Quito is the second highest capital in Latin America (after Bolivia’s La Paz) at 9,000 feet and sits beneath Pichincha, a volcano that became active again in 1999 having been dormant for 350 years. The city dates back to pre conquistadors times, but there is little remaining evidence of its pre-Columbian magnificence as the Incas chose to destroy their city rather than allow the Spanish to capture it.

Long and narrow, Quito runs north to south between the mountains, just 14 miles south of the Equator. The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a beautiful colonial city dating from the 16th century. Around it, the New City has grown up rapidly since the 1970s when Ecuador had its oil boom. New Quito is a high-rise cosmopolitan city, modern, sophisticated and much bigger than its historic heart, with new public buildings and residential areas. However, Quito has not lost touch with its roots. Around half of the country's 12 million population is mestizo, a mixture of Spanish and Indian, and a quarter belong to one of 16 indigenous tribes, all of whom still wear the clothes of their pre-Conquest ancestors.

Because of its proximity to the Equator and its altitude, Quito has one of the most pleasant climates in South America, mild and spring-like all year round.
Members bite back: