Are you looking for vacation ideas? How about South America? We have fun facts about Ecuador in this post. Ecuador is a small country located in South America, known for diverse landscapes, including the Amazon rainforest, the Andes Mountains, and the Galápagos Islands. Ecuador is named after the equator, which runs through the country. The Galapagos are part of Ecuador, but they are over 600 miles away. The Galapagos is home to many unique and endemic species, including giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. Is Ecuador a destination for your vacation? As a traveler, here are some fun facts to consider about Ecuador.
Ecuador is a fabulous. One of our favorite trips: Galapagos Islands cruise. Here's some history and interesting facts about Ecuador to excite and motivate your visit to this amazing country.
Brief of History of Ecuador
Before the Spanish
Ecuador’s civilization and history began about 12,000 years ago. Archaeologists trace the first inhabitants as far back as 10,000 BC, when hunters and gatherers established settlements on the southern coast and in the central highlands. By 3,200 BC, three distinct agricultural-based civilizations had emerged, producing some of the hemisphere's oldest known pottery.
The people established trade routes with Peru, Brazil and Amazonian tribes. By 500 BC, large cities established themselves along the coast. Their inhabitants developed sophisticated metalworking and navigational skills and traded with Mexico's Mayans.
By 1460 AD, the Inca ruler, Pachacuti, and his son, Tupac-Yupanqui, invaded from the south. They united three major tribes in Ecuador in the fight: the Canari, the Quitu, and the Caras. The Inca had successfully conquered all of Ecuador by the end of the 15th century. At its peak, the Inca empire spread across Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.
The Inca is credited as the principal pre-Columbian indigenous civilization thanks to their organization, leadership, and intermarriage policies. The Inca civilization, however, was short-lived. When the Spanish arrived on the shores of Ecuador in 1526, the Incas were outmatched by the technologically advanced Spanish armies.
The Spanish Arrive
The Spanish established their first settlement in Ecuador in 1534 at Quito on the site of an important Incan town of the same name. They established another settlement in 1538 near the river Guayas in Guayaquil.
The Spanish explorer, Francisco Pizarro, founded the settlements and extended Spanish rule over the highland basins and coastal lowlands. Ecuador was considered part of Peru until 1740, when it was transferred to the Viceroyalty of New Granada (together with Colombia and Venezuela). Ecuador did not have the gold or silver that the Spanish were looking for. As a result, Ecuador did not draw many Europeans settlers throughout the Spanish colonial period, which lasted until 1822.
In the 18th century Ecuador suffered an economic recession, and the people were feeling disenchanted with Spanish rule. People in Quito rose up against the Spanish in August 1809, but they were quickly crushed.
Ecuador broke away again in 1820, with the assistance of Simon Bolivar. His lieutenant, Antonio Jose de Sucre, won the battle of Pichincha on 24 May 1822, which guaranteed Ecuadorian independence.
From 1828 to 1829, Ecuador warred with Peru over the border. But Ecuador withdrew from Gran Colombia in 1830. The new country took its name from the Spanish word for equator.
A Venezuelan general, Juan Jose Flores, became the first president of Ecuador, from 1831 to 1835 and again from 1839 to 1845. In 1851, Ecuador abolished slavery.
A long history of conflict and instability followed lasting through the 19th century. Struggles between conservative and liberal elements, clerical and anticlerical movements and large landowners and owners of small farms and plantations caused most of the problems. Dictators ran the country and the army played an important role in internal politics. During its first century of independence, Ecuador changed its constitutions 13 times, and only a small number of its presidents managed to serve a full four-year term. Some were assassinated while in office.
The beginning of the 20th century showed an economic improvement due to the cocoa boom. This helped stabilize the country's administration despite the recurrent turnover in leaders. There were 18 presidents between 1897 and 1934 and 25 presidents between 1934 and 1988.
The discovery of oil also improved the economy. But the 1986 collapse of world oil prices and an earthquake in 1987 devastated the new petroleum-based economy.
The 1990s saw multiple leaders come and go, including Rodrigo Borja, Sixto Duran Ballen, Abdala Bucaram, Fabian Alarcon and Jalil Mahuad. During this period, the Ecuadorian economy crashed. Consequently, Ecuador changed its currency to the U.S. dollar in 2000. Mahuad was forced to leave office in a military coup (lead by future president Lucio Gutierrez) and replaced by Mahuad's vice president, Gustavo Noboa. Lucio Gutierrez served as president from 2003 until he was ousted in 2005 and replaced by his vice president, Alfredo Palacios, who served until Correa’s election in 2007.
After growing at an average rate of about four percent per year between 2006 and 2014, GDP in Ecuador bottomed out in 2015 because of falling world oil prices. President Correa opted not to run for reelection in 2017. He threw his support to Lenín Moreno, who served as his vice president from 2007 to 2013. A magnitude 7.8 earthquake shook the Pacific coast of Ecuador on April 16, 2016 and caused widespread destruction.
Moreno was the winner of the first round of voting in February 2017 but was unable to preclude a runoff by failing to capture a majority of the total vote. A runoff election was scheduled between Moreno and his challenger Guillermo Lasso.
