Ecuador’s cities make colonial history come alive. In the Andes you can see glimpses of the indigenous culture, woven into the handmade textiles. We can find you guides to take you through wild national parks — venture through the breathtaking Sierra highlands and the steamy Amazonian jungles. Join a cruise to see the volcanic islands of the Galápagos, and see the land that inspired Darwin while traveling in style.
Ecuador is located on the northwestern edge of South America, between Colombia and Peru. And as the name implies, it’s right on the equator.
Ecuador has a diverse landscape, from its rolling alpine hills to dense Amazonian jungles, azure coastlines, and the Galápagos Islands. Nearly 400 species of mammals and over 1,600 bird species reside here. All of this fits into an area of 109,483 square miles (283,560 sq km), which is roughly the size of Colorado. Ecuador’s small size allows travelers to easily visit different environments during their stay. If you have time, include a trip to the 18 islands of the Galápagos, which are home to wildlife seen nowhere else in the world.
Metropolitan cities and quaint towns are scattered throughout the highland valleys and along the coast. Each major city has its own culture, history, and speciality commerce. The bustling capital city of Quito is at the heart of Ecuadorian history and tradition. Guayaquil is known for its nightlife, and Cuenca has a lovely array of colonial churches. No matter what parts of Ecuador you choose to visit, the breathtaking landscape and friendly people ensure that you’ll have rewarding travels.
Ecuador’s mainland divides into three distinct regions — the Andes, the Amazon Basin, and the coast. West of the coast you’ll come to the volcanic archipelago of the Galápagos. You’ll find that the climate varies widely from one region to the next.
Ecuador’s coastline spans 1,390 miles (2,237 km) from Peru to Colombia. The southern coastline has swaths of mangroves. Head north and the coast eventually transitions into a drier climate, with white sand beaches and intense surf. Temperatures can range from 75°F (23.8°C) to 85°F (29.4°C) throughout the year. December to April brings clear skies to the coast, while the rest of the year it is often blanketed in cloud cover.
The Sierras region is subdivided into northern, central and southern regions. In Ecuador, the Andean peaks gives way to majestic, widely spaced volcanoes. The surrounding foothills are likely where you’ll spend the majority of your time. Sierras have elevations ranging from 6,000–10,000 feet (1,828–3,048 m). Temperatures here range from 60°F (15.5°C) to 45°F (7.2°C). Generally, the higher up you are, the colder it will be. The Sierras’ rainy season lasts from January to June, and the dry season lasts from July to December.
Further east is Ecuador’s Amazon basin, which has a hot and humid climate. The Amazon Basin is home to only 3 percent of Ecuador’s population, meaning much of the region is still regarded as a wild and uninhabited place. The elevation is considerably lower here, with few places higher than 1,500 feet (457 m). Temperatures range from 77°F (25°C) to 84°F (28.9°C). Because this region gets over 200 inches (508 cm) of annual rainfall, be sure to pack a rain jacket if you plan to visit the Amazon.
The Galápagos Islands lie 600 miles (965 km) off the coast of Ecuador. This archipelago has 18 islands and a handful of other rock outcroppings. The temperatures here range from 75°F (23.8°C) to 85°F (29.4°C), usually mirroring conditions on the coast. The dry season lasts from June to December, but both air and water temperatures are cooler during this time of year.
Ecuador’s relatively small size and roughly 15 million inhabitants make it South America’s most densely populated country. As such, Ecuador has often struggled to balance its economic, social and environmental priorities. Its government has a tumultuous past, with over 80 major changes in the regime since the country gained independence from Spain in 1830.
In the last few years Ecuador’s government has seen some major improvements. Social spending has increased tremendously, with over $16 billion spent on education and healthcare. The poverty rate has dropped from 42 percent in 2005 to just 25 percent in 2013.
Ecuador is a representative democracy. The current president, Rafael Correa, has enacted sweeping social reforms, focusing on welfare programs and education since taking office in 2007. He was re-elected in 2013, a victory that proved that his liberal spending policies were well-received. In recent years, relations between Ecuador and the United States have been strained, mostly because of tensions stemming from oil drilling by U.S. companies in Ecuador’s Amazon. In 2011, Ecuador expelled the US ambassador amidst accusations of corruption. Despite these tensions, the US remains Ecuador’s largest trading partner.
Powering Ecuador’s economy is a vast wealth of natural resources, the most important of which is oil. Other major exports include bananas and seafood products. Crude oil production accounts for roughly 30 percent of the GDP. This revenue has helped fund the public spending initiatives. Oil is, however, also a major point of contention in Ecuador. Environmental and indigenous-rights lawsuits are increasingly challenging drilling practices.
Ecuadorian people come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Indigenous groups first settled the region some 15,000 years ago. In the 16th century, Spaniards arrived, mostly as conquistadors. Like many other South American countries, Ecuador’s population has a mix of Amerindian and Spanish heritage. This interracial, or mestizo, population makes up nearly 72 percent of the total population. Throughout the Sierras and in much of the Amazon, Amerindians make up 7 percent of the population. Along the coast, a prominent Afro-Ecuadorian population accounts for another 7 percent.
