Provinces : Ecuador is divided into 22 provinces: 10 located in the Inter-Andean Region (Sierra), 5 in the Coastal Region (Costa), 6 in the Amazon Region (Region Amazonica) and 1 on the Galapagos Islands (Archipielago de Colón).
Geography :Ecuador, about equal in area to Nevada, is in the northwest part of South America fronting on the Pacific. To the north is Colombia and to the east and south is Peru.Ecuador has three main geographic regions, plus an insular region in the Pacific Ocean. Straddling the equator in western South America, Ecuador has territories in both the Northern and the Southern hemispheres. It borders Colombia to the north and shares a border Peru to the south and to the east. The Pacific Ocean is Ecuador’s western border. Ecuador’s coastal region (a.k.a. the western lowlands) is made up of fertile plains, rolling hills, and sedimentary basins traversed by a plethora of rivers that rush from the heights of the Andes to the Pacific Ocean. All five coastal provinces, encompassing 640 kilometers of coastline between them, have attractive beaches and plenty of hotels and resorts for tourists. Crisscrossed by an expansive network of rivers and home to the nation’s most spectacular beaches, the provinces of Esmeraldas, Manabí, and Guayas quite impressive destinations frequented by tourists from all over the world. The Andes Mountain Range crosses the country from north to south. The Occidental and the Oriental Ranges are born from this mountain system as it divides in the province of Loja, forming plains and valleys along the Andean Corridor. Between the two ranges there is a plateau which reaches heights of three thousand meters. The Amazon Region and its five provinces can be geographically divided into two sub regions: the High Amazon and the Amazon Lowlands. The Highlands is comprised of the Andean foothills which slowly descend towards the Amazon River Basin. Here, you’ll find the Napo, Galeras, Cutucú, and Cóndor ranges. The most impressive elevated regions of this area are in the north and include Volcano Sumaco. The Archipelago of Colón (commonly known as the Galapagos Islands) is made up of 13 main islands, 17 islets, and dozens of ancient rock formations ( table: map of the islands). The volcanically formed islands, encompassing an area of 8,000 kilometers in all, lies roughly 1,000 kilometers off the coast of the Ecuadorian mainland. Apart from its beautiful beaches and unique and varied ecosystems, the Galapagos Islands are home to towering active volcanoes that reach altitudes up to 1,600 meters.
Weather and Climate : In Ecuador, nine different climates can be identified: one dry, three tropical (wet, monsoon and savanna), three meso-thermic (wet, semi-wet and dry) and the "paramo" (alpine tundra). The ninth climate is that of the Galapagos Islands. The only thing predictable about Ecuador's weather is its unpredictability. In fact, it's not uncommon to experience all four seasons in a single day. Generally speaking, Ecuador has two seasons, wet and dry, but in a country as geographically diverse as Ecuador, local weather patterns vary greatly. The mainland coastal areas and the Galápagos Islands are influenced by ocean currents and are hot and rainy between January and April and cool and dryer the rest of the year. Ecuador have very different climates and microclimates. Weather patterns vary according to geography and temperatures are determined more by elevation than by season.In the Oriente, it rains during most months, especially during the afternoon and evening. August and December through March are usually the driest months, and April through June are the wettest - with regional variations. It's almost as hot as the coast.
Culture :By any standards, Ecuador is considered ethnically diverse. The breakdown of the population is as follows: mestizo (mixed blood, 65%), Amerindians (25%), Euro-Americans (6%), Afro-Americans (3%), and Oriental (1%). Further, Ecuador's Amerindians are divided into 12 distinct indigenous nationalities.The first thing to realize about the Ecuadorian culture is that it is not one single culture, instead it is a whole range, representing every level of this very stratified community. Ecuador's official language is Spanish, but Quichua, an Inca language, is spoken by the Indian population. Besides Spanish, ten native languages are spoken in Ecuador. The Ecuadorians have a distinctive type of dress code, made up of all the different cultural diversities that stays in the regions of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. A major aspect of Indian identity is present in Ecuador. People that are familiar with the native dress can often tell roughly where an Indian is from, based on what they wear. There is tension and dislike between the residents of Quito and Guayaquil. Additionally, there is centralism in these two cities, so people from other provinces also tend to dislike its residents. Furthermore, due to the at times extreme cultural difference between the Coast and the Sierra, there is a general dislike between those two regions that traces back to prehispanic times.
