Ecuador: Travel/Tourist Information Guide

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Ecuador is towards the north-west region of South America with the Pacific Ocean towards its west, Peru towards its east and south and Colombia towards its north border. The Galápagos Islands in the Pacific which are approximately 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) west of the mainland are also a part of Ecuador. USD ($) is the main currency that is currently being used in Ecuador.

A variety of American Indian groups lived in Ecuador in the ancient past. During the fifteenth century, the groups gradually merged into Inca Empire. As with other territories, the territory of Ecuador also became part of the Spanish colonies during the sixteenth century and later became part of the Gran Columbia Empire post independence in 1820. Later on in 1830 Ecuador emerged as an independent sovereign state.

The population of Ecuador is ethnically diverse with Mestizos (people who were born of a mix of Spanish and American Indian parents) forming the major part of the population along with people from the European, American Indian and African origin. The official language of Ecuador is Spanish which is spoken by a majority of the population but there are other American Indian languages including Quichua and Shuar that are recognized in this region apart from Spanish.

The city of Quito which reflects the rich cultural heritage of the country and is a historical center that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 is the capital of Ecuador. The largest city in Ecuador is Guayaquil and the third-largest city is Cuenca which has also been declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 for being an outstanding example of a well-planned, inland Spanish-style colonial city in America.

Guayaquil became the first city in Ecuador to gain its independence from the Spanish rule on the 9th of October, 1820 due to which 9th October is celebrated as Independence Day across the country.

Despite all the political upheavals, Ecuador developed its economy through the export of cocoa and also abolished slavery freeing its black slaves.

There are five branches of government in the State of Ecuador which are the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, the Judicial Branch, the Electoral Branch and The Transparency and Social Control Branch.

The provinces in Ecuador are divided into cantons and are further subdivided into parishes which are called the parroquias.

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Geographic Regions

Ecuador has four main geographic regions:

- La Costa or the coast which consists of the provinces on the Western side of the Andes. This region is very fertile with rice and banana production being done on a large scale.

- La Sierra or the highlands which consists of the highland provinces of the Andes and Inter Andes. Most volcanoes and all the snow-capped peaks of Ecuador are found in this area. Potato, maize and quinua crops are grown in his area. Quito which is the capital of Equador is the largest city in this region.

- La Amazonía which is also known as El Oriente or the east consists of the Amazon jungle provinces with the huge Amazon national parks and the vast stretches of land that have been set aside for the tribes that continue to live traditionally untouched by the modern civilization. This area also has the largest petroleum reserves.

- La Región Insular is the region that comprises of the Galápagos Islands.

The highest active volcano in the world is found in Cotopaxi which is towards the south of Quito.

The top of Mount Chimborazo which is 6,268 meters (20,560 feet) above sea level is considered to be the most distant point of the Earth's surface from the center of the Earth.

Climate

Due to the altitude, the climate varies to a large extent. Throughout the year, it is mild in the mountain valleys whereas the coastal area and the area that has the rainforest in the lowlands has a humid subtropical climate. The area on the Pacific coast has a tropical climate with severe rainfall in the rainy season. Temperate and a relatively dry climate is experienced in the Andean highlands and the Amazon basin which is on the eastern side of the mountains has the same climate as that of the other rainforest zones.

There is no difference in the daylight hours throughout the year because Ecuador is located at the equator and both sunrise and sunset occur each day at 6:00 am and 6:00 pm respectively.

Economy

The economy of Ecuador is highly dependent on commodities, namely petroleum and agricultural products. The country has a developing economy and falls under the medium-income group.

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Natural Wealth

Almost all rivers in Ecuador are formed by the melting of the snow from the snowcapped peaks or due to the precipitation of the high elevated peaks of the Andes. The streams and rivers flow either east towards the Amazon River or west toward the Pacific Ocean.

