Information about Ecuador

You could split Ecuador into four completely different regions. Including subtropical islands with endemic animals, a coastline full of beaches, highlands with snow-capped volcanoes and a huge tropical rainforest with enormous biodiversity. This makes Ecuador very diverse in nature, culture and travel activities.   In size, Ecuador is one of South-America’s smallest countries and the infrastructure is good. You can do and see a lot in a little time. Which is why many travelers like to visit Ecuador. However, …. Don’t forget to pack clothes for four different climates when you go.

Geography of Ecuador

Ecuador is one of South-America’s smallest countries. However, let’s put that in perspective. With its 260.000km2, its size is between that of the UK and Italy, similar to Colorado and about 6 times the Netherlands.


Ecuador Location   On the map, you’ll find Ecuador in the north-west of South-America. It’s south of Colombia and north(-west) of Peru. Ecuador has a long western coastline at the Pacific Ocean. 600 miles west of Ecuador’s mainland, you’ll find the archipelago of the Galapagos. Even though it’s deep into the Pacific Ocean, it’s part of the republic of Ecuador.

4 regions

Through the center of Ecuador, from north to south, crosses the Andean volcanic belt with 32 volcanoes. 10 of these volcanoes reach peaks of over 5,000m. Not only does the elevation have an effect on the climate in the Andes itself. It also functions as a natural barrier between the humid Amazon rainforest in the east and the dry coast in the west. A fourth region is separated by the Pacific Ocean: the Galapagos Islands. The climate is rather similar to that of the Ecuadorian coastline, but the nature of this volcanic archipelago is very different.  Besides the difference in climate and nature between these 4 regions, there are also significant cultural and historical differences.  

Andes – SIERRA

The Sierra has a mild climate (18 to 25 degrees Celsius). The higher you get, the more it cools down. The landscapes are characterized by volcanoes and mountains. From each corner in the Sierra, you can see at least one snow capped volcano.

Between the mountains are many lakes, some of them inside of extinct volcano craters. Travelling to the Andes means enjoying the highlands, the volcanos, the mountains, the lakes and the rivers.

 The Andes is also the most culturally rich region in Ecuador. The second and third largest cities of Ecuador are in La Sierra: Quito and Cuenca. These cities are known for their colonial architecture and their many beautiful cathedrals. North of Quito, you’ll find the towns Otavalo and Cotacachi which are known for the artisan handicraft markets.


 Read here more about La Sierra in Ecuador.

Andes Sierra


 Amazon – ORIENTE

The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s largest jungle and covers the eastern half of Ecuador. The weather is hot and humid. The Amazon is the most biodiverse place in the world.

There are good roads which bring you from the Sierra into the jungle. The further you go east, the more you descend. On the way down, you’ll see the nature around you gradually transforming into a jungle.

Travelers visit the Amazon rainforest for its wildlife, the biodiverse flora, jungle tours as well as the authentic traditional cultures of the indigenous communities (which haven’t changed in centuries).


 Read here more about the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador.

Amazon Oriente



In the west of Ecuador, you’ll find a coastline of over 800km full of beaches. The weather is dry and warm. Temperatures are between 24 and 32 degrees Celsius. During the cooler months in the south (24 degrees), it’s still warm in the north.

 The type of beaches and towns vary a lot. There are beach resorts, surf hotspots, fishermen towns, protected national parks with whales, coastal cities, etc.

 Travelers visiting the Ecuadorian coast (Costa) go for a variety of reasons. Some go to lively surf towns full of bars and restaurants, others go to quiet surf towns with few tourists and many local fishermen. Some travelers want to spot whales, snorkel with turtles and explore coastal national parks with little to no commercial activities. While others prefer to enjoy family friendly luxurious beach resorts with tennis courts, swimming pools, spas, etc.


Read here more about the Ecuadorian coast.

Pacific Coast


Galapagos Islands

600 miles west of the Ecuadorian coast are the Galapagos Islands. This is probably the most famous region of Ecuador, thanks to Charles Darwin’s Evolution theory.

The volcanic archipelago is the only land within hundreds of miles deep in the Pacific Ocean. The nutritious waters attract lots of marine life and birds. Also on land, the wildlife is exceptional. It’s full of endemic species, meaning animals which you will find nowhere else in the world.

Travelers going to the Galapagos either stay at one of the larger islands and take a few day tours from there. Or they take a cruise, as this helps to see more in less time. Most activities involve the exploration of the Galapagos Islands’ exceptional nature. You can think of bird watching, hikes, scuba diving, snorkeling, canoe tours, but also more comfortable tours directly from a boat.

Besides nature exploration activities, some travelers come to surf, enjoy calm and beautiful beaches or to stroll through little fishermen towns full of iguanas and sea lions with no fear for humans. 


