Ecuador sits in the Equator between Peru and Columbia, and is the smallest of the Andean nations sitting next to the Pacific Ocean. The mountain range splits Ecuador into the coastal region in the west (Costa) and the Amazon in the east (Oriente), which makes up a third of the county. Quito, the capital, lies in the Andes and at 2850m above sea level is the second highest capital in the world after La Paz. Ecuador is famed for its diverse geography and it is said that you can experience all four seasons in one day and is one of the most bio-diverse places on earth – from the Sierra of the Andes, to Pacific banana and coffee plantations to the upper Amazon basin and its mysterious tropical jungles, still inhabited by Indian tribes.
The natural history of the Galapagos Islandshas fascinated visitors since naturist, Charles Darwin arrived in 1845 and formed the theory of evolution here, in this natural wonderland. Here you can see mating turtles, penguins, and a range of rare and exotic species unrivaled in the world.
Ecuador has two seasons; wet and dry. Depending on which region you are in this can vary a great deal. The wet season hits the coastal areas (including the Galapagos) between January and April, the Oriente is pretty wet all year round, but September to December are the driest months. In the highlands the dry spells fall between June and September and also around Christmas, and are the best times to climb Mt. Cotopaxi.
The fluctuating economies of South America means shoe string travel is not as easy or cheap as it once was, but if you’re planning to camp and make your own journeys, expect to get by on $20 a day excluding travel – triple this or more if you intend to go jungle trekking and trips to the Galapagos Islands can run into several hundred dollars per day for experience such exclusive wildlife.
Most tourists do not need a visa for stays of less than 90 days, and UK citizens can stay longer. Business, work, residence and student visas are hard to come by in Ecuador.
Spanish is the official tongue and Quechua and Quichua are the most widely spoken of the Amerindian languages.
Religion & Population
95% Roman Catholic. Older religious traditions still exist and are often found in a blend of Catholic and indigenous beliefs. Indigenous peoples represent 40% of the population, with an equal number of mestizos.
Some of the coastal areas may have malaria risks so make sure you check the situation with a travel agent or the tourist board before visiting and take the necesssary precautions. Altitude sickness in Highland areas – including Quito – can cause some discomfort and visitors will need to acclimatize, especially if you are planning to climb Cotopaxi.
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