Top Ten Ecuadoran Attractions

Top Ten Ecuadoran Attractions

       Ecuador is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. The country also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 km (620 mi) west of the mainland. Ecuador straddles the equator, from which it takes its name, and has an area of 272,046 square km (109,483 sq mi). Its capital city is Quito, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the 1970’s for having the best preserved and least altered historic center in Latin America. The country’s largest city is Guayaquil. The historic center of Cuenca, the 3rd largest city in the country, was also declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, for being an outstanding example of a planned inland Spanish style colonial city in the Americas. Ecuador is also home, despite its size, to a great variety of species, many of them endemic, like those of the Galápagos Islands. This species diversity makes Ecuador one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world. The new constitution of 2008 is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights. Ecuador is a presidential republic and became independent in 1830, after having been part of the Spanish colonial empire and the republic of Gran Colombia.

  1. Historic Centre of San Francisco de Quito

           San Francisco de Quito, most often called Quito, is the capital city of Ecuador in northwestern South America. It is located in north-central Ecuador in the Guayllabamba river basin, on the eastern slopes of Pichincha, an active stratovolcano in the Andes mountains. With a population of  approximately 2,504,991 in 2005, Quito is the second most populous city in Ecuador, after Guayaquil. It is also the capital of the Pichincha province and the seat of Metropolitan District of Quito. In 2008, the city was designated as the headquarters of the Union of South American Nations. The elevation of the city’s central square (Plaza de La Independencia) is 2,800 m (9,200 ft), making Quito the 2nd highest administrative capital city in the world after La Paz, Bolivia, and the highest legal capital (ahead of Sucre, also in Bolivia, and Bogotá, Colombia). The central square of Quito is located about 25 kilometers (16 mi) south of the equator; the city itself extends to within about 1 kilometer (0.62 mi) of zero latitude. A monument and museum marking the general location of the equator is known locally as la mitad del mundo (the middle of the world), to avoid confusion, as the word ecuador is Spanish for equator.
    Links: Cities, Top Ten South American Cities,,
  2. Galápagos Islands National Park

           The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, 972 km (525 mi) west of continental Ecuador. The Galapagos Islands and its surrounding waters form an Ecuadorian province, a national park, and a biological marine reserve. The islands are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. The first crude navigation chart of the islands was done by the buccaneer Ambrose Cowley in 1684. He named the individual islands after some of his fellow pirates or after the English noblemen who helped the privateer’s cause. More recently, the Ecuadorian government gave most of the islands Spanish names. While the Spanish names are official, many users (especially ecological researchers) continue to use the older English names, particularly as those were the names used when Charles Darwin visited.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks, Top Ten Islands,,
  3. Historic Centre of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca

           Cuenca is the 3rd largest city in Ecuador by population, which totals 467,000. It is the capital of the Azuay Province and is located in the highlands of Ecuador at about 2500 m above sea level.
    Links: Cities, Top Ten South American Cities,,
  4. Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands
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    Santa Cruz Island is one of the Galápagos Islands with an area of 986 square km (381 square mi) and a maximum altitude of 864 m (2,835 ft.). Situated in the center of the archipelago, Santa Cruz is the 2nd largest island after Isabela. Its capital is Puerto Ayora, the most populated urban center in the islands. On Santa Cruz there are some small villages, whose inhabitants work in agriculture and raising cattle. This island is a large dormant volcano. It is estimated that the last eruptions occurred around a million and a half years ago. As a testimony to its volcanic history there are two big holes formed by the collapse of a magma chamber: Los Gemelos, or “The Twins.” Named after the Holy Cross, its English name (Indefatigable) was given after a British vessel HMS Indefatigable. Santa Cruz hosts the largest human population in the archipelago at the town of Puerto Ayora.
    Links: Islands, Top Ten Islands, Top Ten Lizards, Top Ten Volcanoes,,
  5. