Quito, the capital of Ecuador is growing in popularity as a gateway to South America and in particular to the famed Galápagos Islands and the Amazon Rainforest.
The city retains a strong colonial heritage in its Old Town set amongst the sprawling city and suburbs that line the valley.
Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency, so Quito is considered relatively expensive by South American standards.
Whether you’re planning a visit to Ecuador or simply stopping off in Quito en route to another destination, here are five top things to see:
Centre of the earth monument
Mitad del Mundo Middle of the World City was complete in 1982, replacing an older smaller monument dedicated to 1736 Geodesic Mission by French scientists who conducted experiments to test the flattening at the poles.
Entrance costs either $4.50 to the monument or $7.50 for the monument and museum.
The walk up to the famous globe ball is lined by busts of the famous French scientists.
Alas, despite all their wisdom, the science of the time let them down as it was later discovered that the Equator line was in fact 240 metres north of where this monument stands.
The museum entry costs $4 and the 45min long tour includes examples of traditional Ecuadorean lifestyle, including dress and replica houses.
The highlight of the tour however are experiments demonstrating the Coriolis Force, the clockwise flow of water in the northern hemisphere and the anti-clockwise flow just a metre away in the southern.
Whilst the view on the way up is impressive – at the top the viewing platform is setback from the rim and behind a telecommunications centre limiting your view.
The Quito Old Town is marked with a grand plaza and historic colonial buildings and churches. Much of the area is currently undergoing major reconstruction due to the installation of a metro system which is due to open in 2019.
The Church of the Society of Jesus (Compañía de Jesús) built between 1605-1765 features spectacular ornate religious paintings and gold leafed decoration – the grotesque excesses of the decoration is in itself worth a visit.
The Independence Plaza (Plaza de la Independencia)
features the monument to the independence heroes of August 10, 1809, a date remembered as the First Cry of Independence of Ecuador and is flanked by the Carondelet Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Municipal Palace and the Plaza Grande Hotel.
Basilica del Voto Nacional
The Basilica of the National Vow is a Catholic Cathedral, blessed by Pope John Paul II in 1985 and consecrated in 1988 that sits imposingly above the city. The impressive gardens and decoration, including gargoyle figures representing the animals of the jungle, islands and coastal region.
Entrance is free.