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Population, Ethnic Groups, Culture and Religion

Fauna and Flora
The Galapagos Islands

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Origin of the name Ecuador The name Ecuador has its origin from the Spanish.  Since the country is located on the equator, the Spanish called it "El Ecuador".
Symbols  Click on each link below to learn more about the symbols.
  • Capital - Quito
  • National Animal - Andean Condor
  • National FlagThe Ecuadorian flag has three horizontal stripes which from the bottom up are red, blue, and yellow. The yellow stripe is twice as wide as the red and blue ones. The symbolism of the colors is as follows: Red stands for the blood shed by the soldiers and martyrs of the independence battles. Blue represents the color of the sea and sky. Yellow symbolizes the abundance and fertility of the crops and land.
  • National Anthem - Himno Nacional de Ecuador
  • Coat of Arms  
  • Independence Day - from Spain:  May 24, 1822; 
    from Gran Colombia:  May 13, 1830.
  • National Motto -  Spanish: Dios, patria y libertad, English: God, homeland and liberty


Ecuador has 22 Provinces



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Ecuador is divided into 22 Provinces, each with its own administrative capital. The capitals are provided in parentheses.

  • Azuay (Cuenca)

  • Bolívar (Guaranda)

  • Cañar (Azogues)

  • Carchi (Tulcán)

  • Chimborazo (Riobamba)

  • Cotopaxi (Latacunga)

  • El Oro (Machala)

  • Esmeraldas (Esmeraldas)

  • Galápagos (Puerto Baquerizo Moreno)

  • Guayas (Guayaquil)

  • Imbabura (Ibarra)
  • Loja (Loja)

  • Los Ríos (Babahoyo)

  • Manabí (Portoviejo)

  • Morona-Santiago (Macas)

  • Napo (Tena)

  • Orellana (Puerto Francisco de Orellana)

  • Pastaza Province (Puyo)

  • Pichincha (Quito)

  • Sucumbíos (Nueva Loja)

  • Tungurahua (Ambato)

  • Zamora-Chinchipe (Zamora)

Source:  Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia,

Languages Spanish is the official language, however, The majority of the indigenous people speak Quicha language. Also a variety of indigenous languages are spoken by the people who live in the Amazons.
Ecuadorean History



Early History

Archaeologists trace Ecuador’s first inhabitants as far back as 10,000 BC, when hunters and gatherers established settlements on the southern coast and in the central highlands. By 3200 BC three distinct agricultural-based civilizations had emerged, producing some of the hemisphere's oldest known pottery. They developed trade routes with nearby Peruvian, Brazilian, and Amazonian tribes. Culture continued to thrive and diversify, and by 500 BC large cities had been established along the coast. Their inhabitants had sophisticated metalworking and navigational skills and they traded with Mexico's Maya. In 1460 AD, when the Inca ruler Tupac-Yupanqui invaded from the south, three major tribes in Ecuador were powerful enough to give him a fight: the Canari, the Quitu, and the Caras.

The Inca were a dynamic, rapidly advancing society. They originated in a pocket of Peru, but established a vast empire within a century. They dominated Peru and extended as far as Bolivia and central Chile.  Remarkably, the Canari, Quitu, and Caras were able to hold back Tupac-Yupanqui, however they were later defeated by his son, Huayna Capac.

In celebration of his victory, Huayna Capac ordered a city to be built at Tomebamba, near Cuenca.  Its size and influence rivaled the capital of Cuzco in Peru.  When he died in 1526, Huayna Capac divided the empire between his two sons, Atahualpa and Huascar.  Atahualpa ruled the north from Tombebamba, while Huascar ruled the south from Cuzco. The split inheritance was an unconventional and fateful move, as the first Spaniards arrived in the same year. On the eve of Francisco Pizarro's expedition into the empire, the brothers entered into a civil war for complete control.

Pizarro landed in Ecuador in 1532, accompanied by 180 men and a strong lust for gold. Several years earlier, Pizarro had made a peaceful visit to the coast, where he had heard rumors of inland cities of incredible wealth. This time, he intended to conquer the Incas and he couldn't have picked a better time. Atahualpa had only recently won the war against his brother when Pizarro arrived, and the empire was still unstable. Pizarro ambushed the ruler and executed him. And although the Incas mounted considerable resistance to Pizarro, they were soon broken.