Lasso and his supporters cited fraud when Moreno was declared the winner in the runoff election. Moreno took office and immediately began reversing some of Correa’s policies, which surprised everyone, including Correa. Moreno pushed for a referendum to limit Ecuadoran presidents to two terms. This referendum passed by a 2-to-1 margin. Correa cannot run for the presidency again as a result.
Fun Facts about Ecuador
Today, Ecuador embraces tourism. It’s one of the world's most biodiverse countries, with more species of plants than all North America. One-sixth of the world's bird species live here. Ecuador prides itself on sitting on top of the equator.
Here you can visit the Middle of the World City, a place where the French Geodesic Mission measured the circumference of the earth in the 1700s. Ecuador’s very name originates from the equatorial line, dividing the world in two hemispheres. At the equator, you can place one foot on each hemisphere!
Ecuador enjoys equatorial weather, with mild spring-like conditions year-round. Temperatures average in the 60s and 70s Fahrenheit. You can visit Ecuador any time of year enjoying the beauty of this place in pleasant weather.
Ecuador is approximately the size of Nevada but offers the Pacific Ocean, mountains, rivers, jungles and volcanoes. There are more than 20 volcanoes along the Andes Mountains, which are on many tour lists. There is plenty of eco-diversity in Ecuador.
For souvenir hunters, there is the Panama hat. You thought the Panama hat came from Panama? Actually, the Panama hat is made in Ecuador. During the construction of the Panama Canal, the Ecuadorian government exported thousands of these hats for workers in the canal. President Theodore Roosevelt was pictured wearing one, and these were called Panama Hats. Ecuadorians weave the hats by hand from fronds of the toquilla palm.
The Galapagos Islands are the reason many tourists go to Ecuador. This archipelago of about 19 islands lies 620 miles off Ecuador’s coast in the Pacific Ocean. The islands are dual World Heritage sites; both the land and the surrounding sea are protected.
The islands were the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Each island boasts its own unique landscape, ranging from barren black volcanic rocks to swaths of white sand beaches melting into gemstone-blue waters.
The Galapagos Islands were formed by what geologists call a hot spot. This is a place where the magma is hotter than its regular temperature. The earth’s crust moved over the hot spot, and the resulting volcanoes formed the islands. The plate moved from west to east, but the hot spot remains in one place. Therefore, the eastern Galapagos Islands such as Española and San Cristobal are the oldest ones, geologically speaking, and western islands Fernandina and Isabela are the youngest. Think of the plate being a conveyor belt, and the islands are slowly moving east. The hot spot was also the reason for the Hawaiian Islands.
Galapagos is a precious ecosystem, with animals that you can’t see anywhere else. The famous blue-footed boobies are popular photography subjects.
So are the Sally Lightfoot crabs. Visits to most of the Galapagos Islands are highly protected and not allowed without a guide licensed with the Galapagos National Park. You can book day trips to some of the islands from the main tourist hub of Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz. But taking a cruise on a small yacht is the best way to see the more remote islands and wildlife in the Galapagos. The national park restricts the size of boats to 100 passengers, so if you take a cruise you’ll be on something smaller in size. Silversea Cruises operates in the Galapagos. Tour companies fly tourists to Quito first, staying for a few nights at the JW Marriott Hotel Quinto, and then flying to the Galapagos. Once there, you board the Silversea Cruises ship.
Cotopaxi, an active volcano about 30 miles south of Quito, provides spectacular photos.
Since 1738, Cotopaxi has erupted more than 50 times, resulting in the creation of numerous valleys formed by flows around the volcano. The last eruption lasted from August 2015 to January 2016.
UNESCO declared Quito as the first Cultural Heritage of Humanity site in 1978. It is the second tallest capital in the world surpassed in elevation only by La Paz, Bolivia. The city is located on the slopes of the Pichincha volcano and arguably has the largest and best-preserved historic center in Latin America. Every city tour will show you the rich heritage of houses churches, museums and cultural centers.
Quito is beautiful. You easily can walk through its old streets, surrounded by flowered balconies. The Foch area offers much in the way of food and nightlife. The Middle of the World City, a few minutes away, offers you the opportunity to straddle the equator.
After landing in Quito, one of the first things you might experience is shortness of breath or a bit of light-headedness. That’s because you are 9,350 feet above sea level. Hopefully you won’t get altitude sickness. We found our bodies adapted to the elevation, but the air always seems thin. Other symptoms include: headache, tiredness, lack of appetite and nausea. Everyone is different, so your experience might be different than someone else’s. All major hotels are experienced with tourists suffering from some form of altitude-related problems.
In our case, we felt short of breath, and we were encouraged to drink lots of water. Between three and four quarts of water a day is good. We also were told not to strenuously exercise. Since we first were going to the Galapagos, which is at sea level, we weren’t concerned about the effects of the altitude. It’s wise to listen to your body and seek medical attention of you start feeling sick.
Ecuador offers much to see and experience. We visited Quito twice and spent more than a week in the Galapagos. Hopefully this post gets you excited about traveling to Ecuador!