuadorian capital city’s mix of colonial and modern architecture creates a fascinating built environment. In addition to being the site of the Ecuadorian government, Quito is also the nation’s cultural capital, with an impressive selection of museums, festivals, and nightlife.

Related Pages
Quito Hotels
Quito Hostels
Quito Old Town Map
Quito Old Town, Centro Historico
Quito Mariscal Map
Quito Museums
Cultural Tours
Things to Do in Quito
Day Trips Around Quito
Quito Nightlife
Quito Orientation and Transportation

Quito is the perfect place to begin exploring Ecuador with, as it’s very centrally located, there are numerous outdoor activities within an hour or two, and it is here where most tours are organized to all corners of the country. The streets of the Mariscal neighborhood of Quito are lined with tour operators, restaurants and bars, and most travelers spend much of their time in this area.

Quito is also home to the newest international airport in Latin America: Quito’s Mitad del Mundo Airport (UIO).

There are myriad Quito hotels and hostels of all types and price levels. Quito is still one of the most affordable capital cities in the Americas and has plenty of budget hostels, but also is home to numerous small family run hotels and boutique hotels that are full of local flavor and helpful owners that are glad to give you advice and help you with your travel planning.

See the historic sites of Quito’s Old Town (also referred to as Quito’s Historical Center or Centro Histórico) and the city’s dozens of museums and other attractions; visit its hundreds of shops, cafes, and restaurants; and take advantage of the plethora of day trips, hikes and climbs in the surrounding area. Quito’s central location makes makes it a perfect base from which to visit other regions of the country as well.

Quito Facts & Statistics

  • Full name: San Francisco de Quito
  • Capital city of Ecuador
  • Population: 2.239.191, from most recent, 2010 census
  • Elevation of the city’s central square (Plaza de La Independencia or Plaza Grande): 2,850 m (about 9,350 ft)
  • Distance from Equator: 25 km (15 miles)
  • Mayor: Augusto Barrera

Quito History
Quito’s history is very much linked to general Ecuadorian history. During the pre-Columbian era several indigenous groups inhabited present-day Quito, including the Quitus from whom the city took its name. In the beginning of the 16th century, while the Incas controlled Ecuador, Quito served as the capital of the northern half of the Inca empire. In 1533, the Inca General Rumiñahui destroyed Quito so that it would not fall into the hands of the advancing conquistadors. Just a year later, after the Spanish conquered the Inca, the Spanish Lieutenant Sebastián de Benalcázar began rebuilding Quito from the rubble the Rumiñahui and the conquistadores left behind. The official name, San Francisco de Quito originates from the patron saint Saint Francis (Francisco in Spanish) which in turn comes from the conquistador Francisco Pizarro.

Quito Historical Center
and Plaza Grande in Quito’s Historical Center

Ecuador was part of the Viceroyalty of Peru from 1544 until 1720, when it joined the newly created Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada. In 1563, however, Quito became a Royal Audiencia of Spain, thus permitting it to deal directly with Madrid on certain matters instead of going through Lima. The name Quito Audencia is misleading because it suggests that the territory under the jurisdiction of Quito was comparable to the limits of the city of Quito today. In truth the territory of the Quito Audencia greatly exceeded that of present-day Ecuador, encompassing the north of Peru, the city of Cali in the south of Colombia, and much of the Amazon River Basin east of Ecuador. Modern Quito is a city of¡ two halves, Old and New. The Old City remains much the same as it did at the end of the colonial period but the New City bears no marks whatsoever of its colonial past. While the New City does not benefit from the area’s brilliant history, it shines in its own right. Take the time to explore both “Cities”, neither will disappoint you.
Quito’s Altitude, Climate and Weather
Quito’s altitude, at 2820 M (9252 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 degrees C (55 F) at night to 26 C (78 F) at noon, and averages 15 C (64 F). 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.

Take note: most Quito flights arrive at night, and many travelers arrive in shorts and beach wear assuming that since its on the Equator, it must be hot, then the first step out of the airport gives them a crisp, cool Quito welcome. There are a vast array of micro-climates in Ecuador outside of Quito, so it’s wise to plan your itinerary in advance and pack for your trip accordingly. Also, walk slowly as you’re getting off of the plane, Quito is at high altitude. Take it slow the first few days and drink plenty of water.

How to Get There & Away
Most people flying into Ecuador take flights directly into Quito’s International Airport (UIO). Quito is accessible by bus from virtually anywhere in Ecuador. Its primary bus station is Terminal Terrestre Cumandá, with secondary service out of La Ofelia. Quito’s location is accessible and convenient for travel throughout Ecuador. See our Quito orientation and transportation page for details.

By Jason Halberstadt
Updated January 21, 2013