South America’s second highest capital is sprawled along the slopes of the surrounding mountains at an elevation of 9,350 feet.
The traffic is constricting the city and the best place to avoid frustrating delays is to base yourself in the old town. A stroll through the old town reveals an intricate maze of narrow cobblestone streets flanked with colonial mansions and ornate churches, the splendour of which has earned Quito UNESCO World Heritage status. Highlights of the historical centre include Plaza Grande (Independence Square), La Compania Jesuit Church, and La Ronda, all encapsulated in a scenic vista from the top of Panecillo Hill crowned by the guardianship of the winged Virgin of Quito.
In spite of the traffic, Quito remains a good staging point from which to explore the neighbouring countryside and sights, such as Otavalo market, the cloud forest and some wonderful haciendas.