INCAN GOLD

Ecuador 2013 | TOURISM | PHOTO ESSAY: QUITO

Officially San Francisco de Quito, the capital city of Ecuador has a long and colorful history.

Officially San Francisco de Quito, the capital city of Ecuador has a long and colorful history that has influenced the entire region. Before the Spanish arrived during the early 1500s, the Kingdom of Quito became integrated into the Incan Empire in 1462. The city experienced decades of prosperity after the merge and even became the capital of the northern part of the Incan Empire during the period shortly before the Spanish arrival. During the Spanish conquest of South America, Quito became the base of resistance after the fall of the Incan capital, Cusco. In 1534, the Spanish captured Quito and colonial rule began. The city's importance would once again come to the forefront as Simón Bolivar led his troops into the city in 1822, which led to independence for its people and the surrounding area.

In 1978, Quito was awarded one of the first World Cultural Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The historical center is measured at 320 hectares in total and houses 130 monuments and over 5,000 registered heritage properties. The city is surround by epic geography, including the Andes mountains, the Amazon rainforest, and numerous volcanoes, as well as not only being the highest capital city in the world, at 2,800 meters, but also the only one to be split in the middle by the equator.

Some of the most notable places to visit in the city are the Carondelet Palace, the Basílica del Voto Nacional, and the Quito Cathedral. Built in 1801, the Carondelet Palace acts as the nerve center of the country and is the seat of the government for the Republic of Ecuador in the historical center of the city, Plaza de la Independencia. The Basílica del Voto Nacional is one of the most important neo-gothic buildings on the continent as well as once being the largest in the New World, and was completed in 1909. In 1562, work began on the Quito Cathedral, and was later completed in 1567. Located near the Carondelet Palace in Plaza de la Independencia, it is widely recognized as one of the most beautifully decorated cathedrals in the country.

Quito is the second largest city in the country with a population of just over 2.2 million people. However, in 2012, the city attracted 570,000 tourists, an increase of 7% on the year before. With its impressive colonial architecture and stunning mountain views, Quito is looking to raise its tourism profile even more in the years to come.