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Nestled on the eastern slopes of the Pichincha Volcano lies Quito, Ecuador’s mountainous capital city. This Andean jewel is rich in culture, history and life, making it a can’t-miss destination for South America-bound travelers.

Getting a view of Quito from above is as easy as taking the Teleferico cable car 4000 meters up the Pichincha volcano. This volcano-climbing gondola takes you to a bird’s eye view of Ecuador’s picturesque capital. At this altitude you’ll even be above the Virgen de Quito, a giant aluminum angel that watches over the city.

For the best view of Quito within the city, visit the Basílica del Voto Nacional, which boasts beautiful stained glass and architecture. If you aren’t fearful of heights, catch panoramic city views at the very top of the church by making the climb up a series of iron bars. You’ll also get a great shot of the Virgen de Quito between the church’s twin clock towers.

The Plaza de San Francisco is one of the city’s iconic squares, as well as the spot to people-watch. On one side of the square you’ll find Homero Ortega P. & Hijos, who sell elegant, high-quality Panama hats at very reasonable prices.

If it’s a hot nightspot, trendy place to grab a bite, or hip bar that you’re looking for, the place to go is Plaza Foch in Mariscal District. This energetic square is Quito’s nightlife hub. Here you’ll find tourists and young locals looking to have a good time at one of Mariscal’s lively restaurants, bars or clubs.

I found Swissotel an ideal place for my stay in Quito. My favorite part about this hotel was the fact that I was constantly greeted with a glass of “canelazos,” a hot cocktail of trago mixed with cinnamon, sugar and lime. Besides the complimentary “canelazos,” the concierge was hospitable and informative. Rooms were large and comfortable, with views of the city set against the Andean slopes.

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Derek Ray Sept. 10, 2009 @ 8:33 p.m.

I appreciated your insights on Quito. I'll be visiting there in December. I've heard that Cuenca is a worthwhile city to visit as well.


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