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Three Perfect Days: Quito

A place of deep history and staggering views, one of UNESCO's first World Heritage cities has been flying under travelers' radar for a long time. But thanks to a growing economy and a renewed focus on preservation and development, that's about to change.

Author Sam Polcer Photography Sam Polcer

The historic Plaza de la Independencia

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WALK THE STREETS OF QUITO, and you’ll find the least-altered historical center in Latin America, with scores of dazzling churches, colonial mansions and museums that celebrate a culture going back thousands of years — from pre-Incan peoples to Spanish colonists to the present day. Head north, and you’ll discover sleek new development, cosmopolitan restaurants and cutting-edge nightlife. Talk to anyone, and you’ll hear a similar refrain, “You should have seen this before,” uttered with a hint of wonderment.

Quito is changing. Has changed. Not long ago, the city’s treasured colonial district was inundated with street vendors and plagued by poverty, but thanks to Ecuador’s vast energy resources and growing economy, as well as an increased investment in its heritage, things have improved dramatically for this city set high in the Andes, ringed by volcanoes and jungle. No longer merely the gateway to the Galápagos or the Amazon, Quito today is safer, cleaner and more vibrant, brimming with cultural riches, a place where history plays out in real time every day.

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