With a population of about 18 million inhabitants, the country is divided from north to south by the volcanic section of the Andes Mountains. Ecuador is the ninth country in the world in terms of biodiversity, and also one of the few places where you can have one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere at the same time, as well as taking a stroll around the capital city at the highest altitude on the planet, the monumental Quito.
Situated in the heart of South America, Ecuador is a country that enjoys 12 hours of daylight throughout the year round thanks to its geographical location. It’s a country with a variety of environments and distinct spaces. From colonial villages with all the charm of European culture to the Andean peaks and all the authenticity of the Ecuadorian natives, passing through the lush nature of the Amazon forests that lead to a truly magical place with a spectacular ecosystem, the Galapagos Islands.
The real top of the world is in Ecuador, the point with the greatest distance from the centre of the earth is Mount Chimborazo, outstripping Everest by 2.5 kilometres. This is because the Earth gets wider in the equator area.
Ecuador is the only country in the world that owes its name to a geographical feature. Its name comes from the equator, the imaginary line crossing it that divided the earth into two hemispheres.
The first two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world are also found in Ecuador. Back in 1978 during the inaugural conference of the organisation, Quito, the country’s capital and the Galapagos Islands were both named World Heritage Sites.
The US dollar is the official currency since 200, and Ecuador is the world’s largest banana exporter. The official language is Spanish, although there are also 13 officially recognised indigenous languages that are spoken regularly in different parts of the country. And the national tree is the cinchona tree that yields quinine, which is used to prevent and treat malaria
Quito is the political, cultural and financial focal point of the Republic of Ecuador, and home to the central governmental, administrative and cultural institutions, as well as the stock exchange. It’s located in the province of Guayaquil and is the second most populous city in the country with close to 3 million people living in the centre and a further 3 million in the metropolitan area.
It’s also the highest official capital in the world, standing at 2850m above sea level (La Paz, in Bolivia, is higher but it’s not a constitutional capital). Another curious titbit is the fact that water boils at 90º because of the altitude instead of the standard 100º in the rest of the world.
Another big attraction in the city is the Panecillo hilltop with its gigantic statue of the Virgin of Quito, which was officially opened to the public in 1976, and offers one of the city’s most impressive vantage points.
After being chosen as the American Capital of Culture in 2011, the city chose the so-called “7 Wonders of Quito”, coinciding with the main tourist attractions in the city: Plaza de San Francisco, the Voto Nacional Basilica, Plaza Grande, Chimbacalle Station, the Compañia de Jesús Church, the Virgen del Quinche Sanctuary and the previously mentioned Winged Virgin of Quito.
The TelefériQo (gondola lift) with Quito’s q is also noteworthy as you can go up to the top of Cruz de Loma, more than 4000m above sea level on the eastern side of the Pichincha Volcano. It’s a beautiful place to enjoy the nature of the Andean paramo ecosystem. But be careful, some people suffer from altitude sickness, so it’s advisable to acclimatise your body beforehand to avoid this unpleasant condition.
Almost 25km north of Quito we find one of the country’s leading tourist spots, Ciudad Mitad del Mundo. A cultural and scientific park where the line that divides the earth’s two hemispheres passes through, and you can walk on both hemispheres at the same time.