History and Government :The history of Ecuador is varied and interesting due to the tremendous changes that the region has undergone during the last 500 years.On May 24, 1822 after 200 years or more of Spanish occupation, Ecuador proclaimed its independence. After alot of struggle and fights it finally got independence.
Today, after living under the rule of military dictatorships during the years of 1960-1980, Ecuador enjoys 25 years of democratically elected governments. In spite of a recent spate of presidential coups and ousters, democracy has reigned.
Travelling :There is no best time to travel to Ecuador as the climate is excellent year round. You should be aware, however, that during the high season, which extends from December to January and from June to August, the prices of some hotels and cruises tend to be higher.
You can get by in Ecuador with:Low Budget: from $15Medium Budget: from $30 - $60High budget: $100 and up.You can usually get a good meal at a restaurant for between $5 - $7.Of course, luxury restaurants charge from $15 and up, per person, for a meal.You can find a clean and comfortable place for between $10 - $20 per person, per night (which may or may not include breakfast). Most of the more desirable lodging goes for between $15 - $70 per night. A bus ride in a city like Quito costs to just 25¢. The minimum taxi fare, good for most short trips around town costs $1. Prices go high at night to $2 for the minimum cab ride. Local time of Ecuador is GMT minus 5 hours on mainland Ecuador. Cell phone access is widely available and heavily promoted. If you plan to be in Ecuador for an extended stay, you may want to consider a cell phone.(593) is the country code to call Ecuador from another country. This needs to be followed by the provincial area code and then the seven-digit number.Useful Numbers:Emergency: 911Police: 101Fire: 102 .For traveling in Ecuador, you basically need little luggage. Ecuador has unbeatable scenery so don't forget your camera and video equipment.
For the Galapagos and the Coast you need:sun screen, sun hat and sun glassessandals, tennis shoes bathing suit, snorkel and mask . For the Mountains you should take:warm coat that dries quickly You will need all terrain shoes or boots . For the Sierra warm clothing for paramo landst-shirts for sunny dayswarm coat. If you travel to the Oriente or Cloud Forest you will need:sleeved shirt, one pair of pants (no jeans), rain jacket or poncho, bandana,rubber boots .
Biking in Ecuador : Ecuador is a premier mountain bike destination offering a great variety of cross country and downhill tours and adventure trips for bikers and cyclists. Hundreds of miles across the páramo and along the snow-capped volcanoes of the Andean Highland of Ecuador, along lonely tropical pacific beaches, through cloud forest and evergreen amazon jungle and rainforest. Kilometer after kilometer on mostly traffic-free unpaved roads, tracks, paths and singletrails.
Scuba diving in Ecuador : In the Galapagos Island you will enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving with sea turtles, whale sharks, hammerhed sharks, sea lions, manta rays, penguins, dolphins and hundreds of tropical reef fish. The islands come up with about 30 dive sites. Charter tour companies specializing in scuba diving have been operating in the Galapagos for many years, offering dive courses for beginners, daytours and overnight tours from 1 to 14 days, including usually two dives per day and some land excursions. Listed as one of the top diving spots in the world, diving in The Galapagos is a dream come true. Scuba diving is one of the most popular past-times whilst on a Galapagos Island tour. Manta rays, sea turtles, marine iguanas, sea lions, dolphins, whales and of course lots of hammerhead sharks will accompany you on your trip.Famous for close contact with diverse marine life. Schooling fish, sea turtles, sea lions, and much more. A visit to Galapagos and not experience snorkeling is to lose half of Galapagos enchantment and excitement. Most tours and cruise ships carry snorkeling equipment that will make your underwater discovery easier to accomplish.
