Ecuador covers 256,370 square kilometers and is geographically divided into four regions (the Amazon, the Highlands, the Coast, and the Galapagos Islands).
Falling on both sides of the equator, Ecuador has territories in both the northern and southern hemispheres and is one the planet’s top 17 most biologically diverse nations. With ecosystems existing from sea level to an altitude of approximately 6400m (20,998 ft), Ecuador is home to rain forests, jungles, mountains, islands, deserts, valleys, and snowcapped peaks. One of its main attractions is the Galapagos Archipelago and its marine reserve, which contains species unique to the area.
The country has a population of more than 14.6 million, most of whom speak the country's official language, Spanish. Over 90% of the population is Roman Catholic but many communities still preserve their ancient beliefs in the worship of nature
Quito is the capital of Ecuador and the second highest capital in the world at 2,850m (9,351 ft) above sea level. It is Ecuador's second most populous city after Guayaquil and is located in northern Ecuador, about 25 km (15.5 miles) south of the equator on the eastern slopes of Pichincha (4,794 m/ 15,729 ft), an active volcano in the Andes mountains.
Due to its altitude and location, the climate in Quito is mild to cool, fairly constant all year round with highs of around 20°C (68°F) on any given day and lows of around 10°C (50°F) at night. The city experiences only two seasons: summer (the dry season, June-August) and winter (the rainy season).
Quito has several museums dedicated to Colonial art and history including the City Museum, the Metropolitan Cultural Center and the Museum of the Convent of St Francis, all located in Old Town.
In New Town, The Museo del Banco Central is another renowned museum - a showcase of Ecuadorian art, history and culture which includes an extensive collection of pre-colonial (including pre-Incan) pottery, sculptures, gold and lithics; Colonial art and contemporary Ecuadorian artists.
Quito has numerous parks thoughout the city covering a combined area of over 6km² (as a reference, New York's huge Central Park is 3.4 km²).
You can join Quiteños as they walk, hike, run or bike in the eucalyptus forests of Parque Metropolitano; enjoy a game of fútbol, básket or ecua-volley in Parque La Carolina or peruse the wide variety of arts and handicrafts available for sale at the open-air market held every weekend in Parque El Ejido. You can even visit the oldest astronomical observatory in South America, located in the middle of La Alameda park.
The "centro histórico", historical center, was appointed as the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Old Town is home to many appealing plazas and manierist and baroque churches, including the convent and church of St. Francis (the largest building of the Colonial era built by the Spaniards in South America); the church of El Sagrario, the convent and churches of Santo Domingo and of the Society of Jesus, or "La Compañía." Stroll the streets and soak up the surrounding colonial architecture.
In 1976, the Spanish artist Agustín de la Herrán Matorras was commissioned by the religious order of the Oblates to build a 41 m tall aluminum monument of a madonna to be assembled on a high pedestal on the top of Panecillo, a hill overlooking all of Quito. The monument was inaugurated on March 28, 1976 by the 11th archbishop of Quito, Pablo Muñoz Vega.
The people of Quito proudly claim that their virigin is the only one in the world with wings like an angel. The monument was inspired by the famous "Virgen de Quito" (Quito's Madonna) also known as "the dancer", sculpted by Bernardo de Legarda in 1734, which now decorates the main altar at the Church of St. Francisco.
Quito's cable car, known as the "Telefériqo," travels from the city center to the hill known as Cruz Loma on the east side of the Pichincha volcano. The ride takes visitors to an altitude of about 4100 m (13,452 ft) and to a number of restaurants, coffee shops and stores in addition to numerous hiking trails. Besides the cable car to Cruz Loma, the Telefériqo also houses an amusement park (Vulqano Park), restaurants, Go Karting, Paint Ball, shopping malls and other attractions.
La Mitad del Mundo or 'the middle of the world' is located approximately 35 km (21.7 miles) north of Quito, on the equator, where visitors can find a monument and history museum in addition to a planetarium, various exhibits, and shops.
Pululahua is a volcano not far from La Mitad del Mundo, with a caldera or crater visible from a spot easily accessible by car.See our Friends of the School Page for links to other sites about Quito and Ecuador.
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