The capital of Ecuador has been one of the first cities to be nominated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, but in spite of that, in has not become a well-known travel destination until quite recently. For those living in Quito in the the seventies, it would have been hard to believe that in a few decades, the city would become the most ravishing capital of the continent with gorgeous old strolls and tastefully restored monuments.
As Lima developed as the administrative center of the Southern colonies of the Hispanic crown, Quito became the epicenter of religion with dozens of churches and monasteries, many of which somehow made it through significant earthquakes. But times were hard on Ecuador and many buildings had fallen in disarray, but with the UNESCO nomination, all historical buildings became full protected and now most buildings have returned to their old glory albeit with new functions, like cafs, posadas (inns), museums or private homes. The gorgeously redesigned plazas and connecting historical walks, are heavily protected by police and visitors of all ages pass casually through this peaceable heaven of colonial history, little shops, gorgeous residences many of which having been transformed into cafs and posadas (inns). What makes the capital of Ecuador so special, is that it primarily frequented by its Ecuadorians. families play and picnic in the parks and the plazas. While there are tourists there numbers are not overpowering.
It would probably be a good idea to take a half day's city tour to get familiarized, but to really enjoy the city one should walk through the alleys afterwards without a guide and sample a few restaurants on your own, emerge in Quito by night (yes police is still present) and enjoy the illuminated monuments or simply watch as the Quiteos go about their business. To Ecuadorians, historical Quito or "Casco viejo" as they call it, is the embodiment of their rich history.
Cars are banned from of the nicest streets and plazas, the colonial center can best be enjoyed on foot, as one hangs out on the different squares and visits the many monuments. All highlights are within walking distance and you can find many inexpensive little eating places everywhere when you feel tired.
With so many picturesque old churches one can't name them all, but one really stands out: The Compania Church is the most beautiful and oldest colonial monument of Quito, the capital of Ecuador. The interior of the church is covered with real gold and is full of statutes and late medieval paintings. Arguably, it the could be considered the most gorgeous church of the Americas.
A center fold story in the travel section of the New York Times in 2008 placed Quito it in the 53 finest cities worldwide to be visited. Samantha Brown dubbed it the "Passport to Latin America" considering it the the departure place for traveling to other Southamerican countries. These stories finally generated the appreciation Quito deserves and it has been subject to a variety of television shows (e.g. CBN and NBC). Since then many international magazines and newspapers have published stories about Quito, raving about Latin America's most beautiful capital.
Nowadays many tours to Latin America initiate in Ecuador, after which travelers continue to Peru and other destinations on the continent, as they can easily be reached from Quito, the capital of Ecuador.
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