Spanish governors ruled Ecuador for nearly 300 years, first from Lima, Peru, then later from the viceroyalty of Colombia. The Spanish introduced Roman Catholicism, colonial architecture, and today's national language. Independence was won in 1822, when the famed South American liberator Simon Bolivar defeated a Spanish army at the Battle of Pichincha.

Bolivar united Ecuador with Colombia and Venezuela, forming the state of Gran Colombia. His plan was to eventually unite all of South America as a constitutional republic.  After eight years, however, local interests sparked Ecuador to secede from the union. Colombia and Venezuela soon split as well.

Contemporary History

Ecuador’s contemporary history includes eight presidents in the last ten years and politics and economic pressures have played havoc with the country.

President Jamil Mahuad was overthrown in Jan. 2000, in the first military coup in Latin America in a decade. The junta gave power to the vice president, Gustavo Noboa. Faced with the worst economic crisis in Ecuador's history, Noboa restructured Ecuador's foreign debt, adopted the U.S. dollar as the national currency, and continued privatization of state-owned industries, generating enormous opposition. In Feb. 2001, the government cut fuel prices after violent protests by Indians, who are among Ecuador's most disadvantaged people.

Lucio Gutiérrez, a leftist colonel best known for orchestrating the 2000 coup against President Jamil Mahuad, was elected to the presidency in 2003 on an anticorruption platform.   His attempts to introduce austere fiscal reforms, however, quickly alienated his political base, and numerous national strikes took place over 2003.

In November 2004, President Gutiérrez narrowly escaped impeachment for the alleged misuse of government funds. In December he removed 27 of the 31 justices of the Supreme Court, claiming the judges had supported the impeachment attempt and were sympathetic to the opposition parties. He replaced them with judges who supported the government. In April 2005, the new Supreme Court overturned corruption charges against an exiled former president, Abdala Bucaram, who was an ally of Gutiérrez. Outraged by what was seen as Gutiérrez's attempts to control the judiciary branch, tens of thousands of Ecuadorians took to the street and protested. The protesters accused Gutiérrez of corruption, mismanagement, and an authoritarian style of governing, and polls indicated that just 5% of the people still supported him. On April 20, 2005, Gutiérrez was ousted by the Ecuadorian Congress, and his estranged deputy, Alfredo Palacio, took over as president. He became the country's seventh president in eight years.






 Until the early 1970’s, Ecuador’s economy was mainly agriculture based.  The main products were: bananas, coffee, cocoa, rice, potatoes, manioc (tapioca), plantains and sugarcane; cattle, sheep, pigs, beef, pork and dairy products; balsa wood and flowers; fish and shrimp.  But the discovery of large oil deposits in the Amazon region in the 1970's transformed Ecuador's economy from an agrarian one to one reliant on petroleum.

Ecuador began the 1980’s with a brief period of economic prosperity brought on by its new oil wealth, but the winter of 1982-83 brought flooding from the El Nino weather pattern, damaging crops and cutting banana and coffee exports in half.  Ecuador then experienced its first post "oil boom" economic slowdown.  What started as a slowdown ended in near economic collapse with the sharp decline in world oil prices in 1986, followed by the destruction of a large stretch of Ecuador's sole oil pipeline by an earthquake in 1987.  The depression of the late 1980's only accentuated the country’s over-reliance on oil.

During the early 90’s, oil prices increased, allowing the economy to improve somewhat but in January, 1995, several crisis, including a military confrontation with Peru, the resignation of the vice-president amidst widespread allegations of graft and an energy crisis brought on by the recurrence of seasonal shortages, interfered with Ecuador's stabilization efforts and again sent its economy and political system into a tailspin.

Several presidents and economic plans later, Ecuador’s economy was in a shambles.  President Jamil Mahuad was overthrown in Jan. 2000, in the first military coup in Latin America in a decade. The junta gave power to the vice president, Gustavo Noboa. Faced with the worst economic crisis in Ecuador's history, Noboa restructured Ecuador's foreign debt, adopted the U.S. dollar as the national currency, continued privatization of state-owned industries and adopted severe austerity measures, all of which generated enormous opposition.  However, dollarization stabilized the economy and growth returned to its pre-crisis levels in the years that followed.  From 2003-2005 Ecuador benefited from higher world petroleum prices. However, the current government under Alfredo Palacio has reversed economic reforms that had reduced Ecuador's vulnerability to petroleum price swings and financial crises.  Today 11% of the population is unemployed, 45% is underemployed and 41% is below poverty level.

