The capital of Ecuador sits at the foot of the Andes Mountains and its active volcano Pichincha at an elevation of 9,350 feet. The old town is well-preserved, complete with colonial buildings and churches, and was named UNESCO's second World Heritage Site in 1978. As South America's oldest capital, Quito's past dates to the Inca empire and visitors can explore several ruins in the area. Among the well-known Quiteno churches is the 16th-century monastery of San Francisco, famed for its decadent façade, and the Church of St. Augustine, where many heroes of Ecuador's battle for independence from Spain are buried. Be sure to peruse outdoor markets for native crafts, and some tours visit the equator, just a 30-minute drive south. For panoramic views of the city, trek up the hill El Panecillo ("The Little Loaf of Bread") to the statue of the Virgin of Quito.
Currency: US dollar (US$)
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