Ecuador is among the smallest countries in South America, but despite its diminutive size, it boasts a diverse and truly spectacular natural environment. From dense rainforest to barren volcanic landscapes, Ecuador has it all. Furthermore, the famous Galapagos Islands are also part of Ecuador, located approximately 1,000 kilometres off the coast.
Ecuador has a rich cultural history, apparent in the indelible marks that various civilisations have left upon its landscape. In the jungle the traces of the indigenous cultures can be seen in all their ancient glory, while the Spanish colonial past is still evident in the stunning architecture found in the country.
- Currency US Dollar
- Time GMT/UTC -5 ()
- Language Spanish (official), English widely spoken in tourist areas.
- Telephone Service Dialling code +593
- Emergency Numbers All services 911
Ecuador is extremely varied geographically and for this reason, the climate differs considerably within the country. Rather than having four seasons, Ecuador oscillates between wet and dry periods. Four main climatic regions can be identified in Ecuador: the wet Andes Mountain region (La Sierra), the cloudy coastline (La Costa), the tropical Amazon (El Oriente), and the Galapagos Islands, each exhibiting distinct weather patterns.
In Ecuador altitude is more important in determining temperature than the time of year. Temperatures on the Sierra and also the Oriente remain relatively constant all year round: Quito is always moderate, with lows around 7°C (40°F) and highs around 22°C (low 70s°F). The Amazon is always hot and humid. On the coastline, it's usually very warm, ranging between 25-31°C (76-90°F). The rainy season is December to May, when it can be extremely humid.
On the other hand, the paradisical Galapagos Islands enjoy warm and dry weather year-round, with temperatures averaging 28° C (85°F).
Things to See and Do
Every trip to Ecudaor should include Quito. Lying at an altitude of 2,850m (9,348ft) above sea level and with the Pichincha Volcano casting its long shadow over the city, the Ecuadorian capital is in itself a spectacle. Temperatures are moderate year round, though the equator is a mere 22km (14 miles) away. In fact, one can stand directly on the equator at a site near to Quito, marked by a granite monument. This is a much-frequented tourist spot.
Parts of the Old Town achieved the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site as early as 1978, and since then restoration has continued, see the Quito City website. Quito gained its UNESCO status owing to the excellent preservation of the colonial architecture from the Hispanic era. A stroll around the old town taking in the marvellous churches, plazas, museums and palaces comes highly recommended.
Some of the world's most stunning volcanoes are in Ecuador, and the picturesque region of Latacunga and Ambato feature an impressive number of them. The most famous of all however, is Cotopaxi, in the Parque Nacional Cotopaxi. A towering 5,895m (19,345ft) in height, this is the world's highest active volcano.
You cannot visit Ecuador without exploring some of its Inca ancestry. Near the city of Cuenca there is an ancient Inca settlement (Ingapirca) that is well worth a visit. Equally, a trip into El Oriente (the Amazon) is absolutely necessary if you have some time, to be able to witness native Indian tribes and some of their customs that continue into the present day. For the most part, El Oriente remains a primeval world of virgin tropical rainforest, home to the most exotic flora and fauna.
Make sure you leave some time for the coastline. Discover attractive small towns with beautiful accompanying Pacific beaches, of which Playas (beaches) Posoria and Salinas are good examples.
Finally, if you have a decent amount of time to travel around Ecuador, a trip out to the Galapagos Islands is pretty much obligatory. The unique wildlife that these islands host includes giant tortoises, lizards and iguanas. It really is a once in a lifetime experience to witness the place that inspired Charles Darwin to formulate his theory of natural selection. Incredibly, half of the islands' species are found nowhere else in the world.
Weatherwise, you can visit Ecuador at any time of the year. The climate is relatively constant both in the Amazon region and in the Andes. Though the drier season in the Amazon (November to March) is perhaps a more advisable time to visit this part of the country.
The coastline also exhibits fairly constant temperatures, but is slightly more comfortable during the dry season (June to December) when humidity levels are lower.
The Galapagos Islands can be visited at any time of year and are unusually dry for their equatorial position. Perhaps the best time to visit is between January and April, when snorkelling can be spectacular along the islands' tropical coastlines.
If you are planning to stay in hotels during your stay in Ecuador, it is recommended that you book in advance - up to a week beforehand in the high season. In the larger cities, however, hotels are plentiful and getting stranded without accommodation is a less likely scenario. On the Galapagos Islands, hotel accommodation is available, but limited, so advance booking is always recommended.
Basic, cheap accommodation (from $2 upwards) is available in a pension, residencial or hostal. The standard can vary somewhat, so if possible, try to view the room before checking in. Hot water is not usually available in these budget lodgings.
In more remote and rural areas, alternative accommodation options can add some interest to your travels. In the Amazon there are colonial haciendas and jungle lodges - great places for a quirky kip!
Camping is also a possibility in Ecuador, though facilities are quite limited. Camping is allowed in most parks and reserves, except on the Galapagos Islands where it is prohibited outside of designated campsite areas.
Good quality medical care is available in Quito, Guayaquil and most of the big cities. There are also numerous pharmacies in urban areas. However, when venturing into more rural areas, be aware that medical facilities are scarce. The Galapagos Islands, in particular, have very little in the way of medical facilities. In cases of serious illness or injury, airlifting to the US might be your only option. For this reason, medical insurance is a must when travelling around Ecuador.
Before travel, be sure you are up to date on all routine immunisations. Try to see your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip, to allow enough time for shots to take effect.
- Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
- Hepatitis B, a disease that is contracted through blood/sexual contact with carriers, usually recommended for health-workers or other voluntary workers who have prolonged contact with locals.
- Yellow fever vaccination, if you travel outside of urban areas, the risk increases.
- Tetanus-diphtheria and measles boosters as required.
- Rabies, particularly if you are likely to be exposed to wild or domestic animals. For example, if you will be spending long periods in the rainforest.
Ministerio de Turismo (Ministry of Tourism)
El Telegrafo E7-58 y Av. de Los Shyris,
Tel: 593-2 399-9333
Ministry of Tourism Website
UK Embassy in Ecuador (Quito)
UK Embassy Quito
Av Gonzalez Suarez 111 (opposite Hotel Quito) Tel: 2560670 Fax: 2560730