Seasons in Ecuador have nothing to do with temperature – instead there is a dry season and a wet season. In Ecuador, the winter season is hot and wet, and the summer is dry and cold. Ecuador’s dry, summer season falls between May and December. January to April is Ecuador’s wet wintertime. There is not much of a transition between the seasons.Most of Ecuador has mild temperatures year-round. In the highlands of the Andes, the temperatures are usually cooler. The average temperature in Quito is in the mid-60s Fahrenheit (17 – 18 degrees Celsius).
Coastal cities, like Guayaquil, have a warmer, tropical climate, and the temperature varies from the low 70s to high 80s (20 – 30 degrees Celsius).
The Oriente jungle is wet throughout the year, and experiences sudden, intense rainfall even during its dry season. It is also warm throughout the year.
The Galápagos Islands are warmer in the dry, sunny season, although the water around the island chain gets cooler during this period. If you plan on snorkeling, bring a wet suit.
Ecuador has an area of 109,483 square miles (283,561 sq km), which makes it slightly smaller than the state of Nevada. Ecuador's border with Peru is 950 miles (1,529 km), and its border with Colombia is 440 miles (708 km). Ecuador is also bordered by the Pacific Ocean, and contains both the Andes Mountains and Amazon Jungle within its boundaries.
Ecuador is located on the equator, and because of this you'll find temperate climates year-round at most of Ecuador's top destinations.Peak tourist season in Ecuador occurs from mid-June to early September, and then again in late December. This has more to do with vacation time in the U.S. than the seasons. You can visit Ecuador during any time of the year, but keep the following information in mind.
It can be confusing deciphering what the "dry" and "wet" seasons mean in Ecuador. December to May is the wet season, but also the best time to visit the coast. Counterintuitively, it’s actually sunnier on the coast during the wet season. During the wet season, rainy evenings follow a sunny morning and afternoon. From April to November, the dry season brings overcast skies but little rain.
If you’re thinking of visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon, know that it rains year-round, but much more so during the December-May wet season.
During the wet season, it’s slightly warmer in the highlands, although the temperature doesn’t change much. In Andean cities like Quito and Cuenca, temperatures usually range from the low 50s to the low 60s Fahrenheit (10 to 20 degrees Celsius).
Seasons in the Galápagos are give-and-take. During the wet season, the air and water get warm, but it rains frequently. In the dry season, you’ll find colder temperatures and rougher waters, but less rain.
During Carnaval, Easter, and Ecuadorian Independence Day (May 22nd) many Ecuadorians travel, and hotel prices increase. That being said, all of these holidays involve raucous, colorful street festivals, events you may not want to miss.
Ecuador is in the Ecuador Time Zone (ECT) and is five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-5). The Galápagos Islands, however, are on a different time zone then the rest of Ecuador. The islands are six hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-6), and are thus an hour behind the rest of Ecuador.There is no daylight savings in Ecuador, so the time difference with U.S. destinations changes by an hour during daylight savings time.
Ecuadorian landscape falls into three catagories: the coastal lowlands, the mountainous Sierra, and the Oriente jungle.Western Ecuador borders the Pacific Ocean. Tropical climate and sandy beaches characterize much of the coast. Mangrove forests cluster around the southern beaches, including near Guayaquil.
In the central Sierra you’ll find the Andes, a mountain range that sits on the notorious Ring of Fire. Between the mountains, in basins throughout the mountain range, you’ll find many of Ecuador’s major cities, including Quito.
The Oriente jungle takes up most of western Ecuador. This is a dense forest, steamy and full of rare plants and animals.
Ecuador’s natural beauty and colonial cities have something to offer visitors of all ages. You can find an ideal destination for every member of your family. Visitors will also find Ecuadorian culture very family-centric, and most places you visit will be accommodating and friendly to traveling families.Visiting children will have access to fun activities like zip-lining through the tropical forest. Educational opportunities abound. Take the whole family to a local festival to impart some cultural awareness. Incredible Inca ruins and exotic plants and animals will make Ecuador unforgettable, even to young children.
All travelers need a passport that's valid for at least six months from the date of entry. You're also required to provide evidence of onward travel and prove that you have enough money to pay for your trip. These last two requirements are rarely checked, but you should have proof anyway just in case you're stopped.Most travelers can stay in Ecuador for 90 days without a visa. If you want to stay for longer than 90 days, you need to get a visa before your trip. You can do so at an Ecuadorian consulate.
While you're in Ecuador, you're technically required to carry your passport at all times. However, having a photocopy of your passport will usually suffice and is much safer than carrying your real passport around with you all day. If possible, store your real passport in a safety deposit box at your hotel.
Ecuador sits on the Ring of Fire, a stretch of shifting tectonic plates in South America. These shifting tectonic plates cause volcanic eruptions as well as earthquakes.More so than hurricanes, an intense weather pattern called El Niño wreaks havoc on Ecuador. El Niño warms the water of the Pacific, and brings heavy rainfall and floods to Ecuador. This weather pattern disrupts the economy, especially in coastal cities.
You can stay in Ecuador for 90 days. If you want to stay within the country for longer, you must request a visa from an Ecuadorian consulate in your home country. Most visas will allow you to stay in the country for 180 days in a calendar year.