Despite fierce opposition, the conquering Incans soon held the region, due to strong leadership and policies of intermarriage. The war over the inheritance of the new Incan kingdom weakened and divided the region on the eve of the arrival of the Spanish invaders.
The first Spaniards landed in northern Ecuador in 1526. Pizarro reached the country in 1532 and spread terror among indigenous populations with his conquistadors’ horses, armory and weaponry. The famous Incan leader, Atahualpa, was ambushed, held for ransom, ‘tried’ and executed, and the Incan Empire was effectively demolished. Quito held out for two years, but was eventually razed by Atahualpa’s general, Rumiñahui, who preferred it to be destroyed rather than lost intact to the invading Spaniards. Quito was refounded in December 1534. Today, only one Incan site remains intact in Ecuador – Ingapirca, in the north of Cuenca. Although indigenous uprisings occurred, life was abysmal under the Spanish rule. Spain ruled the colony from Lima, Peru, until 1739, when it was transferred to the viceroyalty of Colombia. It was predominantly rural and conservative, with large estates of introduced cattle and bananas farmed by forced labor.
Full Name: Republic of Ecuador
Capital City: Quito
Time Zone: GMT/UTC -5
Electricity: 110-120V 60Hz
Currency: US Dollar (US$)
Country Dialing Code: 593
Population: 15,439,429 (July 2013 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29%, 15-64 years: 64.3%, 65 years and over: 6.7%
Population growth rate: 1.4%
Religions: Over 90% Roman Catholic, small minority of other Christian denominations
Geographic coordinates: 2 00 S, 77 30 W
Area: total: 283,560 sq km, land: 276,840 sq km, water: 6,720 sq km
Land boundaries: total: 2,010 km, border countries: Colombia 590 km, Peru 1,420 km
Coastline: 2,237 km
Climate: tropical along coast, becoming cooler inland at higher elevations; tropical in Amazonian jungle lowlands
Terrain: coastal plain (costa), inter-Andean central highlands (sierra), and flat to rolling eastern jungle (oriente)
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m, highest point: Chimborazo 6,310 m
Natural resources: petroleum, fish, timber, hydropower
Government type: Republic
Administrative divisions: 24 provinces (provincias, singular – provincia); Azuay, Bolivar, Canar, Carchi, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, El Oro, Esmeraldas, Galapagos, Guayas, Imbabura, Loja, Los Rios, Manabi, Morona-Santiago, Napo, Orellana, Pastaza, Pichincha, Santa Elena, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, Sucumbios, Tungurahua, Zamora-Chinchipe
Independence: 24 May 1822 (from Spain)
National holiday: Independence – 10 August (1809)
Overview: Ecuador has substantial petroleum resources, which have accounted for 40% of the country’s export earnings and one-fourth of central government budget revenues in recent years. Consequently, fluctuations in world market prices can have a substantial domestic impact. In the late 1990s, Ecuador suffered its worst economic crisis, with natural disasters and sharp declines in world petroleum prices driving Ecuador’s economy into free fall in 1999. Real GDP contracted by more than 6%, with poverty worsening significantly. The banking system also collapsed, and Ecuador defaulted on its external debt later that year. The currency depreciated by some 70% in 1999, and, on the brink of hyperinflation, the Mahaud government announced it would dollarize the economy. A coup, however, ousted Mahaud from office in January 2000, and after a short-lived junta failed to garner military support, Vice President Gustavo Noboa took over the presidency. In March 2000, Congress approved a series of structural reforms that also provided the framework for the adoption of the US dollar as legal tender. Dollarization stabilized the economy, and growth returned to its pre-crisis levels in the years that followed. Under the administration of Lucio Gutierrez – January 2003 to April 2005 – Ecuador benefited from higher world petroleum prices, and the new government under Alfredo Palacio has proposed economic reforms to reduce Ecuador’s vulnerability to petroleum price swings and financial crises. High oil prices have kept the current account in surplus. Palacio is committed to spending a part of the oil windfall on social projects.
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture 8%, industry 24%, services 68%
Unemployment rate: 5.3%
Population below poverty line: 25.6%
Inflation rate: 2%
Railways: 966 km
Roadways: total: 43,670 km, paved: 6,472 km, unpaved: 37,198 km
Below is a brief explanation of each of Ecuador’s main geographical regions as a Gulliver salesperson might describe them to a client. This is only meant to be a rough guide—learn what works for you.
Note: These are also listed in order of people’s general preference of what to do in Ecuador.
“Off the coast of Ecuador, you have the beautiful Galapagos Islands. As you know, these became famous thanks to Charles Darwin in the 1800’s. There are several options available for visiting the islands and if you are interested in hearing about those, I would be happy to share some ideas with you in a minute.”
“This upper section of the Avenue of the Volcanoes is spectacular. Within a few hours travel from Quito, you have over eight major volcanoes, including the most famous: Cotopaxi, which is the highest active, snow-capped volcano in the world. We own a beautiful hosteria one hour and twenty minutes south of Quito called PapaGayo, which is just outside the small town of Machachi. (Show on map.)
From this ideal location, there are several activities available, including biking tours of Cotopaxi, climbing tours of Pasachoa, Corazon, Ilinizas or Cotopaxi, as well as horseback riding from one day to multi-day trips. (Show on map while talking about all these different points.)
Also in the northern Andes, there are wonderful places to visit, such as Otavalo and the world-famous market there. Mindo, which is known for its bird and butterfly population makes either a fantastic day trip from Quito or a multi-day stop. Then, of course, there is Quito, which serves as a hub to other places, as well as a great place to sightsee for two or three days.”
“The major attractions of southern Ecuador are the Devil’s Nose Train from Riobamba to Alausi, the beautiful colonial city of Cuenca that is home to more cathedrals per capita than any other Ecuadorian city and further south Loja and Vilcabamba.
Just outside of Cuenca there is a nature reserve worth visiting, known as Parque Nacional Cajas. Cajas contains over 232 alpine lakes and many of them are filled with tasty lake trout. You can visit this park either on a day trip from Cuenca or on a multi-day trekking trip.”
“There are many different areas of the jungle. In fact, it is possible to travel just a few hours in one direction and be in a completely different ecological and geographical zone. Here at Gulliver, we work with two primary areas of the jungle.
In the north, there is the Cuyabeno Nature Reserve, which is made up of 8 major lagoons home to pink river dolphins, caimans, piranhas, monkeys, etc. This area represents what most people consider to be the typical “Amazonia” region of Ecuador.
A bit further south, and considerably closer to Quito, is a mountainous area of the jungle near Tena. This area boasts more rivers per square mile than anywhere else on Earth. In particular, the jungle around Tena is known for its incredible white-water rafting and jungle tour combinations. Although there are not the same types of animals in Tena as in Cuyabeno, there are still plenty of opportunities to see monkeys, parrots, etc.”
“By far the most popular areas of the coast are either Canoa, a small fishing village north of San Vincent—about 10 hours from Quito, or Montañita, a town with a more vibrant night-life and great surfing options. Both have soft, friendly beaches and attract many tourists and locals alike for their tranquilo atmospheres.”