Quito, Capital in the Clouds

Quito is the capital of Ecuador, and its main claim to fame is its location just 22 miles south of the equator. One might think that Quito’s location results in the lack of seasons, but this isn’t so. While most of the South American land mass enjoys summer, in Quito it’s called the Dry Season. Winter, on the other hand, is the Wet Season. Temperatures in Quito are generally mild, with average daytime temperatures a pleasant 70 degrees. Nights can be cool, however, owing to the city’s high altitude. In fact, Quito is the world’s second highest capital city. Quito lies in the Guayllabamba River Basin valley surrounded by the mountains and volcanoes of the northern sierra region. Some of these volcanoes are active, notably the closest, Pichincha. From time to time Pichincha or one of the other nearby volcanoes erupts and dusts Quito with volcanic ash.

Quito has a present-day population of slightly less than 2 million and has a vigorous traditional rivalry with Ecuador’s other major city, Guayaquil on the Pacific coast.

Quito’s clear mountain air and spectacular scenery have proven to be magnets for tourists worldwide. The city has provided infrastructure to service the tourist trade, including making the historic “Old Town” both clean and accessible. Called the “centro historico” in Spanish, the Old Town features museums, cathedrals and parks. Those who prefer a more distant view of Quito are encouraged to ride the aerial tramway or “Teleferiqo” that takes visitors on an amazing journey from the city center to Cruz Loma, 12,000 ft up the side of the Pichincha volcano. If tourists can tear themselves away from the unparallel view of the city below, they will find a plethora of shops and restaurants. Bring a sweater, though, the temperature can drop quite a bit as one climbs into the clouds above Quito!