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Ecuador is a small country, but with the Amazon rainforest, the Andes Mountains, the Galapagos Islands, and the beautiful beaches of the Pacific coast, it is amazingly diverse. With a total area of 256,370 square kilometers (98,985 square miles), it is about as big as the U.S. state of Colorado and has a population of 14.9 million (est. 2012). The official language is Spanish; Kichwa and Shuar are also official languages for the indigenous peoples. The currency used in Ecuador is the U.S. dollar (U.S.$).
The best time for traveling in Ecuador is from June to August. The wettest time in the highlands is between October and November and from February to May. On the Pacific coast, January through May are the hottest and wettest months and in the jungle the rainy season is from March to September.
South America is a large continent, but few other locations have as many options for tourists as Ecuador does. Many tourists arrive in Ecuador and are overwhelmed by the beauty of the country, the imposing volcanoes, the colonial architecture, and the diverse cultures.
There are many tours to take advantage of and visitors will need plenty of free time to see it all. A few popular options include humpback whale watching, rafting, swimming, trekking, mountain climbing, and sitting back and relaxing in natural hot springs.
Quito, Ecuador’s capital, is located just south of the equator and with an altitude of 2,850 meters (9,350 feet), it is the highest capital city in the world. It is known as the city of eternal spring and the weather is quite comfortable all year round. Quito is the country’s second largest city, the largest being Guayaquil. Quito is known as the political and cultural capital while Guayaquil is the financial capital and the country’s largest port.
For those interested in adventure traveling, Ecuador has several high volcanoes such as Cotopaxi at 5,897 meters (19,347 feet) or Chimborazo (6,310 meters / 20,702 feet), just to name a few. These volcanoes are located close to Quito and offer amazing mountain climbing opportunities that provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Chimborazo location so close to the equator makes it the closest point to the sun on the entire planet. The city of Baños offers visitors many activities from relaxing in hot springs to horseback riding, hiking, and mountain climbing. Otavalo, with one of the largest markets in South America, is a great place to buy traditional blankets, sweaters, belts, artwork, jewelry, and other craftwork.
The famous Galapagos Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean 1,000 km (620 miles) from the Ecuadorian mainland. The archipelago consists of thirteen main islands and over 40 islets, all of volcanic origin. The flora and fauna on the islands are amazing and there are endemic species, meaning they do not exist anywhere else in the world. The Galapagos tortoises are incredible as are the many birds and iguanas. The islands are most well known for Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, which he developed after he visited Galapagos. This unique archipelago can be explored on a cruise or through land-based tours with hotel stays, both of which will give you opportunities to explore the wildlife and one-of-a-kind landscapes of these astonishing islands.
Centuries ago, the native people of Ecuador were mainly farmers who grew potatoes, maize, and beans. In the late 15th century, they were conquered by the Incas. Nevertheless, the Incan empire did not last very long in what is now Ecuador because the Spaniards conquered this territory in 1534. The Spaniards enslaved the natives and also brought slaves from Africa to work on the plantations. Diseases, brought by the Europeans, killed many natives as they were not resistant to them.
Ecuador became part of the viceroyalty of Peru and later the viceroyalty of Nueva Granada. After the Battle of Pichincha on May 24, 1822, Ecuador became independent from Spain and became part of Gran Colombia along with present-day Colombia and Venezuela. After a war with Peru in 1828-1829, Ecuador withdrew from Gran Colombia in 1830. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Ecuador's economy flourished as cacao exports boomed.
In the 1930s Ecuador suffered from the economic depression along with the rest of the world. After a short period of prosperity due to the banana boom, political instability, quick successions of presidents, and periods of military rule followed. In 1941 Peru invaded and occupied the south of Ecuador. Subsequently, Ecuador was forced to surrender some of its territory.
In the 1970s Ecuador’s economy prospered, mostly due to oil that was discovered in 1967. However, in the 1980s, the price of oil fell dramatically and drove Ecuador into recession again. Between 1995 and 1998 Ecuador and Peru fought an undeclared war over their borders. Ecuador's economic problems and inflation continued to grow in the following years. In 2000 Ecuador changed its currency from the sucre to the U.S. dollar. In 2006 Rafael Correa was elected president. He introduced many social reforms to the country and in 2008 a new constitution was adopted.
There is a reason why the Galapagos Islands are on the most savvy traveller's “bucket-list.” Located just 600 miles off the Ecuadorian coast, they are one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. Nothing can prepare you for a visit to this masterpiece of Mother Nature.
The archipelago is made up of 13 main islands, 6 smaller islands and more than 100 islets and tiny rock formations...Read More
The word “Amazon” can conjure up fearsome images in even the most intrepid of travelers, but we are here to say that the Ecuadorian Amazon is one of the user-friendliest places to explore in this last untamed miracle of nature – the Amazon jungle. Access to the jungle is a short 30-minute flight from the capitol city of Quito, or a very manageable 3½ hours overland.
Imagine sitting out in the evening as the sun goes down over the forest canopy, while sipping a glass of wine in the open air, as the creatures of the forest begin their nightly serenade to the beat of a tropical shower…Read More
Great emperors, intrepid explorers, colonists and scientists have all been coming to the Ecuadorian Andes for centuries in search of treasures – be these in the form of land, wealth, knowledge or power.
The Incas — who’s renowned empire was far larger than that of the Romans, but who never managed to fully dominate the proud, strong inhabitants of this land — established only partial reign that lasted a mere 50 years. The Spanish arrived on the heels of the Incas, finding a great deal of treasure in Ecuador and leaving behind a legacy best seen in the colonial architecture of its capital – Quito...Read More
Just over 100 miles west of Ecuador’s capital, the Pacific Ocean beckons. Beyond the fabled Galapagos Islands, visitors to Ecuador’s coast are offered plenty: pristine beaches, prehistoric art, exotic wildlife on islands just offshore, tepid seawater, and an abundance of flora and fauna befitting the coast of this most bio-diverse country.
Infrastructure for tourism is rather limited here, therefore the coast maintains many of its unspoiled qualities for those willing to rough it a little to discover them. You can still find sleepy seaside communities where life moves at a slower pace...Read More