Ecuador, in the northwest of South America with a length of 650 km on the Pacific coast is the smallest of the Andean countries with 270.790 square km. The reason for the name Ecuador is that the equator passes through the country.
Ecuador has become one of South America's favourite tourist destinations. One of the many reasons for this is that Ecuador combines all the landscapes, the racial and cultural characteristic features of the Latin-American countries.
The Capital Quito is the second highest city in the World (2.850 metres above sea level (m.a.s.l.)), and is considered to be one of the prettiest towns in South America. This is due to a couple of reasons: apart from its unique location on the lower slopes of the volcano Pichincha, Quito is notable for its well-preserved old town, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978, also for being close to Nature, for the "never ending spring" and the opportunity for excursions to the local and regional environment. Tourists use Quito usually as the starting- and endpoint for their journey to Ecuador.
So varied the different landscapes of Ecuador are, so different are the people who live there. Not only does the country have Whites, Indians, Blacks, Asians and Orientals and emerging from them the mixed races, there are also a number of ethnic-cultural variations. So that in nearly every plateau basin you will find a different Indian population. The people at the country markets celebrate throughout the year in their national tradition (colourful and in worldly and religious manner).
In Ecuador the various different landscapes are very near to each other, that means that there are only a few hundred kilometres between the Amazon basin and the sand beaches on the Pacific coast, divided between the 5.000-6.000 m high Cordillera of the Andes with their snow covered volcano mountains. Passing through within a day, not only the landscape changes but also the climate, which can be very delightful. Between the foot and the summits of the Andes you do find not only subtropical and arctic zones but nearly all kinds of climate and vegetation zones on earth.
Officially known as the Archipelago of Colon, the Galapagos rest about 1.000 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador. The Archipelago covers approximately 8.000 square km on land and approximately 80.000 square km of ocean and consists of six main islands (Isabella, San Cristobel, Santa Cruz, Floreana, Santiago, and Fernandina), 12 smaller islands, 42 islets, and countless small rock formations. The primeval Islands became the refuge of rare and strange animals and plants. New breeds developed in adaptation to the extreme conditions of life.
On your way to the east of the Andes, the Oriente, also called the Amazon region, travelling is mostly on roads with loose gravel surface. On the eastern spur of the Andes the tropical mountain forest goes unnoticed into the real tropical rainforests. In Ecuador these are particularly rich of species as they are a reserve for the fauna and flora of the ice-age epoch of the Pleistocene.
The main routes in the high mountain region of the Andes, the Sierra, usually have an asphalt surface. The chain of mountains is very narrow compared to the neighbouring countries. That is why the change of landscape can be very abrupt, especially in the west the overflowing riverbeds cut deep notches into the mountainside which make a very impressive scene. The glacial mountain peaks of partly active volcanoes of the west and east Cordillera have a height from 5.000 to 6.000 m.a.s.l., an awe-inspiring attraction of the Andes. In 1802 the celebrated explorer Alexander von Humboldt termed the Sierra of Ecuador as the "Avenue of volcanoes".
The tropical lowland of the coast covers an area between the high mountain region of the Andes and the Cordillera (700 m.a.s.l.) which runs along the coast. Most of the main roads of the Costa have an asphalt surface. In the north they lead through tropical rainforests, in the middle part and around the Gulf of Guayaquil through endless banana-, cocoa and sugar cane plantations as well as through rice fields and entirely in the south through dry forests, savannahs and even desert-like regions.
The road along the coast leads past beautiful, lonely, spacious sand beaches and remote fishing villages, but also through developed seaside resorts.
You can visit Ecuador throughout the year, as Ecuador is in the tropics there are hardly any differences in weather during the year, although during the day the temperature can change very suddenly.