Quito is the capital of Ecuador and sits amidst volcanoes which reach 9,186 ft high. The colonial city is home to various religious monuments, interspersed by narrow alleys.
Among them, the church of La Compañía is imposing; the exterior Baroque façade opens on to a 4,000 ton gold ornamentation that casts light upon the altar, the ceiling, the walls and doors.
The Plaza Grande constitutes the historical heart of the city and includes the Palacio del Gobierno and the cathedral. The cathedral dates back to the 16th century, and is worth a visit for its Mudéjar ceiling and the paintings from the Baroque school of Quito.
Another square, the Plaza San Francisco, was constructed around a fountain in the 16th century . It represents the first architectural and religious complex of South America, including the church of San Francisco, the Franciscano Museum and the chapel and convent of Cantuna.
Houses with old rickety balconies hang over the narrow alley of the oldest colonial street in Quito, the Calle Ronda. See the 17th Century Merced Basilica for its beautiful altar and Midero paintings, then the Church of El Sagario. In the modern part of the city, the Guapulo Church can easily be recognised by its impressive grey stone façade. Once inside you can admire its pulpit, altarpieces and its stained glass windows.
To appreciate a view over the eastern Cordillera, go to the watchtower. The Panecillo and its reproduction of the Virgin Mary is more than 10,000 ft above sea level and offer a wonderful panorama over the region.