San Francisco de Quito is the capital of Ecuador. Located in north-central Ecuador's Guayllabambariver Basin, "Quito", as the city is commonly known, is the second most populous Ecuadoran city at approximately one and a half million inhabitants.
Quito occupies a plateau on the slope of the active volcano Pichincha at nearly ten thousand feet elevation, the second highest capital city in the world. The center of town is only 25 miles south of the equator and combined with its extreme elevation, Quito has a moderately cool climate averaging in the mid sixties F, with two seasons: The wet "winter" and a dry "summer".
Quito has an active political life, and in the past decade, has spearheaded the ouster of not fewer than three Ecudoran presidents. Quito has a modern airport with a mile-long runway, making travel a modern convenience. The city boasts a sizable historic centre of 320 hectares, as well as six historical churches and cathedrals. Parque Metropolitano Guanguiltagua is the largest urban park in all of South America at nearly fifteen hundred acres, almost twice the size of New York's Central Park, and Quito is home to two dozen universities as well as six national football teams.
Yet Quito has been experiencing a resurgence. Writing in The Guardian
, Kapka Kassabova reports from the city:
It's a crisp Andean morning, and South America's prettiest colonial capital is coming to life with people, pigeons and sunshine. "Papas! Aguita! Papitas!" A street vendor in a bowler and with a child strapped to her back carries a stack of golden crisps. City clerks in sharp suits scan today's paper, while shoe-shiners get to work on their shoes. Schoolgirls in tartan skirts swap gossip and chewing gum. And watching over us all from her Panecillo hilltop is Quito's famous Virgin.
Once a seedy backwater, the old town is becoming a trendy place to live and visit. True, it was exciting before, but now you are much less likely to be relieved of your wallet. Two years ago, it wasn't safe to stay in the old town; today it would be madness not to. The night-life used to consist of pickpockets and prostitutes, but now the cobbled barrio la Ronda is the trendiest place to hang out.