 Read here more about the Galapagos Islands.


Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca are the largest and most famous cities of Ecuador.


Quito ecuador




Quito is Ecuador’s capital and has 2 million inhabitants. The city is high up in the Andean mountains and with an elevation of 2,850m, it’s the world’s second highest capital after La Paz. The heat from the equator is cooled down significantly by the effect of the altitude, giving Quito a day temperature of around 20 degrees year-round.

Variation in altitude within the city and snow capped volcanoes around the city result in astonishing panoramas. Quito’s central old town is South-America’s oldest well maintained colonial city center and full of beautiful extravagant catholic cathedrals. Therefore, the old town of Quito has been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site since 1972.


 Read here more about Quito.

Guayaquil ecuador



Guayaquil is the largest city of Ecuador with 2.7 million inhabitants and very different from Quito.  While Quito is a political city, Guayaquil is a harbor city. It’s Ecuador’s center of import, export and many businesses.

Guayaquil is about 1.5 hours away from the beach and the city has a warm and humid climate. Ecuadorians often refer to it as ‘small Miami’.


 Read here more about Guayaquil.


Cuenca ecuador




Cuenca is Ecuador’s third city with 350k inhabitants. Also Cuenca is a high elevation (2,500m) Andean city. Like Quito, it has beautiful colonial architecture and since 1999 it’s recognized as UNESCO world heritage as well.

 Nevertheless, the city has a completely different vibe. Quito is a crowded large city, while Cuenca feels like a cute calm province city. Furthermore, Cuenca has a few rivers crossing its center, giving it its distinct character.


 Read here more about Cuenca.

Population of Ecuador

Ecuador has 17 million inhabitants, a little under 5 million of them live in the 2 largest cities: the capital Quito in the Andes and the harbor city Guayaquil.
Most of the Ecuadorians are Mestizos, meaning a mix of European and indigenous American ancestors. Catholicism is the country’s main religion, which was brought by the Spanish settlers. The larger cities are very westernized. In the rural Andean and Amazonian areas, you will still encounter indigenous communities. These communities still live according to their ancestors’ traditions and religions. The further you go away from the larger cities, the more the communities have maintained their traditions and religions. In particular within the Amazon rainforest.

Languages in Ecuador

Spanish is the official language of Ecuador. Even though some local communities in rural areas speak Quechua (Andes) or Kickwa (Amazon), pretty much every Ecuadorian knows how to speak Spanish.   Similar to Mexico, Ecuador’s accent in Spanish is very clear and well pronounced. That’s why Ecuador has become a very popular place for Spanish courses.   Most Ecuadorians don’t speak English. The younger and higher educated in the larger cities sometimes do, but even among them, many don’t feel so comfortable speaking English. Nevertheless, people working in the tourist industry do speak English.   Galapagos is an exception; more people speak English there. Probably because tourism is most developed in the Galapagos.

The history of Ecuador in a nutshell

history of Ecuador Modern history of Ecuador exists of 4 main eras: (1) Pre-Columbian (until 1463 AD), (2) Inca era (1463 – 1532), (3) Spanish occupation (1533 – 1820), (4) independence (1820 – present)  

Pre-Columbian Ecuador (until 1463 ad)

There were multiple tribes living according to their own traditions and religions and they spoke their tribes’ languages. People lived day by day and development to a united Ecuador was still very far away.

The Incas in Ecuador

In 1463 AD, the Incas came from the south, through the Andes, from the lands which we call Peru today. It wasn’t until 1500 when the Incas ruled most of today’s Ecuador. The conquest by the Incas was very bloody. Nevertheless, once they ruled, modernization accelerated tremendously. The Incas brought knowledge, sophisticated agriculture and an organized administration. In a short period, there were more developments than in centuries before. Even though the Incas’ ruling only lasted half a century, many Ecuadorians of today identify themselves as descendants of the Incas. Probably because the Incas brought unity and prosperity to the indigenous population.

The Spanish Occupation in Ecuador

In 1532 the Spanish arrived in Ecuador and imprisoned the Incan emperor Atahualpa. Even though the Incan army outnumbered the conquistadores by far, they didn’t stand a chance against the modern Spanish weapons. The Incan General Rumiñahui knew they lost and burned Quito down in 1533. A year later, the Spanish rebuilt the city and called it San Francisco de Quito. The city’s old town has been maintained ever since.  In the Andes, many indigenous Americans worked and lived at haciendas (ranches). Officially, this wasn’t slavery. However, the Spanish occupier came up with a system which practically ment the same. The rent of the indigeonouis workers was higher than their salaries. They accumulated a debt and were therefore forced to stay with their employers. Their children inherited their debt by law.  The Spanish ruling was very tough on the indigenous population and lasted almost 3 centuries. Over the years, the European and the indigenous American populations mixed to have mestizo children. Like other South-American countries under Spanish ruling: Ecuador was a society of social class. The more European, the higher the social class. Nowadays, 80% of Ecuador’s population are mestizos.