Source:,, CIA World Fact Book
Geography and Climate



Geography & Climate


Ecuador is a very geographically varied country. It is about the same area as the US state of Nevada, or New Zealand and it is a bit larger than the United Kingdom. It straddles the equator (for which it was named) on the west (Pacific Ocean) coast of South America. It borders two countries: Peru to the south and east, and Colombia to the north.

There are four geographical regions: the coastal lowlands (La Costa), the mountain highlands (La Sierra) and the eastern jungle lowlands (El Oriente) and the Galapagos Islands. The coastal lowlands used to be heavily forested, but much of that is gone due to agriculture and shrimp farms.

The backbone of Ecuador is the Andean highlands, which run down the center of the country. The highest peak is Chimborazo (6,310 meters; 20,700 ft.), but the most famous is the Cotopaxi volcano, just south of Quito. Quito is the world's second highest capital behind La Paz, Bolivia, at an altitude of 2,850 meters (9,350 ft.).

The jungle, or Oriente as it is called by Ecuadorians, forms the upper basin of the Amazon jungle. There are many virgin rainforest areas and the large Amazon River tributary, the Rio Napo, cuts through the jungle.

The Galápagos Islands (or Colón Archipelago: 3,029 sq mi; 7,845 sq km), is in the Pacific Ocean about 600 mi (966 km) west of the South American mainland and became part of Ecuador in 1832.


The climate in Ecuador varies greatly depending on the geographical region.

On the coast, from January through April, warm ocean currents from the north bring hot, humid, rainy weather and daytime temperatures average 86F (30C).  From May to December, cooler currents from the south keep temperatures a few degrees lower and it rarely rains although it is often overcast.

In the highlands, the dry season is from June through September.  The rainiest month is April.  Temperatures during the day average a high of 68OF - 72°F (20°C - 22°C) and a low of 45°F - 48°F (7°C - 8°C) year round.

In the Oriente, it rains during most months.  December through March are usually the driest months, while April through June are the wettest.  It’s almost as hot as the coast.

The Galapagos Islands are mostly dry with a steady year-round average temperature of 77ºF (25ºC).

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Source:,,, Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands published by Lonely Planet 2003

Population, Ethnic Groups, Culture and Religion

People and Culture

Ecuador's population is estimated to be 13,547,510.  The population is ethnically mixed: 65% mestizo (mixed Indigenous/Caucasian), 25% Indigenous, 7% Caucasian and 3% African.

The large mestizo population is the result of marriages between the Spanish settlers and the indigenous peoples.  The Afro-Ecuadorians are the descendants of African slaves who worked on coastal sugar plantations in the sixteenth century.

Eleven different peoples make up Ecuador's Indigenous population. The largest of these is the Andean Quechua, who number more than 2 million. In addition to the Quechua, the Otavalenos, Salasacas, and Saraguros reside in the Ecuadorian Andes.

The Amazon basin is also rich in indigenous culture and shamanistic traditions still thrive within the rainforest worlds of the Huaorani, Zaparo, Cofan, lowland Quechua, Siona, Secoya, Shuar, and Achuar.

The distribution of the population across the country has changed over the last few decades.  The population used to be heavily concentrated in the Andes highlands region, but today it is divided about equally between that area and the coast with 50% of the population living in the cities. The rainforest region to the east of the mountains remains the most sparsely populated of Ecuador's three continental regions and contains only about 3% of the population.

Ninety-five percent of the population consider themselves Roman Catholic.  The other five percent are spread among various religions.

Source:, CIA World Fact Book, 2006

Fauna and Flora

Flora and Fauna

Ecuador is one the planet’s top 17 most biologically diverse nations. The nation’s drastic geographic and climatic variations have led to the evolution of thousands of species of flora and fauna, most of which thrive in habitats protected by the federal government and by private organizations. Despite its tiny size, Ecuador is home to mangrove swamps, dry tropical forest, cloud forests, rain forests, jungles, mountains, islands, deserts, valleys, and snowcapped peaks. One of its main attractions is the Galapagos Archipelago and its marine reserve, which contain endemic species unique to the area.

