Ecuador is a country in the northern part of South America. It is a unique country for the region, with many natural wonders and ancient monuments. People come to Ecuador for its stunning beaches, towering mountains, impenetrable jungles, and cities hiding ancient civilizations. Ecuador is a nation where people live differently from other nations, but they are all known for their openness, friendliness, and independence. Welcome to Ecuador; the country is eagerly awaiting your visit!
Ecuador on the Map
The Geographical Location of Ecuador
The Republic of Ecuador is situated on the Pacific Ocean coast in the northwestern part of South America. As its name suggests, the country straddles the equator. This imaginary line divides the globe into the Southern and Northern hemispheres and passes just 15 kilometers from the capital of Ecuador, Quito. The majority of the republic lies in the Southern Hemisphere.
Ecuador shares its land borders with Colombia to the north and Peru to the south, spanning a length of 2,000 kilometers.
In addition to the mainland, Ecuador owns the Galápagos Archipelago, located 1,000 kilometers from the mainland. The country boasts a total coastline stretching 2,200 kilometers.
Running from north to south, the Andes, the world’s largest mountain system, traverse the country. The Andes divide the mainland into three regions: the Costa (coast), the Sierra (mountains), and the Oriente (east).
The Costa stretches along the coast and consists of lowlands and foothills covered with savannahs. The Sierra comprises the Andes themselves, featuring high peaks, some of which are snow-capped. The country’s highest point is the Chimborazo volcano, reaching an elevation of 6,267 meters. Beyond the Sierra lies the Oriente, characterized by Amazonian lowlands covered in jungle. These lands are traversed by major rivers belonging to the Amazon basin.
Ecuador boasts a rich and diverse natural environment.
Safety for Tourists
Ecuador is ranked 75th in the Global Peace Index, which considers factors such as environmental tranquillity, the treatment of tourists, and more, placing it alongside Peru and The Gambia.
Ecuador experiences an average crime rate. Pickpockets and swindlers are prevalent in large cities and crowded areas. Armed robberies have been reported, and there have been incidents where tourists were kidnapped from taxis and held hostage for ransom.
Areas in the northeastern provinces of the country, where drug cartels operate, and the far south, with its legacy of minefields from past conflicts, pose significant risks to tourists.
Road traffic in the country is subject to local drivers, who may not always adhere to traffic rules. Many roads are mountainous and winding, requiring extra caution.
Visitors to the country are advised to obtain vaccinations in advance, such as those for yellow fever and malaria, given the prevalence of local disease-carrying mosquitoes. Intestinal infections are also common in Ecuador, so it is recommended to consume only bottled water and thoroughly wash fruits.
Additionally, travelers should exercise caution regarding poisonous snakes, spiders, and other insects while exploring the country. Crocodiles inhabit the rivers, and jaguars roam the impenetrable jungles.
In general, by following standard safety guidelines and practicing personal hygiene, you can enjoy a trouble-free experience in Ecuador.
Public Holidays in Ecuador
Ecuadorians are, for the most part, a cheerful and sociable people who love to celebrate on a grand scale.
The country observes a limited number of official holidays, including New Year, Christmas, Holy Week, and the Feast of Corpus Christi. Secular holidays include Independence Day, Labor Day, Simon Bolivar Day, and various other commemorative dates.
In addition to official holidays, Ecuador hosts a multitude of festivals and carnivals that capture the attention of tourists. The most renowned among them is the Carnival of Water or Mardi Gras, traditionally celebrated in the spring at different times across the country.
Another popular tourist attraction is the Festival of the Sun, stemming from Inca traditions. It takes place on June 21 and features masquerades, dances, and sports competitions.
The country also hosts numerous local festivals tied to specific events and times, such as festivals celebrating peaches, grains, roosters, fruits, flowers, and more. Bullfighting is also popular in Ecuador.
Best Activities in Ecuador
In recent years, the influx of tourists to the country has been steadily increasing, and corresponding infrastructure development is in full swing. Ecuador now offers its visitors not only breathtaking natural beauty but also comfortable vacation options. For tourists, there is a wide range of enjoyable activities to choose from. Here are the top 10 things that every tourist should consider doing in Ecuador:
1. Beach holidays: The country boasts numerous stunning beaches known for their clean, white sands and picturesque cliffs. The narrow beachlines in most parts of the country add to their popularity, making them ideal for photography. Mompiche and Montanita are among the best beaches in the country.
2. Surfing: Ecuador can be aptly called a surfing paradise. Its open coastline welcomes all winds, providing surfers with opportunities year-round. Montanita and Canoa are popular among surfers. The surfing season in the country lasts from December to April when constant and strong winds create ideal conditions.
3. Diving: The Galápagos Islands are especially favored by experienced divers. Though the diving conditions are challenging, they offer opportunities to admire rare marine life and captivating underwater granite formations.
4. Rafting: Ecuador’s numerous rivers originating from the mountains are a treasure trove for rafting enthusiasts. Beyond classic rafting, you can try tubing, canoeing, and kayaking. The country offers various routes, catering to different levels of difficulty.
