Thanks to a dramatic revitalization and several new projects, Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is becoming a favorite of South America–bound travelers. With increased air service (Delta joined Continental and American last year in offering daily flights), Ecuador’s capital is easier than ever to reach. The historic center has been painstakingly restored with $41 million of public funds, plus millions more from private investors. Refurbished colonial buildings house museums, fashionable restaurants, and boutique hotels. Of particular note is the 15-suite Hotel Plaza Grande, which reopened in December 2006 in Quito’s central square. This 16th-century house has been revamped to become Ecuador’s most luxurious hotel (593-2/251-0777; www.plazagrandequito.com; suites from $500). Cultural life is flourishing with the reopening of the Neoclassical Teatro Sucre (593-2/228-0982; www.teatrosucre.com) and the inauguration of the acoustically impeccable Casa de la Música in northern Quito (593-2/226-7093; www.casadelamusicaonline.com). Quito’s new gondola, the TelefériQo, whisks passengers to the summit of the Pichincha volcano, on the western edge of the city. From the overlook at 13,287 feet, all of Ecuador seems to unfold (593-2/225-0825; www.teleferiqo.com).
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