I have spent 3 months in Ecuador, but I can’t wait to be back soon. I wrote this post to recall and share the most interesting facts about Ecuador and what is Ecuador known for. The listed below are things that I have learned while traveling around the country but also with some research. I hope it’s a fun and interesting read for you and will inspire you to travel to Ecuador as well.
1. Ecuador is named after a geographical fact
The actual name is Republica de Ecuador, which literally means the Republic of the Equator. As a matter of fact, the Equator runs through the country and there is a monument at about 40 minutes bus from Quito where the Equator line is marked. (which leads to the second point here below).
2. The line that marks the middle of the world is wrong
One of the most popular things to do in Quito is visiting “La mitad del mundo“, a monument located at 40 minutes drive from the city, that celebrates the exact point where the famous Ecuadorian line is traced on the ground and where you can literally stand with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern. However, the modern measurements have established that the line is in the wrong location, 260 mt off north. So if you have ever taken the iconic picture, it was not accurate and you had probably been standing in the Southern Hemisphere. I am afraid you need to go back 😉
3. The spectacle bear, living in the Ecuadorian Andes is in danger of extinction
This beautiful species of the spectacle bear, endemic of the tropical Andes is in danger of extinction for different reasons:
- deforestation due to natural causes or human action
- farmers are killing them to prevent them from attacking their livestock. To keep in mind the spectacle bear is not a carnivore by nature but because of deforestation they cannot find enough vegetation for their daily intake and are forced to hunt for food elsewhere.
- The protected areas where the bears can live undisturbed have been reduced and they are not connected with each other, which means that the bears don’t have enough territory for reproduction.
- There is no enough attention and investigation on this specie.
4. Quito is 2,850 m (9350ft) above the sea level
It makes Quito the second-highest capital from the sea level (the first being La Paz in Bolivia) but also the closest to the Equator. That causes the climate of Quito to be quite bizarre. I remember asking people if we were in Winter or Summer and I got so many different answers, it was hilarious. The fact is there is no such thing as winter and summer, but a dry and wet season. In any case temperature-wise, you just never know. And in the course of the day find temperature spam that goes from 5 to 30 degrees C (41 to 100 F). So go prepare and dress in layers.
5. Ecuador is the worlds most biodiverse country per sq/km
This is an amazing Ecuador fact. Despite its relatively small size, Ecuador’s territory is home to 10% of the world’s diversity. The widest distance in Ecuador is 600 km but you can switch from a tropical hot weather to winter temperatures in 2 hours.
Ecuador is made of 24 provinces and four main geographical regions such as:
- Galapagos Islands: Located around 900 km from the coast, the world-famous Galapagos Islands belong to Ecuador and are home to the most unique endemic and native species of flora and fauna among which the giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, and many more.
- The Coast (La Costa): the spectacular coastline is the preferred destination for surfers and backpackers who mainly gathers in the party town of Montañitas. However, all beach lovers find their corner of paradise along the spectacular rugged Ecuadorian coast. I still have to explore it as my three months trip to Ecuador was not including this area. An excuse to go back.
- The Andes (Sierra): Ecuador mountain range is home to 32 of the 47 vulcanos of Ecuador. The other 15 are in the Galapagos. Mountain lovers and hikers have their best life in this area, where it’s possible to hire knowledgeable guides and go on an expedition. The most popular is the Cotopaxi, with easy hikes to the base camp. But there are many other options to explore this diverse territory, think of Mindo and its cloud forest, Otavalo, with the spectacular Cuicocha lake, and the capital Quito surrounded by soaring mountains (including the Ruco Pichincha volcano), the Quilotoa crater, and so many more. So much to see in Ecuador for outdoorsy!
- The Amazon Jungle (La Amazonia): Famous for its diverse wildlife, you can visit the two main parks, the Cuyabeno or Yasuni, for 3 days of full immersion in the jungle in the heart of the Amazon Jungle.
6. Ecuador is one of the 4 largest exporters of Bananas in the World
So maybe you have been eating Ecuadorian bananas all your life and didn’t know 😉
7. Ecuador is the first country to recognize the Rights of Nature in its Constitution.
“Ecuador rewrote its Constitution in 2007-2008 and it was ratified by referendum by the people of Ecuador in September 2008.
