Ecuador, or the Republic of Ecuador, is a country situated in northwestern South America. It was surrounded by Colombia on the north, the Pacific Ocean on the west, and Peru on the East. Before Spain invaded and colonized it in the 16th century, Ecuador was the home of indigenous people. Nowadays, Ecuador is home to over 17 million ethnically diverse people, such as mestizos, Native Americans, Asians, Europeans, and Africans. It also has a unique ecological heritage and hosts a lot of endemic animals and plants, making it recognized as 1 of 17 megadiverse countries worldwide.
Ecuador is known for its amazing biodiversity. It’s like a small slice of Paradise on Earth, containing 10% of the world’s flora and 8% of its fauna. But, aside from being a wonder of nature, Ecuador is also famous for its colonial architecture, unique wool textiles, and ancient indigenous traditions.
Ecuador Means Equator in Spanish
The word “Ecuador” means “equator” in Spanish. Equator is the term used to address the imaginary line that separates the Earth into the northern and southern hemispheres. Ecuador was named as such because it runs through the imaginary line. It is the only country in the world named after a geographical term. You can visit a monument called “Mitad del Mundo” or “Middle of the World” in Quito which marks the equator’s location.
Galapagos Islands Inspired the Theory of Evolution
Galapagos Islands is one the most delightful places in Ecuador and the world for nature enthusiasts. It is located 490 nautical miles on the west side of Ecuador. The islands have a large number of endemic species like the Brown pelican, Marine iguana, Galapagos tortoise, Blue-footed booby, Galapagos penguin, and Bottlenose dolphins. Galapagos was the star of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin’s observations on the island gave birth to the theory of natural selection and the origin of species, which is why the Ecuadorian government declared 98% of the islands as national parks and heritage sites.
Four Worlds in One
Ecuador’s slogan, “All you need is Ecuador,” is absolutely accurate. The country can provide whatever holiday activities you prefer. This is thanks to its unique diversity that accommodates different climate zones. All four worlds, Amazon, Coast, Galapagos Islands, and Andes Mountains, are very close to each other. You can explore and visit each one within a week of traveling and island hopping. But we advise taking your sweet time to enjoy and indulge in their beauty and culture.
The Amazon Rainforest
We’ve all heard of it, and we’ve all dreamed of visiting it. The mighty Amazon! The rainforest is enormous, and we are talking about almost 7 million square kilometers of exposed and virgin land. It is the home of 9 nations and more than 3,000 indigenous tribes. Amazon rainforest has the largest collection of animal and plant species worldwide. This includes 2.5 million insect species, 2,000 fishes, 1,200 birds, 40,000 flora, 370 reptiles, 400 mammals, and 400 amphibians. The place is a haven for people and animals and is simply amazing. Visiting parts of it can be a life-changing experience for tourists.
Chocolate and Ecuador Have a Long History Together
Cacao has always been a staple of Ecuador’s culture and national heritage. It was cultivated and consumed in this country for more than 5,000 years. Historians argue that Ecuador is the birthplace and original source of cacao. Nowadays, Ecuador is recognized as the largest exporter and producer of high-quality chocolates and cacao beans around the world. However, the people of Ecuador do not just use cacao to make chocolates; they also use it to treat infections and other ailments because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
The Orchid Capital of the World
If you are fascinated by rare and exotic orchids, Ecuador is the right place to visit. It is known as the orchid capital of the world since it houses over 25,000 species of plants, 4,000 of which are orchids. It would be best to visit Gualaceo or the Gardens of Azuay in the Azuay region since it has the largest concentration of orchid flowers in Ecuador. They allow tourists to view orchids in the wild. They also have large greenhouses with thousands of different orchids to look at and buy.
Bananas Are Important in Ecuador
The basic law of supply and demand may explain why bananas are such a big deal in Ecuador. There are over 300 types of bananas growing in Ecuador. The most popular are the Cavendish and Musa Paradisiaca or Plantain Banana. As a result, they have become a staple in Ecuadorian diets and cuisine. Bananas are present on every occasion, birthdays, weddings, and even funerals. For over six decades, Ecuador has produced 25% of the world’s bananas, making it one of the largest producers in the world.
