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World Heritage Site

for World Heritage Travellers



The City of Quito has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America.

It is located on an active stratovolcano in the Andes mountains. The city's elevation is 9,300 ft (2,850 m) above sea level. Quito's origins date back to the first millennium when the Quitu tribe occupied the area and eventually formed a commercial center. In 1462 the Incas conquered the Kingdom of Quito. In 1533, Rumiñahui, an Inca war general, burned the city to prevent the Spanish from taking it, thereby destroying any traces of the ancient prehispanic city.

Indigenous resistance to the Spanish invasion continued during 1534, with Diego de Almagro founding Santiago de Quito, later to be renamed San Francisco de Quito. In 1563, Quito became the seat of a royal audiencia (administrative district) of Spain and became part of the Viceroyalty of Peru with its capital in Lima. The Spanish promptly established the Catholic religion in Quito, with the first church (El Belén) built even before the city had been officially founded.

Map of Quito


  • Cultural

Community Reviews

Frederik Dawson Netherlands 18.06.16

Quito by Frederik Dawson

Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, is not only my first World Heritage Site in South America but also the first place I have seen in this continent and that made this city secured a special spot in my heart. Since I arrived Quito, just a few weeks after the sad earthquake, the airport was really quite and few foreign visitors, so only 30 minutes after landing I was on taxi to the city center. The modern highway from airport really gave me a false impression of Quito, when I approached the city I was surprised of how Ecuadorians built theirs homes everywhere on the steep hills. After put my luggage in the hotel located in the middle of old quarter, I decided to explored the city immediately.

The whole city was built on the small valley with grid pattern and seemed to me that the city planners did not care how steep of the road will be when built over the hills. The historic city was extremely vibrant with locals who still live and work in the old historic buildings. The narrow cobbled stone streets were unbelievably full with traffic and pedestrians. The smog and pollution were quite frustrating. Despite the chaos, the historic town is really well preserved with many beautiful churches and buildings and some areas were closed for traffic. The highlight of Quito is the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus, the interior especially the gilded ceiling with local motif were truly amazing and mind-blowing. The famous plaza de San Francisco was indeed lovely but half was closed for subway construction. I walked to see Presidential Palace and city main cathedral and its plaza, which were just fine. Another highlight and seem to be the most popular among tourist right now was Basilica del Voto Nacional, the largest gothic cathedral in the Americas. Actually nobody seemed to care the interior, the reason to come here is to climb to the top of spire. The view was indeed very nice and I could see the whole old town peacefully after waiting until all tourists have gone.

Quito at night was also very lovely as the atmosphere was dreamy of medieval town liked and less pollution. As there were many police at every corners so I felt very safe to explore city after sunset. I spent 3 days in this city and really enjoyed my times here even though the city suffered from electricity shortage, the result from earthquake. I also impressed with Ecuadorian food from really nice local stew, Lama spring rolls and Quito’s ice cream was a must try. For me, Quito gave me the feeling of India with Latino styled, while no world class landmark, the overall city was really nice to visit and enjoyed, a good place for South America introduction.

Laura Barber, USA 28.11.11

We spent time in quito on both ends of a trip to the Galapagos. It was a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and churches! The people were extremely friendly and we spent time walking throughout the city. We visited the Bascilica and climbed the tower to the top where we could see the volcano in one direction and the statue of the virgin in the other direction. The Plaza of Independence was centrally located and a gathering place for the citizens. Over by the San Francisco plaza was a wonderful art store with locally made souvenirs. The streets are narrow and very hilly...reminding me od San Francisco in California. The climate was great and while the altitude was bothersome to some people; I didn't notice it. It was a very specail visit and added a great deal to our Galapagos trip.

Jorge Giraldo, USA 20.05.08

Quito, probably the most fantastic "big town" in South America. The complex of the San Francisco church-square-convent is probably the most impresive urban complex you can see in that part of the world. When you are on top of the "atrium" of the church in a normal saturday morning,wich is an open marketplace, wish its design is based of Bramante's ideas,you realize so many thinks about the the Spaniards, the "Criollos" and the "Indios".

the church-convent-atrium are located in the highest part of the squeare, and it is the most important landmark in the city. From the atrium you can see the Company church, wish is probably the most refined church in America.

Be prepare for the food. It just exquisite, and be prepare to walk around the historic area. Do not hesitate to get into the churches, convents and even houses.

You will love it

Solivagant UK 28.06.05

Quito by Solivagant

Quito got in on the “WHS act” as early as 1978 when it was 1 of the first 12 sites inscribed (I have seen it claimed that it was in fact the very first site inscribed – this may be the case but the evaluation document on the UNESCO Web site gives it a reference number of “2” which, in the original, has been manually changed from “1” whilst Galapagos is still numbered “1 bis”). It is interesting to look at the rather “thin” Advisory Body Evaluation and compare this document with the bureaucratic statements which intending sites must now have produced about them by ICOMOS . 10 years later Lima joined the party but, by that time it had to be more specific and is entered just as the “Historic Centre of Lima” whereas Quito is inscribed apparently in its entirety as the “City of Quito”!

But perhaps this difference is not just a matter of changes in UNESCO policy – there is no doubt that Quito has maintained the atmosphere of a “colonial city” far more than Lima. Or rather - it “had” done so. My 2 visits were in 1973 and 1992 respectively and the city had developed considerably during those 19 years let alone the next 13 – I remember particularly that the airport which was previously “out in the country” had been gobbled up by the suburbs.

I assume from reading about the city however that, despite developments around the edge, increases in traffic and no doubt some office blocks in the centre Quito has managed to maintain what was an extremely pleasant colonial centre. Indeed if its inscription as early as 1978 has meant anything then it must have done so!

I remember it particularly for its wonderful setting nestled among green mountains and for the number of colonial buildings, plazas, churches and narrow cobbled streets. The climate was pleasant and the air was clear and fresh and a short bus ride away you could see snow capped volcanoes and sit astride the Equator. Maybe the air is a little less “fresh” now! The other Andean country capitals from Caracas round to Santiago, pleasant as some of them are, do not begin to match it.

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Site Info

Full name: City of Quito

Unesco ID: 2

Inscribed: 1978

Type: Cultural

Criteria: 2   4  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 1978 - Inscribed 


The site has 1 locations.

  • Quito