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Travelers between the Galapagos Islands and the US often find a few hours in Quito after the thrilling landing at Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), an experience akin to being a golf ball thrown into the wind onto a postage stamp green. A new, remote airport is scheduled to open sometime this fall, but while UIO still operates, Quito’s great sights are within easy striking distance. And with a dollarized economy there is no need to even stop at the exchange counter.
With 3-6 hours, it is easily possible to hop in a taxi to the south for a quick spin through Quito’s tumbling old town. The Rapid Traveler is a bit jaded with ‘colonial old towns’ from Malacca to Cartagena, but Quito is exceptional. With the right taxi driver, you can feel a bit like Steve McQueen on the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt.
Or, with more time pressure, a jaunt to the north to Mitad del Mundo to see the dour Equatorial Monument, supposed site of latitude 0-0-0. More fun, just around the corner from the monument, is the wacky Museo de Sitio Intinan, which claims to be the real 0-0-0 spot. Visitors can try to balance eggs on nail heads while ogling shrunken heads.