5. Ecotourism: Ecuador is home to many places that remain untouched by civilization. Particularly in Oriente, the Yasuni National Park offers a chance to immerse yourself in the Amazonian nature, meet local indigenous people, and enjoy a restful stay in eco-hotels.
6. Thermal Springs: The region’s volcanic activity creates perfect conditions for relaxation in thermal and therapeutic springs, such as the Papallacta complex. Enjoying hot pools here comes with the bonus of breathtaking views of the towering mountains shrouded in lush forests.
7. Galápagos: A true gem of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands can be a bit challenging to reach. However, once you arrive, you’ll have the chance to admire animals found nowhere else in the world. The islands’ volcanic landscapes exhibit unique and wild beauty.
8. Historical monuments: Ecuador’s past was shaped by various indigenous civilizations, with the Incas being the most famous. They left behind numerous cities situated high in the mountains. In the southern part of the country, you’ll find Ingapirca, an Inca-built city, featuring well-preserved ruins, including the Temple of the Sun.
9. Architectural monuments: Ecuador’s capital, Quito, is home to an array of architectural marvels that should not be missed. The historic city center, in particular, stands out with its beautiful streets and churches. A remarkable monument in Ecuador marks the «Center of Peace,» situated 15 kilometers from Quito, where you can simultaneously stand in different hemispheres of the Earth.
10. Gastronomic tourism: Ecuadorian cuisine is diverse and intriguing. While some dishes may appear intimidating, they are surprisingly delicious. For example, «cuy,» or spit-roasted guinea pigs, is served with vegetables and salad, providing an exotic culinary experience.
What’s Important to Know About Ecuador
If you’re planning to visit this country, here are some key things to keep in mind:
The official language of Ecuador is Spanish. Additionally, Quechua and Shuar are recognized as languages for intercultural relations and communication. Quechua is spoken by the indigenous people in the coastal and mountainous regions, who are descendants of the Incas. Shuar is spoken by the indigenous population in the Oriente jungle.
Ecuador is home to just over 17 million people. The population breakdown is approximately 65% mestizo, representing descendants of mixed marriages between Europeans and local Indians. Pure-blooded indigenous people make up 25% of the country’s population, while 7% are of European descent, and about 3% are of African heritage. More than 60% of the population resides in urban areas.
- For more intriguing insights into the character and local culture of Ecuadorians, you can explore this article.
The official currency of Ecuador is the United States dollar. While the Sucre was in circulation until 2020, it was completely replaced by the US dollar due to hyperinflation. Currently, only fractional centavo coins remain in use. Tourists should carry US dollars, as they are the accepted means of payment in Ecuador. Additionally, other currencies like euros or yuan can be easily exchanged at banks for US dollars. The country also has numerous ATMs that accept international cards.
A majority of Ecuador’s population is Christian, with over 74% adhering to Catholicism, which is largely attributed to Spanish influence. There are also followers of other Christian denominations in the country, including Baptists, Adventists, Evangelicals, and more.
The country experiences subequatorial and equatorial climates along with varying altitudinal zones. In regions with an equatorial climate, eternal spring prevails, and there are no distinct seasons. The average temperature throughout the year remains around +24 to +25 degrees Celsius. Precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year, without distinct periods of maximum and minimum.
In the Sierra region, climatic conditions differ significantly. As altitude increases, the climate becomes progressively colder. For instance, in the capital, Quito, located at an altitude of 2000 meters, the average temperature is only +15 degrees, with daytime temperatures reaching +24 and nighttime temperatures dropping to +10. At higher altitudes, the area of perpetual snow begins.
The Costa Coast receives the highest rainfall due to the Andes retaining moisture from the Pacific Ocean. This region experiences consistent rainfall, with up to 6,000 millimeters of rain annually.
The average sea water temperature off the coast of Ecuador remains relatively stable from year to year, making it suitable for swimming year-round. While the ideal time for beach and sea tourism is during the winter months from December to April, the bathing season lasts throughout the year.
Here are the specific water temperatures for different seasons:
- Water temperature in winter (December-January): ranges from +22 to +23 degrees Celsius, increasing to +26 degrees on the Galapagos Islands.
- Water temperature in spring (March-May): varies from +22 to +23 degrees on the mainland and +24 to +27 on the islands.
- Water temperature in summer (June-July): ranges from +22 to +23 degrees Celsius.
- Water temperature in autumn (September-November): typically +22 to +23 degrees Celsius.
Ecuador faces the primary natural hazard of earthquakes due to its location in a zone where the South American plate collides with the Nazca plate. These tectonic movements lead to frequent earthquakes, with significant destruction and casualties occurring every two to three years. For instance, in March 2023, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake resulted in 18 fatalities. Ecuador’s most powerful earthquake occurred in 1797, with a magnitude exceeding 8 points, claiming the lives of 40,000 people. Earthquakes near the coast can trigger tsunamis, as seen in 1906 and 1979.
Volcanoes pose another potential danger, as even dormant ones can unexpectedly erupt. For example, the Cotopaxi volcano erupted in 2023 after a century and a half of dormancy.
