10 Things to Know About Quito

Quito is Ecuador’s capital city, boasting over 2 million people. It’s one of the most hectic and diverse cities I’ve ever visited, and I spent three weeks living there with a host family during In-Country Orientation. While this list hardly begins to summarize Quito, here are some of the best things I learned while I was there:

  1. Quito is the center of the world, as the city sits almost exactly on the equator. La Mitad del Mundo, the place where the line of the equator is painted, and where you can stand with one foot in each hemisphere, is still on my list of places to visit.

  2. Quito is surrounded by some beautiful volcanoes, Cotopaxi and Pichincha (both of which are active). I had the pleasure of taking the Teleferico (a cableway) up Volcan Pichincha and meeting some llamas at the top. The view was beautiful.

(Photo credit Rose Hoang)

  1. There are a lot of other beautiful views, as well. Quito sits in the foothills, which means that mountains with good viewpoints (as well as hiking opportunities) are all around. The views from Parque Itchimbia and from the statue of the Virgen del Panecillo are some of my favorites.

(Photo credit Sara Barac)

  1. The food is very, very cheap- I’ve eaten some of my best meals for under $3. You can get an authentic breakfast or lunch in any cafe in Quito. Comida típica includes a lot of rice and chicken, soup, fried pork, eggs, bread, and lots of (instant) coffee.

(Photo credit Helene Bee)

  1. The weather changes very rapidly. It can go from being hot and sunny to rainy and even hailing in a matter of minutes. Because of its placement on the equator, Ecuador doesn’t really have seasons, but quitenos like to say that the city experiences all four seasons in just one day. “Achachay” (it’s cold) and “Arrarray” (it’s hot) are some essential Kichwa phrases to know.

  2. There is a significant indigenous population. The Kichwa are Ecuador’s largest indigenous group, and words from their language are often mixed in with Ecuadorian Spanish. While larger communities of Kichwa do exist in other places, their influence on culture, especially the art and language, is very apparent in Quito.

  3. Quito is full of art. The late Guayasamin, a hugely famous Ecuadorian painter, donated his house and large collections of paintings to a museum. The best part is that only costs $1 to enter. Besides this museo, artesanal markets and even beautiful graffiti can be found everywhere in the city.  

(Photo credit Sara Barac)

  1. The public transportation system is more effective than those in most places in California. Almost all of the buses run every ten minutes, and the bus costs only .25 to ride. It’s fairly easy to get anywhere in Quito on a bus. The only downsides are that there’s no limit on the number of passengers one bus can hold, and the bus doesn’t always come to a complete stop for you to get on.

(Photo credit Sara Barac)

  1. The quiteno accent is very easy to understand. As a beginner in Spanish, and especially now that I’ve had some experience with the “singing” accent in the south of Ecuador, I can really appreciate how easy it is to understand the people in Quito.

  2. Quito is officially the highest capital city in the world, at an altitude of 9,350 feet above sea level. After my first few days of altitude sickness passed, I could finally appreciate how interesting this city in the mountains really is.