Quito is not the first city that comes to mind when planning a tropical getaway, and that’s a shame. With its towering volcanoes, lush greenery and true Latin flair, this beautiful city has amazing treats to offer visitors. However, its relative obscurity may be part of its charm: The hotels and restaurants here are relatively uncrowded, and the authentic culture is still prevalent, without the aggressive tourist marketing that occurs in other countries.
The Ecuadorian capital is only 22 miles from the equator, promising stable, warm temperatures throughout the year. Meanwhile, the city’s high altitude tempers the tropical heat. The result is yearlong spring-like weather, which makes the city a great place to travel anytime.
Quito is a mish-mash of many different elements. It’s a quirky place that’s full of charming, lively people who are warm, friendly and welcoming. It’s also a deeply historic place: The city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and breathtaking evidence of its Old World Spanish roots can be found at every turn. In some places, quaint, colorful colonial homes with iconic balconies line winding, narrow streets. In others, rural homes house both families and livestock.
Quito’s cultural charms are only half the story. The city’s beautiful natural scenery alone is worth a trip. From its steep snow-capped volcanoes, to its lush, rolling green hills, to its fertile plain, Quito is a veritable paradise.
What to See and Do
Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus: Inspired by Roman Jesuit churches and built in commanding Spanish Baroque style, Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus is one of the most spectacular structures in all of Ecuador. With its incredibly ornate, superbly complex gilded wood and plaster carvings, this church is a must-see for any history or architecture buff.
Quito Old Town: A walk through Old Town will immediately take visitors back in time, through winding, narrow streets, past restored Colonial homes and beautiful historic buildings, and across bustling, lively plazas. This is a fantastic place to wander, people watch, and enjoy a bite to eat in a charming café or restaurant.
Plaza de Independencia: Located in the heart of the city, this is Quito’s main public square, and a great place to people-watch and enjoy the architecture and artistry. The Plaza is flanked by the presidential palace and a cathedral, and stands in homage to those who fought for Ecuador’s independence from Spain. Its large surrounding grassy area is serene and lush, and makes a perfect spot to relax and take everything in.
Maquipucuna Cloud Forest Reserve: This lush and beautiful rainforest preserve is incredibly biodiverse, offering visitors an opportunity to see many amazing species of birds, mammals and insects, including the spectacled bear and 250 species of butterflies. They can also indulge in a shade-grown, organic coffee tour that will take them through the whole coffee-making process.