South America
South America Destination Guide



Ecuador officially Republic of Ecuador Country, northwestern South America. Area: 105,037 sq mi (272,045 sq km), including the GALAPAGOS ISLANDS. Population : 13,095,000. Capital: QUITO. About two-fifths of the population are Indian (Mostly QUECHUA), and two-fifths are mestizo (mixed European and Indian); most of the rest are of Spanish ancestry. Language: Spanish (official). Religion: predominantly Roman Catholicism. Currency: U.S. dollar. Pacific coastal lowlands rise to the peaks and highlands of the ANDES MOUNTAINS, which give way to the Ecuadoran portion of the tropical AMAZON RIVER basin in the east. The Andes rise dramatically in two chains that run north to south and are separated by high valleys. The highest peak is CHIMBORAZO, which rises to an elevation of 20,561 ft (6,267 m); nearby COTOPAXI 19,347 ft (5,897 in) high, is the world's highest active volcano.

The country lies in an active earthquake zone and is prone to violent seismic activity. Almost half the land is forested, with tropical rainforests in the cast. Ecuador straddles the Equator. Its climate varies from tropical in the lowlands to temperate in the highlands. It has a developing economy based primarily on services, followed by manufacturing and agriculture. Principal exports include crude petroleum, bananas, and shellfish. It is a republic with one legislative house; its head of state and government is the president. What is now Ecuador was conquered by the INCAS in 1450 and came under Spanish control in 1534.

Under the Spaniards it was a part of the Viceroyalty of Peru until 1740, when it became a part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. It gained its independence from Spain in 1822 as part of the republic of GRAN COLOMBIA and in 1830 became a sovereign state. A succession of authoritarian governments ruled into the mid-20th century, and the military played a prominent role in politics. Border disputes led to war with Peru in 1941; conflicts with that country continued periodically until a final demarcation of the border in 1998. The economy thrived during the 1970s due to large profits from petroleum exports but was depressed in the 1980s because of lower oil prices. In the 1990s social unrest caused political instability and several changes in the presidency. In a controversial move to help stabilize the economy, the U.S. dollar replaced the sucre as the national currency in 2000.

Lying along the equator with Peru to the south and Colombia to the north, Ecuador is a country both blessed and cursed by Mother Nature. Its blessing is an amazingly Varied geography that helps give Ecuador ,ome Of the greatest biodiversity on earth. But this astounding landscape is due to the shifting tectonic plates upon which Ecuador sets, and when they're feeling capricious, the country gets rocked by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Luckily, this doesn't happen often, and travelers will appreciate the positive results of nature's volatility, as one can venture from white sand beaches to Andean summits i . n one day and visit the rain forest the next (all by bus!). Add to this the Gal& pagos Islands, 1000krn off the coast, and it's surprising every adventurous soul among us isn't roaming around Ecuador.

Though small, Ecuador has many more plant and animal species than do much larger countries. Acre for acre, Ecuador is one of the most species rich countries on the globe. For example, the country holds more than 20,000 plant species, with new ones discovered every year. In comparison, there are only 17,000 plant species on the entire North American continent. Scientists have long realized that the tropics harbor many more species than do more temperate regions, but the reasons for this are still a matter of debate and research. The most commonly held belief is that the tropics acted as a refuge for plants and animals during the many ice ages affecting more temperate regions; the much longer and relatively stable climatic history of the tropics has enabled more speciation to occur.

Another reason for Ecuador's biodiversity is simply that the country holds a great number of habitat types. Obviously, the Andes will support very different species from the tropical rain forests, and when intermediate biomes and the coastal areas are included, the result is a wealth of different ecosystems and wildlife. Ecologists consider Ecuador to be one of the world's 'megadiversity hot spots.' This has attracted increasing numbers of nature lovers from the world over.

Bird watchers enjoy Ecuador because of of the great number of bird species recorded here some 1500, or about twice the number found in any one of the continents of North America, Europe or Australia. New species are often added to the list. But Ecuador isn't just for the birds: Some 300 mammal species have been recorded, from monkeys in the Amazonian lowlands to the rare Andean spectacled bear in the high lands. Bats represent the most diverse mammalian order, with well over 100 species resident in Ecuador

National Parks

Sumaco Napo Galeras

Galapagos Islands
Isla Santa Cruz

Falkland Islands
French Guiana (Fr.)
Trinidad and Tobago
Amazon Rainforest
Amazon River
Angel Falls
Easter Island
Nazca Lines
Lake Titicaca
Iguazu Falls
Machu Picchu
Petrohue Falls
South America History
Inca Civilization
Travel Warnings
Travel Tips