Ecuador straddles the Equator, its namesake, on the west coast of South America, almost 3,000 miles due South of Washington, DC The area is 283,520 square kilometers (114,785 square miles). It is roughly the size of Colorado and divided into 21 provinces. It is located on the northwest edge of South American, bordered on the north by Colombia, on the east and south by Peru, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. Two north-south ranges of the Andes cut the country into three distinct sections:
La Costa.- A belt of tropical lowlands 10-100 miles wide along the Pacific coast, with Guayaquil the major city.
La Sierra.- Or the Highlands. A highland plateau 300-10,000 feet high where Quito is located, and
El Oriente.- Or the jungle. Tropical rain forest east of the Andes which makes up half the country's area.
Off the Coast 640 miles are the Galapagos Islands belonging to Ecuador. The five larger and nine smaller islands are inhabited by some 2,400 people, plus the amazing variety of wildlife which Charles Darwin studied in 1836.
Language - Spanish is the official language, but Quecha, the language of the Incas, is still spoken by some Indians, constituting about one-third of the inhabitants. In the Oriente, several indigenous languages and dialects survive: some have no identifiable link with any recognized language families.
Climate - Although Ecuador is located in the heart of the tropics, it is altitude - not latitude - that determines its temperature. In Ecuador's varied climate, travelers feel quite pronounced differences in a few minutes' movement either up to the chilly heights or down to the coastal or Amazon jungles. The lowlands are generally hot and humid, but temperatures on the coast are moderated by the Humboldt current to a range of 65 F. - 90 F.
Religion - Most of the population is Roman Catholic, though Protestant missionaries have been active in the country since the turn of the century. Religious freedom is observed.
Altitude - Quito is approximately 9400 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains. Upon arrival, you may feel uncomfortable for several days while your body adjusts to the change.
Quito - It is the picturesque capital of Ecuador. The city was declared the Cultural Heritage of Mankind in 1978 by UNESCO. It is the cultural and political center of Ecuador. The city occupies a valley of about 10 miles long and 3 miles wide, extending along the foothills of Mt. Pichincha, which provides a high green backdrop for this Andean capital.