The new Ecuadorian Constitution includes a Chapter: Rights for Nature. Rather than treating nature as property under the law, Rights for Nature articles acknowledge that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles. And we – the people – have the legal authority to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems. The ecosystem itself can be named as the defendant.”
Quoted source: The Rights of Nature
8. Official language is Spanish but…
there are 14 indigenous languages that are recognized and established as regional languages, the most common and used are Quechua in the Andes and Shuar in the Amazon.
9. Ecuador is one of the most popular expats´ destinations
In fact, it is the Latin American country with the lowest unemployment rate and decent salaries, with low living costs. In local non-touristic restaurants, you can find a fulfilling meal for 3 dollars.
10. At the Galapagos is prohibited to touch the Animals
It’s absolutely non permitted to touch animals in the Galapagos, especially the baby sea lions. In fact in their first 3 years of life they are fed and protected by their mums. If you touch them they loose their own natural smell and the mothers don’t recognize them anymore and stop feeding. I know it’s terrible, but that’s one reason more to not to touch them.
Regardless you are not supposed to touch them but they are allowed to touch you. And they might, especially the big sea lions, so playful!
11. The Galapagos islands and Quito were among the 12 sites included in first list of the UNESCO world heritage site.
According to a CNN article “Only countries that sign the convention creating the World Heritage Committee and the list can nominate sites, and that was just 40 countries when the first nominations came out. Thirty-seven years later, 191 nations have signed the convention.” Galapagos Islands and Quito were on the first list with 12 sites altogether to be proclaimed World Heritage Site, #3 and #4 respectively.
12. The iconic and trendy Panama hat is actually from Ecuador.
Panama hats are popular hand made hats made from toquilla palm plants scientifically called Carludovica palmata. The plant is grown on the Ecuadorian coast, mainly in the province of Manabí.
The name suggest that the hat comes from Panama because when the Ecuadorian producers begin to ship the iconic hat to the US during the Gold Rush era, the cargo ships would go through Panama.
Another factor was that due to poor business the Ecuadorian producers started to migrate to Panama between the 1700 and 1800 and continued the production from there, where the business took off. So the real origins of the Ecuadorian hat weren’t so popular. The story of the origin of Panama Hat is so interesting that I wrote an entire post about it and bought a book.
13. The Ecuador currency is US
I found it very strange at first when I arrived. Then I learned that when Ecuador face a bad financial crisis, in 2000, the Sucre collapsed so severely that people started putting their holdings into dollars, unofficially dollarizing the country’s economy. The government made the switch official afterward. (Source) As usual, not everybody benefitted from it, especially the rural communities. The financial and tourism industry obviously flourished. If you are from the US, you don’t have to worry about money exchange now, except for the coins. Those are different.
INSIDER TIP – make sure to bring small notes, not bigger than 20 USD otherwise it’s difficult to get change. In fact, you will be surprised to see that all the time you withdraw money from the ATM you only get pieces of 20. The commission can go from 2 US to 4 for withdrawal.
14. Ecuador is the closest country to the moon
It would be more accurate to say to space. The reason is simple. The earth is not perfectly rounded but it’s slightly squeezed from the poles, which implies that there is a bulge that circles the Earth just below the equator. so anyone standing in that part of the world is already standing “higher,” or closer to outer space, than people who aren’t on the bulge. That’s Ecuador, Kenya, Tanzania, and Indonesia. And that takes us to the next interesting fact.
15. Chimborazo Volcano is the highest mountain in the world
Wait a minute, wasn’t it Everest? Yes, but that depends on the perspective.
Let’s say if you climb to the top of Chimborazo you would be closer to the moon than from Everest. That’s because of the bulge we were talking about earlier and the volcano Chimborazo happens to stand exactly on the bulge.
So Chimborazo is 1.5 miles closer to outer space than Everest.
But, if you define “highest” as highest from sea level, Mount Everest is still the winner.
16. The sun rises and sets approximately at the same time
Always because of the Ecuador latitude, the sun rises and sets from 6 to 6.20 all year round providing 12 hours of lights every day of the year.
17. The first female president, Rosalia Arteaga served for only 2 days
Writer and social activist, Rosalia Arteaga, from Cuenca, has always been committed to serving the Ecuadorian people. In 1996 she was the first woman in Ecuador to be elected vice-President of the Republic of Ecuador. When Bucaram, at the time president, was declared unfit to govern, Rosalia Arteaga was nominated ad interim President. However, after two days only, the congress and the army opposition made her resign.