Floods primarily affect the north-western regions due to prolonged rainfall. These floods frequently occur from January to May and can trigger landslides in the mountains.
While hurricanes, storms, and forest fires are rare in Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands are vulnerable to the El Niño phenomenon, which leads to severe droughts.
- For more details on Ecuador’s most devastating disasters, refer to this article.
Ecuador is a presidential republic. The Head of State is the President, who appoints the Cabinet of Ministers. The legislative power is represented by the unicameral National Assembly.
Administratively the country is divided into 24 provinces, which are divided into 199 cantons.
The capital of the country is Quito.
Major Cities and Resorts
Quito is the capital of the country, founded by the Spaniards in 1534. It is the second most populous city in the country. Now 1.7 million people live in Quito. Tourists are attracted here by narrow streets in colonial style, numerous churches and cathedrals, unusual monuments. Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Guayaquil is the largest city of Ecuador. It was founded in 1536 and now it is home to 2.6 million people. It is the hottest city in the country, in winter the temperature often rises to +36 degrees Celsius. Tourists are attracted here by beaches, historical centre and local cuisine. Guayaquil is considered the culinary capital of Ecuador.
San Cristobal is the easternmost island of the Galapagos archipelago. It is home to the provincial capital city of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The island has a population of 8,500 people. Tourists are attracted by unusual nature and amazing animals: iguanas, elephant tortoises, lizards.
Symbols of Ecuador
Bananas form the basis of the country’s exports and can be found on shop shelves in the most remote regions of the world.
The Galápagos tortoise is one of the world’s largest tortoises, unique to the Galápagos archipelago.
The Rondador is a reed whistle and serves as the national musical instrument.
The Panama is a traditional headdress native to Ecuador, despite its name’s association with another Latin American country.
Chocolate is a product known for its unique flavor. It can incorporate ingredients like pepper, fruit, and even cocoa beans themselves.
How to Get to Ecuador
A European or Asian tourist can access the country almost exclusively by plane. Ecuador has five airports, with the largest ones being Jose Joaquin Airport in Guayaquil and Mariscal Sucre in Quito.
The capital’s airport maintains air connections with South American countries and the USA. Flights to Madrid and Amsterdam also depart from here. It is the country’s busiest airport.
Guayaquil airport provides flights to destinations such as New York, Miami, Madrid, Amsterdam, and many South American capitals. This airport serves approximately 2 million international travelers each year.
Access to the Galápagos Islands is only possible through domestic flights from Quito and Guayaquil, landing at Seymour Airport on Baltra Island.
How Much Does a Trip to Ecuador Cost?
The cost of a holiday in Ecuador can vary widely, depending on whether you plan to travel independently or use the services of a tour company and trusted guides.
Ecuador is located on the west coast of South America, which is quite distant from Europe. Therefore, for tourists from the EU, flights here are not inexpensive. For example, a round-trip ticket to Quito from Paris will typically cost at least $500 to $800, depending on the season.
The most affordable tours to the country start from $1,500 to $4,000 for a 7-day trip, including flights. Visiting mainland Ecuador is cheaper, but the price doubles with an additional excursion to the Galápagos.
In the country itself, tourists can expect the following costs:
- Food: Prices for food are slightly lower than in Europe. For instance, a meal for two in an average restaurant can cost between $25 and $50, while a quick snack at a local eatery may be as low as $10. For example, a pizza typically costs between $7 and $10, and a burger, fries, and a soft drink can be as low as $5. A cup of cappuccino costs about $2.
- Accommodation: The average price for a double room in a three-star hotel is around $40 to $50, but you can find rooms in hostels for as little as $10 per person. The most comfortable hotels offer rooms starting from $100.
- Visiting attractions: Many beach services are complimentary when staying in a hotel, except for extras such as diving. Admission to historic buildings and churches is often free, but you may need to pay between $6 and $13 for museum entry. Themed excursions can cost between $50 and $200. For instance, a visit to the Papallacta thermal springs typically costs $150 per person.
- Souvenirs: Tourists often bring back jewelry made of tagua nut, resembling ivory in color (around $10), ponchos ($15), scarves, blankets, and other items made of local textiles and alpaca wool. Popular food products include chocolate ($2), coffee ($7 for 500 grams), tea made from coca leaves, sweets, and panela (cane sugar). Souvenir costs vary widely based on individual preferences.
- Transport: Getting around cities is often easier and sometimes safer with public transport, such as buses and shuttle buses. A ticket typically costs around 20 cents. The cost of a taxi ride is approximately $1.50 to start and then $1.20 for each kilometer.
Thus, considering a reserve for unforeseen expenses, a holiday for two people in Ecuador typically ranges from $2,500 to $5,000 for a 7-day trip, including flights. However, the total cost of a vacation can be significantly higher.
If you have already visited Ecuador, please share your impressions in the comments. Write a few words about what you liked most, which moments left a lasting memory, and any recommendations you have for other tourists. We would greatly appreciate your insights!