Ecuadorian Independence

 Napoleon invaded Spain in 1808. The year after, Spaniards in Quito, who felt loyal to the Spanish king Ferdinand, revolted against their new overseas leader. The government in Quito punished them harshly. This was the last straw for the Quiteños. The whole city revolved. They defeated the Spanish rulers and took over the city. The rebellions moved further south, but could not defeat the Spanish army entirely. The Spanish situation back in Europe didn’t go unnoticed in the rest of South-America either. The Venezuelan military leader Simon Bolivar had already liberated Venezuela and Colombia. His army entered Ecuador from the north to support the rebels. They pushed the Spanish out over the southern border with Peru. Ecuador became a district in Gran Colombia in 1820 and became fully independent 10 years later.  

Traveling to Ecuador

Most travelers visit the four different regions combined with a short city trip during a two to three weeks vacation. With good planning, you can do quite a lot due to the country’s small size.  At the map below, you’ll get a basic snapshot of what you could do where.  


Hiking/trekking, Scuba Diving,Surfing, White water Rafting/Kayaking, Piranhafishing,Canyoning, Mountain biking, Climbing, Horseback Riding.


Tropical Islands, Snorkeling, Volcanos, Hiking,Wildlife, Whale Watching, Beaches, National Parks, Jungle (tours), Hot Springs, Bird Watching, Cloud forest, Rainforest.


Indigenous Communities, Hot Springs, historical cities, Handicraft markets, Historic haciendas, museums, traditional cuisine, Sunbathing, beach/surf culture, train mountain tour.

Where would you like to go in Ecuador?

Click on the regions to see what you can do there:

Galapagos activities

The Galapagos Islands consist of over 120 islands, islets and rocks. Of course, not all of them have tourist accommodation or are even inhabited…


Amazon activities

The Amazon rainforest has an abundance of flora and fauna, local indigenous communities have kept their authentic cultures and this rainforest is full of great activities…

Andes activities

Ecuador is situated right at the equator. This brings a lot of sunlight and heat and has a major impact on the country’s nature. The Andes is characterized by high altitudes…

Costa activities

Many people who think of Ecuador, instantly think of the beach. With the Amazon and the Andes, Ecuador has a lot more nature than just the coast…

mountain biker Andes
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Ecuador is perfect for adventurous vacations. Each region offers different adventures to do. Think of scuba diving, mountain biking, surfing, rafting, canyoning and a lot more…

Galapagos sea
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The immense diversity of climates in Ecuador means even so diverse nature. You’ll encounter tropical beaches, jungles, iguanas, piranhas, volcanoes, turtles and more…

old town Quito
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From Amazon communities to Andean colonial city centers. From indigenous handicrafts in the highlands to fresh fish meals at the beach. Ecuador has a lot of culture to discover…

Weather in Ecuador
The weather in Ecuador is more determined by its region than by the season. Nevertheless, there is some seasonal variation.

Weather in the amazon rainforest

The Amazon is a typical rainforest. It’s warm and wet all year round. It rains mostly in the period April – June. The rain is not unpleasant. Only if you go kayaking, rafting or on a deep jungle hike, the risk of rescheduling increases.

Weather at the Galapagos Islands

During the wet season, from December till June, there are clear blue skies most of the day. These interchange with brief (intense) showers. Maximum temperatures are around 29 degrees Celsius and the waves are at its highest.  During the dry season, July – November, the sky is often covered with a thin layer of clouds. Maximum temperatures are in the mid-twenty degrees Celsius.  

Weather at the Ecuadorian Coast

The northern beaches have rather constant weather: around 26 – 30 degrees Celsius year-round. The southern beaches have a wet and a dry season similar to the Galapagos Islands (see above). People often assume that wet means cooler and dry means blue skies. However, it’s quite the opposite. In the south, people go surfing and sunbathing during the wet season and hiking and whale watching during the dry season.

Weather in La Sierra or the Andes

March – June and October – December are a bit rainier, but still fine to visit. The higher you go, the cooler it gets. For instance, if you decide to go to the volcanoes, you may even consider wearing gloves (there is permanent snow at the tops). In Quito, it’s around 18 degrees Celsius during the day. At night, it can cool down to 12 degrees Celsius. In the lake district it’s a bit warmer, around 24 degrees during the day and 18 at night. While in Mindo, you can expect around 26 degrees. Don’t let the temperatures at higher altitudes fool you! The sun is still incredibly strong!

What should your (adventurous) vacation or backpacking trip look like?

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