Guayaquil (Quito), Ecuador
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Sprawling Guayaquil sits on the western bank of the wide Guayas River in Ecuador, a few miles upriver from where it flows into the Pacific Ocean. It is the main port and commercial center of the country and also its largest city, home to a number of universities and colleges and a burgeoning arts scene. Its international airport and coastal location make it one of the main departure points for travelers heading to the Galápagos Islands. Much of the colonial architecture of Guayaquil, founded in 1538 by Spanish conquistadors on the site of an indigenous village, was lost in a massive fire in the 19th century. Some of the city’s most impressive buildings, including the neoclassical city hall, are near the riverfront on the Malecón Simón Bolívar. Nearby, the neo-Gothic Metropolitan Cathedral of Guayaquil soars above the Parque Seminario, a pocket park also known as Parque de las Iguanas (Iguana Park) for its large population of tame lizards that are happy to be fed by visitors. The local government has invested in urban renewal projects such as the Malecón 2000, a riverfront promenade, and the Museo Antropológico y de Arte Contemporáneo (MAAC), which showcases both pre-Columbian and contemporary Ecuadorian art and hosts performances in its large theater.