Ecuador is ecologically rich with many species of endemic plants and animals most of which are found in the Galápagos Islands. Its rich reserves of flora and fauna include almost 1,600 species of birds, 16,000 species of plants, 6,000 species of butterflies, 106 species of endemic reptiles and 138 species of endemic amphibians.

Ecuador has the first constitution to recognize the rights of nature with protection of biodiversity being an explicit national priority.

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Transport

The Trolebús bus rapid transit system that runs through Quito is the principal BRT in Ecuador.

The Ecuadorian rail route has been rehabilitated and reopened as a tourist attraction.

Also, the roads have been improved to a great extent.

The international airports of Quito and Guayaquil have also undergone a lot of improvement.

Music

Pasillo which is a genre of indigenous Latin music is the national genre of music in Ecuador. Traditional music includes albazo, pasacalle, fox incaico, tonada, capishca and Bomba which is popular among the Afro-Ecuadorian inhabitants. Many cultures have also influenced the creation of new forms of music. Tecnocumbia and Rockola are examples of the influence of foreign cultures. Sanjuanito which is originally from Otavalo-Imbabura which is the northern part of Ecuador is one of the most traditional forms of dancing in Ecuador. It is a type of dance music played during the celebrations and festivitals by the mestizo and American Indian communities.

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Cuisine

Ecuadorian cuisine is diverse and varies with the altitude and the agricultural conditions associated with each region. However the meal usually consists of the traditional three course menu of a soup, a main course of rice with a protein dish, followed by dessert and coffee.

Supper usually is light.

Pork, chicken, beef and guinea pig (cuy) served with potatoes or a variety of grains preferably rice and corn are more popular in the highland region.

Seafood is very popular in the coastal region. Fish, shrimp and especially ceviche is the main part of the diet. Ceviches are generally served with fried plantain which are called chifles y patacones, popcorn or tostado. Most coastal meals primarily comprise of plantain and peanut-based dishes as well as encocados which are dishes made of coconut sauce. Fried plantain as well as rice with beans and grilled beef (Arroz con menestra y carne asada) is one of the traditional dishes of Guayaquil while Churrasco is a staple food across the coastal region.

Yuca which is also called cassava is a staple diet in the Amazon region.

Art

Various old churches in Quito display work of Escuela Quiteña , which developed between the 16th and 18th centuries. Some of the Ecuadorian painters include Eduardo Kingman, Oswaldo Guayasamín, and Camilo Egas from the Indiginist Movement as well as Manuel Rendon, Jaime Zapata, Enrique Tábara, Aníbal Villacís, Theo Constanté, Luis Molinari, Araceli Gilbert, Judith Gutierrez, Felix Arauz, and Estuardo Maldonado from the Informalist Movement. Then we have the abstract, futuristic style of Luis Burgos Flor as well as the world renowned traditional paintings of the American Indian people of Tigua.

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Sports

Soccer (Football) is the most popular sport in Ecuador, with Liga De Quito being the most important professional team from Quito apart from Club Sport Emelec from Guayaquil, Deportivo Quito and El Nacional from Quito, Olmedo from Riobamba and Deportivo Cuenca from Cuenca. LDU Quito that has won the Copa Libertadores, the Copa Sudamericana and the Recopa Sudamericana is the most successful soccer team of Ecuador.

Jefferson Pérez who won a gold medal in the 1996 games and a silver medal 12 years later is a well known sportsman from Ecuador.

Science and research

Ecuadorian mathematician and cartographer Pedro Vicente Maldonado who was born in Riobamba in the year 1707 as well as the printer, independence precursor and medical pioneer Eugenio Espejo who was born in Quito in the year 1747 are have significantly contributed to science. Other notable Ecuadorian scientists and engineers are Lieutenant Jose Rodriguez Lavandera who built the first submarine in the year 1837 in Latin America, José Aurelio Dueñas who was a chemist and inventor of a method of textile serigraphy and Reinaldo Espinosa Aguilar who was a botanist and biologist of flora in the Andes region.