Ecuador is home to 10% of the world’s plant species, the majority of which grow in the northeastern Amazon, where an estimated 10,000 species thrive. The diversity of the climate here has given rise to more than 25,000 species of trees. Moreover, the Andes is home to an estimated 8,200 plant and vegetable species. In the orchid family alone, 2,725 species have been identified in the area. In the Galapagos, there are about 600 native species and 250 species that were introduced by man. Three of the twelve key biodiversity zones can be found on the Ecuadorian mainland.

Ecuador is home to 8% of the world’s animal species and 18% of the planet’s birds. Around 3,800 species of vertebrates have been identified in Ecuador as well as 1,550 species of mammals, 350 reptile species, 375 species of amphibians, 800 fresh-water fish species and 450 salt-water fish species. Ecuador is also home to 15% of the world’s endemic bird species. Moreover, there are more than a million species of insects and 4,500 species of butterflies that live in Ecuador.  View the photos at Ecuador Images.

Here is a link to a wonderful PBS site for pictures of plants and animals in the Galapagos Islands:


The Galapagos Islands Galapagos Islands

Since the Galapagos Islands are the result of an underwater volcanic eruption and hence were never connected to the mainland, the variety of wildlife which inhabits the islands could only have found their way to it by swimming, flying or floating across on bits of vegetation thousands of years ago.  Because of this separation from mainland predators and competition, there are many species here that are not found anywhere else on earth, and which are relatively unafraid of people.  

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Of all the animals on the Galapagos, the giant tortoises are perhaps the most famous.  These giants can live up to 150 years and can only be found in the Galapagos.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, whalers and sealers killed thousands of tortoises and now only about 15,000 remain.  However, breeding projects have been very successful in bringing many of the separate subspecies back from near extinction.  Other reptiles include marine turtles, which can be seen during their mating season in the later part of the year in secluded lagoons, and both marine and land iguanas, which are often seen basking on lava rock shores.

There are 58 resident bird species on the Galapagos, nearly half of which are endemic (don’t breed anywhere else in the world).  Among these are waved albatross, pelicans, flamingos, flightless cormorants, blue footed, red footed, and masked boobies and Galapagos’ penguins, the most northerly penguins in the world. 

The Galapagos Islands are also home to two types of seals, the sea lion, a subspecies of the California sea lion, and the Galapagos fur seal.  Sea lions are spotted very frequently along rocky beaches and shores and often amuse visitors with their above and underwater antics.  Fur seals are shyer and are less commonly seen.  The majority live in the northern and western parts of the archipelago.  There are also seven species of whales, the finback, humpback, sei, killer, pilot, minke and sperm whales.  Bottle-nosed dolphins are often spotted surfing the bow waves of boats.  At night, these dolphins cause the ocean to glow when they stir up thousands of tiny phosphorescent creatures, which glow when disturbed.  Also sometimes seen are the common and spinner dolphins.

The fish of Galapagos are equally intriguing.  There are 307 species of fish around the islands and it is expected that more will be discovered.  Several species of shark are also often spotted, including hammerheads and the white-tipped reef shark.  Other underwater creatures include several species of ray, colorful crabs, sea urchins, anemones, starfish and coral.

The Galapagos also have a rich diversity of plant life.  In the highlands bromeliads, orchids and the endemic Scalesia or tree daisy can be found, while along the coasts giant prickly pears, and incredible candelabra cacti thrive.  The islands also have several endemic species such as their own cotton, tomato, pepper, guava and passionflower plants.


Environment Current environmental issues: deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution; pollution from oil production wastes in ecologically sensitive areas of the Amazon Basin and Galapagos Islands.

For a more detailed discussion of the Environmental Issues Faced by Ecuador, read the article by Washington College.  The article identifies problems such as: Effects of shrimp farming on mangroves, Effects of oil prospecting/drilling on rain forest, Effects of farming/deforestation, Effects of sheep ranching, effects of Introduced species on the Galápagos.

Ecuador is party to International environmental agreements such as the Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, and Wetlands.

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 Kim and Don Greene, Contributors; publication date September 1, 2006