Ecuador Is a Bird Watcher’s Paradise
Ecuador is home to 1,632 confirmed and 48 hypothetical species of birds. This means Ecuador has more birds flapping their wings in the sky than anywhere else on the planet, making it a bird watchers haven and paradise. One of the most interesting bird species in Ecuador is the hummingbird. Hummingbirds are known for being the smallest birds in the world. However, they also have an incredibly high metabolism that requires them to sleep deeply, almost in a hibernation-like state every night. There are 132 out of 340 hummingbird species residing in the country.
Devil’s Nose Train Ride
The Devil’s Nose train ride starts in the town of Alausi and ends in Silambe. It is a 45-minute ride down the rocky slopes of the Andes mountains. You’ll witness the most breathtaking scenery and dramatic landscapes in Ecuador. There are souvenir shops, restrooms, and snack houses at the base. Not only is it adventurous, but Devil’s Nose is also one of the most daring and impressive engineering works worldwide. The round trip costs $25, which includes a light meal. But it’s definitely worth it.
The Sacred Valley of Longevity
A small and humble valley located in the Andes, Vilcabamba is christened as the Valley of the Immortals or Sacred Valley of Longevity. It is known as such because its inhabitants rarely suffer from illness and terminal diseases and have lived for more than 100 years. What’s even remarkable is that their old people have good physical and mental health and can perform activities like gardening, handicrafts, and chores. Their elderly also participate in carnivals, festivities, and other cultural events. Because of this, Vilacabamba is popular among retirees who want to enjoy and prolong their lives. People believe that the village’s mineral water, climate, and fresh food are the keys behind this phenomenon. But who knows, maybe there is something magical in the place.
Artisan Markets and Textiles
Ecuador is also known for its brightly colored and one-of-a-kind handicrafts and textiles. Artisans in Ecuador are famous all over the world. You can visit the local markets and stores in Otavalo. Tourists love the alpaca wool the most. It is a soft, cloud-like material commonly used for shawls and blankets. Pure alpaca wool is rare and expensive; you’re more likely to find products combining alpaca wool, synthetic fibers, and sheep wool. But even those are gorgeous and worthy purchases.
Aside from the textiles, you can buy other souvenirs to remember your Ecuadorian trip, like the famous Panama hats. Yep, Panama hats are originally made in Ecuador, not in Panama. But, the people of Ecuador have handwoven these hats for centuries. They caught the nickname because Ecuador’s hat exports passed through Panama before going to their destinations. And President Teddy Roosevelt once visited Panama Canal wearing a Panama hat, so the association was somewhat stuck. So, your visit to Ecuador is incomplete unless you cap it with a handwoven Panama hat.
Isla de la Plata
Yes, visiting Galapagos Islands is amazing, but the trip is quite expensive and time-consuming. You can always try visiting Isla de la Plata or Poor Man’s Galapagos. It is located near Puerto Lopez and Parque Nacional Manchilla. You can visit the island and still see different animals like blue-footed boobies, giant sea turtles, humpback whales, different types of birds, and many more, depending on the time of the year. Plus, the island’s view is also breathtaking.
Ecuador’s natural view is undoubtedly notable. They are clear signs of how extraordinary our planet is. But Ecuador’s beauty is not limited to its natural resources; its manmade sceneries are equally beautiful. For instance, Old Town Quito is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture. It has incredible cathedrals, one of which is lined with pure gold. You can also drop by the mountain town of Cuenca and take a look around its Spanish buildings and cobbled streets. The Plaza de San Francisco is also Instagram-worthy.
The People of Ecuador Eat Guinea Pigs
This may not be for everyone, especially those with pet guinea pigs at home, but the people of Ecuador love cuy. Cuy Asado is an Ecuadorian specialty that means “roast guinea pig.” People in the Andean region treat guinea pigs as livestock and food source. They raised them like any other farm animal. They fry, grill, and roast guinea pigs the way Americans cook beef and pork. People say guinea pigs taste like chicken, so if you are brave enough, you might want to try it to complete your Ecuadorian experience.