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CONCLUDED 1 AUGUST 2015
NEXT ROVING RACE IN SRI LANKA (Starts on 14 Feb 2016)

Location & Culture

Ecuador, the smallest of the Andean countries celebrated for its spectacular diversity - from impressive landscapes, fascinating creatures and wildlife, to its captivating people and folklore.Named after the equator which unequally divides the country, placing most of its land in the Southern Hemisphere, Ecuador is one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet.Whether you want to explore snow-caped mountains and rugged coastlines, or ancient Incan civilization and Spanish colonial influence, the options are limitless.The four distinct regions of Ecuador, La Costa, La Sierra, El Oriente and the Galápagos Islands, offer unique experiences with the capital Quito, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

LOCATION
Ecuador is located along the northwest coast of South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean on the West, and sandwiched in between Colombia at the north and Peru at the south and east.Quito, the capital less than 15 miles from the equator, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being the best preserved and least altered historic center in Latin America.The narrow cobble-stoned streets of Quito, the beautifully restored facades and the picturesque plazas personify the strong influence of colonial Moorish and Spanish culture.Indigenous culture and colonial influence come together in an eclectic mix which offers a feast for the eyes and the stomach alike.Quito is considered Ecuador’s culinary capital, where you can enjoy the local favorite seco di chivo (braised goat stew) served with yellow rice and patacones (plantain fritters).For those who are slightly more adventurous, the option of cuy asado (roasted guinea pig) an indigenous specialty dating back to Inca times is also available in a few of the restaurants.

 

Ecuador is known for its diversity – it holds a wide range of landscapes, from the desert-like southern coast, to the snowcapped peaks of the Andes mountain range, to the green jungles with thousands of species of flora and fauna in the Amazon Basin.From colourful markets, to century old monasteries, endemic animals and insects, spectacular coast lines and breath-taking mountains, there is something for everyone.The Parque Nacional Yasuni offers exciting canoe rides through un-spoilt rainforests.The opportunity to watch hump-back whales off the shores of Isla de la Plata is awe-inspiring natural power at its best. The mountains will amaze and humble with the opportunity to sit back and watch, or conquer.Standing at 5,790 meters / 18,996 feet, Volcán Cayambe is Ecuador’s third highest peak and the highest part of the equator anywhere in the world which can be climbed or viewed from Cayambe itself, offering magnificent sights of its snow-capped peaks.

 

CLIMATE AND LANDSCAPE
Ecuador is divided into four distinct regions which include the coastal plains, La Costa, La Sierra with mountainous Andean peaks situated in the central highlands, El Oriente's flat to rolling eastern jungle which is home to many of the country’s indigenous people and the insular region which is home to the famous Galapagos Islands approximately 1000 kilometers / 620 miles of the coast.Cotopaxi is one of the world's highest active volcanos standing at 5,897 meters / 19,347 feet and Chimborazo, an extinct volcano at 6,267 meters / 20,561 feet, is the furthest point from earth’s center.

Given the unique and diverse landscape of Ecuador, the climate varies greatly. Ecuador is home to nine different climates.This is due to the large difference in altitudes throughout the country; one dry, three tropical (wet, monsoon and savanna), three meso-thermic (wet, semi-wet and dry) and the "paramo" (alpine tundra). The ninth climate is that of the Galápagos Islands.

In the Sierra, there is little variation by day or by season, with changes occurring as you climb or descend instead. The coastal and Amazonian lowlands have a wet equatorial climate, but the higher you climb the colder it gets.

Rainfall is primarily affected by proximity to the eastern or western slopes of the Andes: in the west, June to September are drier with October to May typically wetter; in the east the opposite is true with October to February drier and March to September much wetter. There is also a variation in the amount of rainfall as you journey north to south, with the southern highlands much drier than the landscapes in the north.

The coast can be enjoyed all year round, although it is cooler between June and November, when a sea mist known as garua sets in. The Galápagos Islands are also affected by garua between May and December; January to April are the hottest months, with heavy but brief rainfall also possible. In the Oriente you can be affected by rainfall at any time, but it is wettest from March to September.

 

FLORA AND FAUNA
Ecuador is considered one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet, ranking in the top 17 countries of being mega diverse, harboring the majority of the Earth's species.The country has more than 25,000 plant species, which make up to 10% of all of the planet’s plant species. Of this total, the largest number is found in the Andes Mountains, in the northwest region, where approximately 10,000 species are estimated to be situated.

Ecuador is home to 1,600 types or 18 percent of the planet’s bird species some of which include eagles, hawks, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, macaws, parrots, guans and toucans. The country also holds more species of mammals and amphibians per square metre than any other country on Earth and has 8 percent of the planet’s animal species. You will find over 350 documented species of mammals, including jaguars, the endangered giant otter, white bellied spider monkey and the three-toed sloth which live in the trees.Reptiles and amphibians are mostly frogs and toads but there are also caimans, snakes and turtles.

 

THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
The Galapagos Islands consist of 7,880 square kilometers / 3,040 square miles of land spread over 50,000 square kilometers / 19,305 square miles of land.This inimitable formation of islands and surrounding marine reserves, have been called a unique 'living museum and showcase of evolution'. The three ocean currents, ongoing seismic and volcanic activity, combined with the remote location of the islands have resulted in the development of several distinctive animals. These include the land iguana, giant tortoise and the many types of finch – which inspired Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, published in 1859.A Galapagos tortoise can weigh up to 270 kilograms / 595 pounds with a length of 1.2 meters / 4 feet and will outlive most humans.The Galápagos Marine Iguana is the only marine lizard to exist in the world.

 

CULTURE, FOLKLORE AND PEOPLE
What makes the people and culture of Ecuador unique is the combination of ethnicities and backgrounds brought together - there is the Indigenous population, the Spanish colonial influence, the strong Afro-Ecuadorian population who are famous for their Marimba music.Music in Ecuador is the link which binds the generations, starting from the before the rise of the Incan civilization, the Andean people were using instruments as discovered by archeologists in tombs.

Ecuador's ethnically diverse population just over 15.5 million consists of a combination of mestizo (person of combined European and Amerindians descent), Amerindians, Euro-Americans, and Afro-Ecuadorians.Further, Ecuador's Amerindians are divided into 12 distinct indigenous nationalities.The main nationalities of Indigenous include Quechua, Achuar, Shuar, and Huaorani with the majority living in La Sierra and El Oriente with La Sierra being the heartland of Ecuador's Indigenous culture.Ninety-three percent of the population speak Spanish, the official language of Ecuador, while the remaining speak a combination of indigenous languages, mainly Quechua.The Quechua are considered direct descendants of the Inca people, who were the original inhabitants of Ecuador for a century before the arrival of the Spanish. The majority of the population follows Catholicism, in addition Indigenous Ecuadorians, have blended Catholicism and their traditional beliefs. An interesting example is the close association of Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) and the Virgin Mary.

Enchanting folklore in Ecuador is strong part of culture and has influenced festivals as well as legends and cultural beliefs.More importantly it is in place to make sure children stay well-behaved and generally enforce strong moral and values throughout the country.The Enchanted Stone legend tells of a great stone which prevented access to a certain part of a city, had the power to grant any wish and had the memory of everything stored inside.Its strongest power was to punish disobedient children and with the legend of the Enchanted Stone, parents were able to keep children away from this particular spot which was a place where lovers would meet.

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