4x4 offroad tours : If you like driving off the path and running through mud, over tree trunks and having to engage the double traction... the Ecuador has the roads for you. There are many unpaved and unmaintained roads all throughout the country. All you have to do is rent a jeep, buy a map and get lost... or you can book with a specialized tour operator who will guide you through a full adrenaline driving experience. A tour operator can help you select an attractive road with spectacular landscapes and interesting cultural encounters.
Bird Watching : A total of 140 species of birds have been registered in Galapagos. About half of the resident birds cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.The Galapagos islands are a bird watcher's dream. The main attraction on most of the islands are: boobies (mask, blue foot, red foot), frigates, pelicans, flamingos, albatrosses, penguins and the Darwin's finches.Consider that Ecuador, which only covers 0.02% of the earth's land surface, holds about 10% of all bird species found on the planet. Along Ecuador you can find unique spots for bird watching. Ecuador, holds 1600 species of birds, many of them are endemic. Approximately 450 species of birds are found in the coastal "Tumbesina" region. That represents about 60% of all the birds of Latin America. The andean and coastal mountain ranges, the proximity to the coast and the amazon rainforest, as well as the water currents that affect the climate, are factors that contribute to the uniqueness of the ecuadorian ecosystems and thus the diversity of birds, for example in the cloudforest. Just to mention a few, some of which are endemic (unique) to the cloudforest region: Tanager-Finch, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Tanagers of all colors, Manakins, Cotingas, etc. And for hummingbirds, the number of different species in the Tandayapa and Mindo Valleys is perhaps a world record, with various places offering an unforgettable spectacle at very accessible feeders. Begin your birding adventure as soon as you arrive to Ecuador with San Jorge's prime trails, specialized guides and lots of birding options to view over 130 species. San Jorge Botanical Reserve, the regions only private reserve, is situated on 200 acres of native flora and fauna, offering peace and tranquility to all birders alike. Whether you would like to stroll through our gardens and watch the hummingbirds gather at the feeders or travel through the four climate steps of Ecuador (High Barren Plains, Highland Rainforest, Cloud Forest and Subtropical Rainforest) San Jorge is the ideal retreat for some of the best birdwatching in the world. Most birders are aware that bird diversity varies according to latitude. The arctic region has few resident birds, the temperate zone has more, and the tropical belt has the most. Half-way between the United States and the equator is tiny Costa Rica, which has over 850 species -- more species than in the entire United States.
Medical Attention in Ecuador : In the case that some type of medication is needed, the traveler can obtain this at any pharmacy. The largest chain of pharmacies in Quito and in the country is Fybeca.In Ecuador, you cannot drink water directly from the tap because it is not purified. To drink bacteria free and safe water you should boil it or buy bottles of purified water that you can find in any store in the country.
Food : Ecuadorian food consists of soup and stews, corn pancakes,rice, eggs and vegetables, Seafood is particularly good, even in the highlands. Local specialities/curiosities include caldo de patas (soup made from cattle hooves), cuy (whole roasted guinea pigs), Arroz con menestra y carna (Rice with beans and meat) and puerco (Suckling pig). Those selecting to eat the traditional foods of Ecuador will be able to select from a broad spectrum of national dishes. The overwhelming favorite national Ecuador food though consists of rice, potatoes and meat - known locally as "churrasco". Usually the meat will be beef or chicken, but in some parts of Ecuador you may find this is pork. Although most traditional foods in Ecuador cater for those who prefer to eat meat, in fact the choice of vegetarian foods available in Ecuador is superb - especially if you are staying in one of the more cosmopolitan cities such as Quito,Otavalo or Banos.