CITY AMONG THE VOLCANOS
Quito, or formally San Francisco de Quito is the capitol of Ecuador. It sits on amazing 9300 ft (2850m) and it's surrounded by mountains and active volcano Pichincha. Although the last big eruption happened in 1660, you cannot help but wonder whether you will be that unlucky to be there next time if happens. You also wonder whether Quito residents are nervous about the volcano or not. As you step out of the airplane, the immediate air pressure difference hits you in the head and at such high altitude your lungs are screeming for air.
The TAXI ride from and to the International Airport is around $25, but most of the TAXI rides in the city are negotiable and not very expensive. Speaking Spanish will help getting a better price for the ride.
Carondelet Palace is located on the main Plaza Grande and it's open for visitors, unless it's being used by the government officials for important meetings. The tour is guided and it will take you to main rooms where the president meets with cabinet members. The palace includes presidential quarters, a part of which were was converted to a public museum in 2007. One of the balconies provides an amazing view of the whole Plaza Grande with bordering buildings of Archbishop's Palace, The Hotel Plaza Grande, The Cathedral and the Municipal Palace.
Plaza Foch or La Zona is the most hip area for the night life in Quito. It's packed with restaurants, bars and clubs with live music, and is very popular among locals and tourists alike. Keep you ID (or passport) handy as the police raids are very common. Prices are bit higher here than anywhere else, but it's a fun place to hang out at night. Ecuador's currency is the U.S. dollar, so you will deal with many U.S. coins on daily basis (especially $1 and $.50 coins). So, bring cash in small bills as breaking a hundred with local merchants may pose a challenge.
TeleferiQo cable car or arial tramway will take you to amazing 13,000 ft (above 4000m) above sea level with incredible views of the city and surrounding mountains and volcanos. Pace yourself at the top, as the air is very thin and just a few steps can make you dizzy. Altitude sickness is very common for some tourists. The temperatures are lower due to winds and higher elevation, so it's wise to bring extra layer of clothes. From the top you can hike to the summit of Rucu Pichincha to 4600m but make sure the trail is safe and you are fit to hike in high altitudes.