Despite its relatively small size compared with local giants Brazil and Argentina, Ecuador is home to an astounding array of wonders that include picturesque colonial towns, Amazonian rainforest, the spectacular peaks of the Andes and of course the fragile but alluring Galápagos Islands. Whether it’s nature, wildlife, culture, anthropology or language, this diverse country is sure to impress.
Here are the most interesting facts about Ecuador we picked up on our journey through its lands (and seas).
interesting facts about Ecuador
1. The national tree of Ecuador is the cinchona tree which produces Quinine, the first drug used to prevent and treat malaria.
2. Ecuador is one of only two countries in South America that does not share a border with Brazil.
(Source: Google Maps)
3. In 2008, Ecuador was the first country to officially recognise the rights of nature. Rather than treating nature as property, Ecuador recognises that nature has constitutional rights and has the “right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.”
(Source: Rights of Nature)
4. Ecuador has granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Under investigation by the US government and facing extradition to Sweden, Assange sought refuge at the Embassy of Ecuador in London. He has been there since June 2012.
5. The summit of Mount Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest mountain, is the point on Earth closest to the sun. Due to the mountain’s location along the equatorial bulge, its summit is the farthest point from the Earth’s core. This also means that Ecuador is the closest country to space.
(Source: Smithsonian Institution)
7. It is well known that Ecuador is named after the equator which runs through the country. It is in fact the only country in the world officially named after a geographical feature. The official name, República del Ecuador, translates as “The Republic of the Equator”.
8. The equator is widely promoted at the tourist attraction Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World City) 26km north of the capital, Quito. This is supposed to be where one can stand with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern. Unfortunately, thanks to modern re-measurements the exact equator is said to lie 240 meters north of the marked line and monument. Doh!
(Source: World Geodetic System)
9. Ecuador has the world’s first and second UNESCO World Heritage Sites. At the inaugural UNESCO World Heritage conference in 1978, 32 sites were initially designated. Every World Heritage Site has a number – site #1 is the Galápagos Islands and #2 is the city of Quito.
10. Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, is 2,850m above sea level, making it the highest official capital city in the world. La Paz in Bolivia is higher but it cheats a little as it is not the constitutional capital (that’s Sucre), only the seat of government. Nothing’s ever simple in Bolivia!
12. Guinea pig, known as ‘cuy’, is considered a delicacy in Ecuador, its consumption seen as an ancient tradition. After Kia’s reaction to me eating reindeer heart in Finland, I thought it best to refrain…
13. Ecuador is one of three countries created in 1830 following the collapse of Gran Colombia. After independence from the Spanish colony, the Viceroyalty of New Granada, the short-lived republic of Gran Colombia (1819–30) was created. It included the territories of present-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama as well as parts of northern Peru, western Guyana and northwest Brazil.
14. The Panama hat is actually from Ecuador. Straw hats woven along the Ecuadorian coast were taken to Panama initially to be sold to canal workers and, after the canal opened, to affluent westerners passing through the Panama Canal.
(Source: Montecristi Panama Hats)
15. Ecuador is the world’s largest exporter of bananas, accounting for up to 29% of all bananas exported in 2011.
16. Ecuador has been voted as the best country for expats for the second year running. Quality of life, cost of living and personal finances have all been cited as excellent reasons to up sticks and head to the equator.
17. There are at least 14 recognised languages spoken in Ecuador. Spanish is the official language while 13 indigenous languages are also recognised including Quichua and Shuar
(Source: CIA Factbook)
18. Ecuador is divided into four main and very unique geographic regions: La Costa or “the coast”, La Sierra or “the highlands”, La Amazonía also known as El Oriente or “the east” and La Región Insular, the region comprising the Galápagos Islands.
(Source: National Geographic)
(Additional photography: Dreamstime)