18. Ecuador was part of the Republic of Grand Colombia for only 11 years
After the liberation from the Spanish domination, lead by Simon Bolivar, Ecuador started an alliance with the neighboring countries of Colombia, Venezuela, and Panama from 1819 to 1830. Under the leadership of Simon Bolivar, they formed the Republic of Gran Colombia a step towards Bolivar’s dream of the Latin America Republic organized just like the United States. Unfortunately, it lasted only 118 years for internal disagreements, cultural diversity, and contrasts. Simon Bolivar realized his dream was too unrealistic and resigned.
Amazoniaphoto is run by Humberto Castillo, a great photographer that also does amazing photography tour in the Ecuatorian Amazon and in the Andes. Definitely hook up with him if you love nature and photography. He also sell his amazing pictures. Check him out.
19. The evolution of the species theory developed by Charles Darwin in the 19th century and was based on the discoveries made during his trip to the Galapagos Islands in 1835
Charles Darwin developed his well-known theory of evolution in the Galapagos Islands after observing the different habits of finches and their abilities to adapt to new environmental conditions.
20. The name “Galapagos” comes from the old Spanish term Galopegos “saddleback”
The Galapagos Islands were discovered by accidents by Fray Tomas de Berlanga the bishop of Panama in 1535. In his correspondence with the Queen of Spain, he reports that during one of his trips on the way to Peru when his ship became becalmed and was carried west by currents; his discovery was entirely accidental. They found themselves with no water and learned to follow the giant tortoise path to find it. That’s how they could survive. Because of the shape of the tortoiseshell resembling a saddleback “Galopegos“, they called the island of the Galapagos.
21. Ecuador has 10% of all of the planet’s plant species
10.000 species are estimated to be found in the Andes Mountains, while 8200 in the Amazon Region. 2725 species of only orchids have been identified. In Galapagos, there are approximately 600 native species and 250 introduced species. A total of 25000 species of trees in the whole country is accredited to Ecuador’s climatic diversity. (source)
22. Ecuador has 8% of all of the planet’s animal species and 15% of all the endemic bird species
Nearly 3800 species of vertebrates, 1550 species of mammals, 350 of reptiles, 375 of amphibians, 800 of freshwater fish, and 450 saltwater fish have been identified. About 15% of all endemic bird species in the world, which live in the Andes, the Coast, and the Amazon region. Insect species exceed one million and butterflies species exceed 4500, among others. (source)
23. The Sucre, the old Ecuador currency was named after Antonio José de Sucre
The Sucre (Spanish pronunciation: [sukre]) was the official currency of Ecuador between 1884 and 2000. Its code was ECS. The sucre was named after Latin American political leader Antonio José de Sucre, considered Ecuador’s National hero for his major contribution, with Bolivar, to the liberation from the Spanish domination.
24. Ecuador is the smallest of the Andean country
The seven Andean States include Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile.
25. Ecuador doesn’t share a border with Brazil
Ecuador and Chile are the only two South American countries not to share a border with Brazil.
26. A Carnivorous Mammal has been recently found in the cloud forest.
The Olinguito lives in Ecuador’s Cloud forest and is the first carnivorous mammal discovered in the Western Hemisphere in the past 35 years. The olinguito’s scientific name is Bassaricyon neblina. The researchers chose “neblina” (Spanish for “mist” or “fog”) in reference to the animals’ habitat in the cloud forest of the Andes mountains.
27. Pacari has been nominated as one of the best chocolate in the world
In fact, in Ecuador, you can find the finest cacao beans in the world. Only approximately 5% of cacao in the world is labeled as “Fine Aroma,” and Ecuador produces nearly 63% of it. If in the past, Ecuador was only focusing on exporting cacao, lately chocolate production has been growing in Ecuador as well, and Pacari is one of the finest producers. In 2016 Chocolate World Competition Pacari won several chocolate categories, like the best chocolate in the world. I have tried it on one of my walking tours in Quito, in some chocolate tasting, and then I had to buy some. Sooooo good!
Do you think I have missed another super important Ecuador fact? Please do tell! If you found this useful, instead, please share 🙂