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 QUITO
Background

Ecuador's capital, Quito the name itself resonates with wonder and romance is regarded as the most beautiful and stylish city in the Andes. As you descend towards Mariscal Sucre Airport, your first glance from the air reveals an urbanised, South American Shangri-La stretching along a high valley beneath a string of white-topped mountains. Taking a bus or taxi into town from the airport, you pass steel-and-glass office blocks and luxury hotels, while at the same time experiencing the traffic jams and pollution typical of all major cities.

Further south, hidden away in the old part of the city is a world of cobbled streets, ornate baroque churches, colonial-style mansions with tiled roofs, and quiet courtyards with tinkling fountains. You have now passed from the New City to the old. Together the old and new form a fast-growing, modern metropolis woven into the fabric of an old Spanish colonial town. On the pavements office workers in smart suits talk on mobile phones, while local indigenas in colourful traditional costumes sell blankets, ponchos, chewing gum and lottery tickets. In this city of contrasts, million-dollar apartments and shiny shopping malls co-exist with slums and impoverished barrios where the poor and unemployed from the countryside live.

Aside from its high altitude, the most striking geographical feature of Quito is the length of the city and its bottleneck narrowness. From north to south it stretches some 30 km [
19 miles], yet it is only three to five kilometres [two to three miles] wide. To the north is the residential and business district of the new town, to the south is an area of industry and low-cost housing, while at its heart is the historic centre of the Old City. This narrow strip of urbanised land is wedged between the steep slopes of Mount Pichincha to the west, and a deep canyon formed by the river Machangara to the east. In recent years the urban carpet has spread up the slopes of the mountain to the west and into Los Chillos valley on the eastern side of the city.

Climate

Quito has an almost perfect climate best described as perpetual springtime. By midday the temperature usually reaches a pleasant high of about 22C [72F] while average night-time temperatures are 11C [52F]. Since the city is only a few miles south of the equator there is little climatic variation throughout the year, though in the so-called winter months [October to May] it often rains in the afternoon. In spite of the agreeable climate, clouds often veil the surrounding mountain peaks. Quitenos say that they have two types of weather: either sunny with clouds, or cloudy with sunshine.


Last updated 13th June 2006

|Article contributed by Dominic Hamilton|||
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