Cobblestone plazas, ornately decorated churches and neo-gothic buildings sit side by side with glass-fronted restaurants and a thriving nightlife scene in Ecuador’s enchanting capital. Quito’s distinct neighborhoods create a beguiling city of contrasts, where the urban sprawl is hemmed in by sweeping volcanoes and some astonishing hilltops from which to enjoy the views.
Quito’s compact Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is undoubtedly the place to begin exploring. Climb rickety ladders up the spire of the impressive Basilica del Voto Nacional, marvel at the intricate gold detailing in the San Francisco monastery and settle down to dinner in one of the pleasant, colonial plazas. A striking statue of the Virgin Mary watches over the city from neighboring hill El Panecillo, colorful market stalls spill out onto the cobbled streets and smiling stall holders welcome you in whilst lively bars draw a mixed crowd of locals and travelers, creating an infectious buzz and a city that welcomes you back with open arms after ventures to the Amazon and Galapagos Islands beyond.