Unique Ecuador
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LAST UPDATED: MAR/2013


UNIQUELY ECUADOR TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

Ecuador, although relatively small, offers an incredible range of tourist attractions, activities and experiences that can satisfy the interests of almost any traveler, and almost any budget.


Ecuador is blessed with five distinct geographic regions, each with its own rich biodiversity: the Galapagos Islands, the Pacific Coast, the Amazon rain forest, the Cloud Forest and the Andean Sierra (Highlands).


Popular sports/adventure activities throughout the country include mountaineering, white water rafting, mountain biking, surfing and hiking. 

The varied geographic terrain and panorama allow visitors to experience a broad menu of experience, including numerous natural thermal hot baths, pristine volcanic lagoons, majestic volcanoes (many snow-capped), extensive rivers & peaceful lakes, sandy white beaches and lush green tropical vegetation.  

For those looking for a richer cultural experience, visit the numerous indigenous markets (artisan, animal and agricultural), stroll around historic towns and cities, listen to Andean panpipes, sample the often exotic gastronomy that the country boasts.


For nature lovers, Ecuador claims to have some of the great biodiversity on the planet and home to over 4000 species of orchids and almost countless species of hummingbirds.  This is not to forget all the llamas!



At the top of any wish list, without a doubt, are the Galapagos Islands - a natural paradise of evolution in process.  No visit to Ecuador is complete without a cruise in Galapagos.

Quito, nestled in the heart of the Andean sierra, is an excellent base from which to explore the surrounding countryside.  The historic Colonial sector of Quito is an historic and cultural experience in itself.

Ecuador has a bit of everything for everyone ... culture, history, nature, adventure, gastronomy.


"Make Ecuador your next visit ...
its charm and uniqueness will stay with you".

Ecuador
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ECUADOR QUICK FACTS

AREA: 176,196 sq. miles
CAPITAL: Quito
INT'L AIRPORTS: Quito (UIO) & Guayaquil (GYE)


POPULATION: 14.67 million (2011)
LANGUAGE: Spanish
CURRENCY: U.S.D. - US Dollar
RELIGION: Mainly Roman Catholic
ELECTRICITY: 110-220V AC (60Hz)
TIME ZONE: UTC/GMT -5 hours

MAIN EXPORTS: Roses, petroleum, bananas, coffee, cocoa & tuna.



QUITO
Its capital – San Francisco de Quito, most often called Quito – once a part of the Inca empire, has some of the best-preserved early colonial architecture on the continent. According to UNESCO, Quito has the largest, best-preserved, and least-altered historic center (320 hectares) in Latin America and was the first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO in 1978. In addition, The International Capitals Bureau has declared Quito, Ecuador as Americas’ Cultural Capital for 2011.

OTHER INTERESTING FACTS & UNIQUE ASPECTS OF ECUADOR:


  • In Quito, water boils at 90°C (direct effect of altitude);
  • Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in world;
  • The Humpback whales (megaptera novaeangliae) migrate from the Antarctic South Pole to tropical waters off the coast of Ecuador (June to September) to mate and give birth to their calves;
  • The Galapagos Islands belongs to Ecuador;
  • Ecuador has many active volcanoes and also, one of the greatest densities of volcanoes in the world;
  • Ecuador is home to ten mountain peaks over 5000 meters (16,000 feet);
  • Mount Chimborazo at 6,268 meters (20,565 feet)  is the highest mountain in Ecuador. And because the Earth is not a perfect sphere, but bulges at the Equator, the peak of Chimborazo is also the furthest point from the center of the Earth and the closest to the sun.
  • The number of orchid species is calculated at 4100;
  • A newly discovered species of gecko, small enough at its full-grown size to rest comfortably on the eraser of a pencil, was discovered in Ecuador;
  • The world’s smallest orchid (miniscule orchid – measuring 2.1mm wide) was discovered in Ecuador;
  • Country with the world’s highest diversity of hummingbird species (131);
  • Home to more than 1600 species of birds, which is more than twice the number found on any one of the entire continents of North America, Europe or Australia;
  • Panama hats are of Ecuadorian origin – the world’s finest ‘Panama hats’ are handmade in Montecristi, Ecuador;
  • Ecuador is divided into four geographical regions: Pacific Coastal Area (Litoral),  Andean Highlands (Sierra), Amazon Rain Forest (Oriente) and The Galapagos Islands;
  • There are three species of vampire bats found in the world; all are found in Ecuador;
  • Ecuador exports more bananas than any other country in the world;
  • Vilcabamba is called the Valley of Longevity - locals assert that it is not uncommon to see a person reach 100 years of age and it is claimed that many have gotten to 120, even up to 135,which would make it an area with the oldest inhabitants in the world;
  • 25 000 species of plants present in the country, which represents approximately 10% of all plants known in the world;
  • Ecuador one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border with Brazil;
  • Manta, Ecuador claims to be the Tuna Capital of the World;
  • Quinine, the first drug used to prevent and treat malaria, is obtained from the bark of the cinchona tree that grows in Ecuador;
  • Almost 60 per cent of the world’s high grade “fine cocoa” is produced on farms surrounding the coastal city of Guayaquil – an output that makes it the world’s capital of the sweet delicacy

Top 10
                                                        Ecuador
                                                        attractions

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK

Deserves a whole site for itself!  The best option is a 7-night cruise to experience the wonder and uniqueness of the islands - aboard a Galapagos boat that is comfortable, safe & reliable and with a good naturalist guide aboard.  The on board naturalist guide is one of the most important factors on a Galapagos Islands cruise.

Highlights include the Galapagos Giant Tortoise, Blue-footed boobies, Waved Albatross, Marine Iguanas, Flightless Cormorants .....

See our Galapagos section for more details.


HISTORIC COLONIAL QUITO

The historic (Colonial) sector of Quito is a wonder of Colonial architecture, from its churches, plazas and palaces.  Highlights include Plaza de la  Independencia (Plaza Grande),  Plaza San Francisco, Iglesia de la Compania, Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Iglesia de la Merced, San Agustin Monastery, the Basilica, Panecillo hill

This is popularly combined with a visit to Mitad del Mundo (Equatorial Line village). (more details)

Related article "Historic Quito"

OTAVALO INDIGENOUS ARTISAN MARKET

Barter and trade for ceramics, wood carvings, textiles, paintings, musical instruments, jewelry, to name a few.  This market operates every day of the week, with Saturday followed by Wednesday being the busiest (most tourist). 

Located 90 minutes north of Quito, this is a shoppers paradise.  A visit to Otavalo isn't complete without a visit to Peguchi & Cotacachi (renowned for its leather works).

For a deeper appreciation and experience of the art of hand weaving .... here

SAQUISILI INDIGENOUS MARKET (Thursdays)

This working Andean market is a feast for your sense (sights, sounds, aromas).  Operating only on Thursdays, the town is filled with local campesinos selling their local products at the various markets scattered throughout the town - mainly fruits and vegetables.

Located about 90 minutes south of Quito, a visit to this market is usually combined with a visit to Cotopaxi National Park or a visit to the Quilotoa Volcanic Lagoon.

Tours from $45 (additional cost not included). 

AMAZON JUNGLE RAIN FOREST

Bio-diversity at its extreme!  Top recommendations go out to the Napo Wildlife Centre, Sacha Lodge, La Selva & Kapawi Lodge.  Other highly recommended options include the Manatee River Boat and Sani Lodge.

Most tours run from Monday to Friday (4-nights) or Friday to Monday (3-nights), with the vast majority requiring round trip flights from Quito to Coca or Lago Agrio.

See our Amazon rainforest section for more details.

COTOPAXI VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK

The Cotopaxi National Park is located about 90 minutes due south of Quito.  Visitors have two basic tour options: (1) a naturalist day trip; or (2) a 2 or 3 day climbing package.  Mountain biking, horseback riding and a visit to a hacienda are alternative options in this Park.  There are a number of interesting haciendas (working farms) in the area.

Options: Private & shared-basis tours.


Related article "Cotopaxi Volcano Rim from a Bird's Eye"

BELLAVISTA CLOUDFOREST

320 hummingbirds species are know to science & over 50% are found in Ecuador.  The best place to get up close to these beautiful creatures is at the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve.  Other  highlights include a myriad of orchids and other tropical vegetation.

Options: Private & shared-basis tours.

See our special Bellavista Cloudforest section for more details.

BAÑOS & surroundings

Banos is perfectly situated as a jumping spot into the Ecuadorian Amazon rain forest (Tena / Misahualli region), or a travel spot to rest and relax while traveling north or south.

Banos is known for its thermal baths, mountain biking (Banos to Puyo), horseback riding and white water rafting.

Options: Private & shared-basis tours.
Banos
                                                          Ecuador

CUENCA & INGAPIRCA

Cuenca is considered the craft center of Ecuador, with excellent ceramics and bronze-work being produced by its craftsmen.  Nearby, a visit to Cajas National Park and Ingapirca ruins are worth the visit.

(Rates vary greatly depending on dates, guides etc).



OTHER ATTRACTIONS OF ECUADOR THAT ARE OF INTEREST

QUILOTOA LAGOON

Approximately 14 km to the north of Zumbahua lies the village and infamous volcanic crater of Quilotoa with a serene mysterious looking green lake inside. Quilotoa lagoon is a perfect example of one of the various extinct volcanoes that are now volcanic lagoons.  The crystalline water in this lagoon is said to contain too many minerals to be purifiable.

Options: Private & shared-basis tours.


HACIENDAS

Ecuador is home to numerous haciendas [a Spanish word for an estate, usually, but not always, a vast ranch or farm. Some haciendas were plantations].  

Some better known haciendas throughout Ecuador include:  Abraspungo (Riobamba), Chorlavi (Imbabura), Cusin (Otavalo), Guachala (Cayambe), Hato Verde (Lasso), La Alegria (Aloag), La Andaluza (Riobamba), La Carriona (Sangolqui), La Cienega (Lasso), Leito (Patate), Manteles (Patate), Pinsaqui (Otavalo), San Agustin de Callo (Cotopaxi), San Jorge (via Nono), Yanahurco (Cotopaxi), Angamarca (Quilotoa) ... to name a few.


PAPALLACTA THERMAL BATHS

Located about an hour east of Quito and perched on a high Andean valley at the entrance route to the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle, the spa - resort offers its visitors health, recreation, adventure and rest.

The hydrothermal value of Termas de Papallacta's Hot Springs is thanks to Papallacta's location between two volcanoes, Volcano Cayambe and Volcano Antisana.  The source temperature of the thermal baths varies between 30°C and 70°C (86°F and 158°F). At the pools the temperature ranges from 36°C to 40°C (97°F to 104°F). Papallacta´s thermal waters contain sulfates, sodium, calcium, chloride and traces of magnesium which are odourless, colourless but have a slightly salty taste.

Special section coming soon.

JACCHIGUA FOLKLORIC BALLET


The permanent choreographic mounting of the National Folkloric Ballet Jacchigua, is a show with 86 dancers, musicians and ecuadorian technicians that put into scene a spectacular show of traditions and customs of Ecuador. 2.800 kilos of costumes and technique elements are utilized by the dancers in choreography designed by the director.

Special section coming soon.

PUERTO LOPEZ / MONTANITA

This region is famous for the Humpback whales are present in the waters (especially in the Machalilla National Park) between June and September.  The Humpback whales (megaptera novaeangliae) migrate from the Antartic South Pole to tropical waters to mate and give birth to thier calves. The humpback whales are easy to recognize because of their extremely long pectoral fins. These whales can measure up to 16 m of length and weigh up to 40 tons. Humpback whales are the most acrobatic of the bigger whales. They like to breach out the water or hit the surface repetitively with their flippers or flukes.

This is not to mention the pristine white-sand beaches, and spectacular beaches for surfing and parasailing that are present throughout the region.  Another attraction in this region is Los Frailles National Park, with its peaceful and soft sand beach cove.

Related articles (1)"Hosteria Alandaluz - a relaxing stay on the Pacific Coast"
Related articles (2)"Humpback Whales in Ecuador"


Other interesting facts & activities ...

Flowers of Ecuador Roses are quickly becoming one of Ecuador's major exports.  Other flowers include: orchids & bromeliads. 

Ecuador is home to over 20,000 species of vascular plants.


Related article"Facts about Ecuador"

Tagua Tagua "vegetable ivory" is the ivory palm (Phytelephas aequatorialis) nut.

Originally this material was used as buttons but today many other uses have been found (figurines, toys, massagers and other small ornaments).


Related article"Facts about Ecuador"
Passion
                                                          flower
                                                          Ecuador Named by 16th century missionaries in South America, symbolizing the death of Christ. 

This woody vine climbs through the supporting vegetation using coiled tendrils.

Related article"Facts about Ecuador" 

Ecuador orchids Ecuador is one the globe's top 17 most biologically diverse countries and has about 10% of all plant species. 

Orchids alone amount to over 3,500 species!  An ideal place in Quito to enjoy these precious flowers is in the Botanical Garden.

Related article"Orchids of Ecuador"
Ecuador's geography is one of the most diverse and can be divided into five distinct regions: Amazon rainforest, Andean Sierra, Pacific Coast, Cloud forest and the Galapagos Islands.

Related article"Facts about Ecuador"

Pan pipes Andean music groups from Ecuador can be heard  playing in many international cities.

Pre-hispanic vocal & instrumental music was based on the pentatonic (five-note) scale, giving its haunting, melodic sounds.

Related article"Facts about Ecuador"
Panama hats One of Ecuador's most famous artisan products is the Panama Hat, which originated in Montecristi.  Contrary to popular belief these hats do not come from Panama.

Related article"Misconceptions on Ecuador"

Ecuador silver Shop for precious metal jewelry at the world-famous indigenous artisan market of Otavalo. 

Items include necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and ring.  Even more so than Otavalo, Chordaleg (near Cuenca) is famous for its jewelry.


Related article"Facts about Ecuador"
ecuador
                                                          butterfly Ecuador's insect species number more than a million, including 4,500 species of butterflies.  They can be found in the Amazon rainforest, Cloud forest, Sierra, Coast and in Galapagos.

Related article"Facts about Ecuador"

bizcochos Cayambe, just to the north of Quito, is famous for the short bread style biscuits known as bizcochos.  

These delicious pastries are usually accompanied by the local cheese (queso).
Related article"Facts about Ecuador"

Amazonas N23-31 (between Veintimilla & Wilson)
Quito, Ecuador - South America.

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