Ecuador may be the smallest country in the Andean highlands, but it spectacularly makes up for in biodiversity what it lacks in geographical presence. Ecuador is a nature lover’s paradise offering an astounding variety of fauna, flora and birdlife.
Part of the reason for this diversity is the sheer range of climates and landscapes that co-exist in such a small country.
Travelling through Ecuador is never dull – within a short time you can expect to experience dramatic changes in scenery, temperature and altitude. On a journey between the Pacific coast’s beaches and the sweltering rainforest, you can take in the charms of the capital city, Quito, along with ice-capped volcanoes, delightfully colourful highland market towns and the majesty of the windswept highlands of the Andes.
The backbone of the country is the Andean highlands, comprised of two chains of mountains and numerous volcanoes.
Hemmed in by these two ranges of brooding volcanoes lies the highland valley of the sierra. At about 8,960 feet (2,800m) above sea level this may not appear to offer promising agricultural land, but it has always been the ‘bread basket’ of the region. It is quite a sight on market days to see the populations converge on larger towns such as Saquisilí and Otavalo. Spreading out produce and vibrantly coloured traditional crafts, this is where the locals traditionally gather to talk and enjoy each other’s company. In this region, you can explore the country’s past in the historic cities such as Quito.
With its beautiful colonial architecture, magnificent panoramic scenery, vibrant indigenous groups and welcoming people, there is plenty to recommend Ecuador.
And, of course, there are the Galapagos. One of the world's greatest treasures of natural history lies bewitchingly offshore, certain to cast its spell on every visitor. The islands are famed for their ‘untouched’ and unique wildlife and will inevitably prove one of the highlights of your visit to Ecuador.
Ecuador's geography has blessed the country with delightful landscapes, but it also presents the visitor with the challenge of navigating a variety of microclimates.
The coast is hot all year round and prone to downpours during the humid rainy season between December and May.
In the mountains, the climate will vary according to altitude, becoming cooler the higher you go. Despite lying only 25km from the equator, the capital city of Quito is located 2,800m (9252ft) above sea level, which leads to a cool local climate renowned for changeable weather. The annual average is around 19 degrees Celsius (66 degrees Fahrenheit) with little seasonal variation, though wind and rainfall vary greatly. The Amazon region is hot, humid and wet, while the Galapagos Islands are dry and have a constant year-round temperature of 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit).
Spanish is the official language of Ecuador, but the indigenous language of Quechua is also widely used.
All visitors to Ecuador must hold a passport with at least six months’ validity as well as an onward or return ticket and sufficient funds for their stay. Most countries’ nationals do not require a visa for stays up to 90 days. Please note that you are legally required to carry your passport with you at all times when visiting Ecuador. Please check the rules around visa requirements before you travel, as they may change regularly.
Ecuador is generally a safe country to travel in but, as always, you should be vigilant against opportunistic crimes.
If you are considering travelling to the region that borders Columbia in the northeast, you should discuss this with your UK Travel Managers for your Ecuadorian trip as this area has posed a kidnapping risk in the past.
Ecuador has many active volcanoes, so again it is worth checking with your travel specialist if you intend to hike near any of these.
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