09/21/2011 08:59 am ET | Updated Nov 20, 2011

Five Essential Sights In Historic Quito, Ecuador

Surrounded by the Pichincha, Cayambe, Antisana and Cotopaxi volcanoes, Quito is blessed by its unique location 2,800 meters high in the center of the Guayllabamba river basin. First settled by the Quitu tribe in 980, the capital of Ecuador, commonly referred to as the "Light of America," was later conquered by the Spanish in 1534, before being annexed by Simon Bolivar's Republic of Gran Colombia in 1822.

Quito was eventually named Ecuador's capital after the country declared its independence in 1830 and the city's Historic Center, which features endless streets of 16th century Colonial and Baroque Spanish architecture, remained intact, and was later named the first-ever UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, becoming a key tourist draw for international and domestic travelers alike.