The location of Ecuador and important facts to know before traveling there.
There’s a good chance that you’ve heard of Ecuador — a country that’s known for its lush Amazon jungle, Spanish architecture, and unique wildlife. Still, you may be wondering “just where in the world is Ecuador?”
Characterized by lush jungle, verdant highlands, active volcanoes, ancient ruins, primordial islands and vibrant cities, the name of Ecuador itself gives a hint of its location along the equator. Encompassing the parallel separating the Northern and Southern hemispheres within its borders, Ecuador has Colombia as a neighbor to the north and Peru to its east and south, with a long stretch of its coastline touched by the sparkling blue Pacific.
Your adventure in Ecuador will likely begin in its capital city of Quito, home to a thriving number of the country's inhabitants as well as museums, markets, restaurants and the beautiful colonial-era Old Town. With so many natural wonders in Ecuador, strolling the historic city streets of Quito can make a diverting contrast. Be sure to visit some of the excellent museums, such as the Casa del Alabado, dedicated to Ecuador's pre-Columbian history. Another sight not to be missed is the impressive Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus, one of the finest churches in South America. Quito is also one of the best places in Ecuador to practice your Spanish, as its cadence is slow and the accent is clear enough to be understood easily even by beginners.
Venturing into the countryside from Quito, you may want your first stop to be at Mitad del Mundo just outside the city, where the line between the northern and southern hemispheres is laid out in a stately, park-like setting. If you venture south, you'll have a chance to see Tungurahua, Ecuador's most active volcano. Located just outside the city of Baños, its heights can be scaled by intrepid visitors, although you may want to simply enjoy its impressive heights in the background as you explore the beautiful nearby waterfalls and the lively streets of Baños.
Ecuador is perhaps most renowned for its Galapagos Islands, of inestimable value to scientists and lovers of nature alike. Penguins, swimming iguanas, giant tortoises and hundreds of species of birds and fish, most of them unique to these islands, roam the archipelago and swim in its waters.
Located more than 600 miles from the Ecuadorian coast, it is best reached by air. Once you arrive in the Galapagos, you can book boat tours to explore the different islands and go snorkeling and see the marine life. Visit the Galápagos National Park, which encompasses 127 islands. Diving tours are also an option for professional divers. Snorkeling in the Galapagos is pretty impressive. There is a great variety of sea animals, colorful fish and even penguins on some islands.
If you don't have time to visit the Galapagos on your journey, you can still enjoy the ocean from the coast of Ecuador, featuring lovely sand beaches and several port cities that each boast their own unique culture. Both Playas and Salinas have some of the most famous beaches in the country and boast a laidback vibe. Another great thing about the beaches in Ecuador is that they stay warm all year round unlike beaches in other countries of the continent. Surfing is popular, especially in Salinas, as is the fresh seafood. The Spanish spoken along the coast is faster in pace than that of Quito and has plenty of Caribbean influence.
Ecuador's highlands are part of the Andean range, interspersed with the peaks of stunning volcanoes and lush vegetation. It's here where nature lovers will be most enthralled, and the number of outdoor activities, from white-water rafting to horseback riding to hiking, biking, camping and mountain climbing, will provide endless entertainment. There are also several colonial cities scattered among the mountain ranges, with Cuenca's historic architecture reaching UNESCO World Heritage status. For a time the Incans also ruled this part of Ecuador, and the remains of their cities can be found by exploring sites like Ingapirca or Pumapungo.
The mighty Amazon River carves its way through six of Ecuador's provinces, providing a lush backdrop teeming with animal life. It's vital to have a guide here as you explore, especially if you're intent on experiencing the area in a canoe. Bird watchers can perch in the canopy in specially designated viewing areas, while avid fans of fishing can try their hand at catching a piranha for dinner.
One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty and cultural richness of this fascinating country is while enrolled in an intensive Spanish language program. Learning a bit of language each day allows you to enjoy the nuances of Ecuador's everyday life even as you are exploring its ancient history and natural wonders. Whatever your itinerary will be when visiting this amazingly diverse country, you'll enjoy communicating with its friendly people as you explore its wonders.