Quito City Guide
Quito Location: North Central Ecuador (In the Andes)
Quito – Franciscan capital of Ecuador, Luz de América, ancient capital of the northern realm of the Incan empire, Patrimonio de la Humanidad – lies at 2,800 meters above sea level in a high valley at the base of Mount Pichincha about 15 miles south of the equator. Why is it called “Franciscan”? Its full and formal name is “San Francisco de Quito”, reflecting both its Spanish and Incan origins. Franciscan monks accompanied the Spanish conquistadors and founded one of America’s first Catholic churches (begun in 1584), in what is now called the Plaza de San Francisco, in the heart of colonial Quito. Furthermore, the word Franciscan as an adjective in the Spanish language denotes peacefulness, a quality for which Quito was known for many years. The name “Quito” is derived from the name of the indigenous group, the Quitus, which dominated that region of the Andes before their conquest by the Incas.
Luz de América, the “Light” or “Beacon” of America, refers to the fact that the city council of Quito was the first in Hispanoamérica to declare its independence from Spain. In colonial times Quito had the reputation as a renowned political and cultural center in all of what is now called Latin America. It has been an artistic, architectural and literary center for many years. Quito’s Spanish founding was made on the ruins of the Incan capital’s northern domain.
In the early 1980s, Quito was designated by UNESCO of the United Nations as a World Heritage Site in recognition of the preservation of its colonial center, essentially expressed in the architecture of the old city.
Located in the inter-Andean valley, Quito is a city of sun and sky, surrounded by mountains, with three snow-capped volcanoes in view on a clear day. Its climate has been described by many as eternal spring, due to its location close to the equator at high altitude. It has a daily average temperature of about 65° F, with daytime highs around 75° F and early morning lows around 45° F. Absolute highs reach 85° F and lows about 40° F on rare occasions. The seasons are called winter and summer, terms that refer to rainy and dry seasons rather than variations in temperature. Some say that the climate at this altitude in the Andes includes all four seasons each day because of the wide variation in temperature. At 3:00 a.m. winter begins, between 6:00 and 9:30 you have spring, from 9:30 until 4:00 p.m. you are in summer and the you begin fall. Even the rainy season normally includes sunny mornings.
Slightly over a million people live in present-day Quito. As is typical of Latin American cities, the population density is high, relative to U.S. standards. But, somehow, Quito retains a small city atmosphere -probably because you can still walk to many places you need to go. Ownership of a car is not a must. Distances are short and the bus system is quite extensive. While having a smaller feeling, Quito has plenty to offer culturally. Movies, theater, symphonic concerts, folk music clubs, book stores, discotecas, salsotecas, museums, art galleries, antique stores, arts and crafts stores, tourist attractions and good food abound. There are even jazz bars, country and western bars, and sports bars which cater to foreigners.
The variety of cultural opportunities available may even lull you into believing that Quito is a lot like the United States. Not so! Quito is a blend of modern and traditional culture, with strong Spanish, indigenous, U.S. and northern European influences. It has stark contrasts between colonial and modern architecture, rich and poor neighborhoods, “upper” and “lower” socioeconomic classes. It is cosmopolitan and small-town (almost rural) at the same time. Where else have you seen a cow or a horse or a pig grazing in the middle of a four-lane highway in the middle of town?
Many of these contrasts are directly related to the massive migration of campesinos from country to city in modern Latin America. In this sense Quito can certainly be considered to be representative of many Latin American urban areas – without the magnitude of problems related to massive population centers found especially in Mexico and Brazil or even Ecuador’s port city of Guayaquil.
As the capital city of Ecuador, Quito has relatively good communication links to the rest of the country. It is the financial, political and administrative center of the country. After the Galápagos Islands, it is the most visited tourist center of Ecuador. Travel by land and air to other points in South America and the world is easier than from most other locations within the country. Its location makes it ideal for access to most other areas of the country, including beaches, mountains, and the Amazon basin. For visitors, especially visitors who enjoy shopping, Quito is Ecuador’s most important marketing center for the country’s artisan products, lying very close to some of the major production areas and indigenous markets. While life in Quito is not the least expensive within Ecuador, it was considered as recently as four or five years ago to be the cheapest capital city in the world when expenses are calculated in dollars.
Mountains and valleys, volcanoes, rivers, and varied plant life provide spectacular scenery in the area of Quito. Picturesque scenes abound. Don’t forget your camera!
Without a doubt, Quito is an ideal place to learn Spanish and experience Ecuador!
Things To See And Do In The Area
- Visit local museums
- Visit the historic city center
- Relax and shop in the modern section
- Get out and explore the Andes
- Visit local markets
- Excellent food and nightlife
- And much…much…more!
We are confident that learning Spanish at the Quito Spanish School will be a wonderful experience!
Getting To Quito
- There are numerous daily international flights into Quito
If you have questions about how to arrive into Quito, Ecuador please do not hesitate to to contact us.