Found in northwest South America, Ecuador is a country in two hemispheres as it straddles the Equator. Ecuador also includes the Galapagos Islands which lie 600 miles (1000 kilometers) off the Pacific Coast.
Historically, Ecuador is known as the northernmost point of the Inca Empire. Previous to its incorporation in this ancient empire in fifteenth century, the country was home to a variety of indigenous groups. During the sixteenth century, Ecuador was colonized by the Spanish. The evidence of this colonization can still be seen in the official language, Spanish. Ecuador’s independence began in 1820 as a part of Gran Colombia. It became an independent state in 1830.
Since independence, Ecuador has struggled with military rule, wars for territory and indigenous rights. Today it remains a democracy with a developing economy, but its efforts to protect the diversity that naturally occurs within its borders is extraordinary. In 2008, it became the first country in the world to recognize the Rights of Nature within its constitution.
Ecuador is a natural playground for nature loving tourists. Visitors can explore the Amazon and the Galapagos, trek through the Andes, mountain bike down volcanos, surf on the Pacific coast, or shop in Quito’s markets. Travelers will also love the opportunity to straddle the Equator or visit the historical town of Cuenca. Whatever you are looking for, you are sure to find it in Ecuador.
Most international travelers will arrive in Ecuador at one of two airports, either Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito or José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil. It is also possible to enter into Ecuador by bus from surrounding South American countries.
In order to travel around the country, buses, rental cars and domestic flights are available. To reach the Galapagos, a flight or overnight boat journey is necessary.
The best dive sites of the Galapagos in the northern part of the archipelago are best reached by liveaboard. These trips usually last one or more weeks and depart from Santa Cruz or Baltra.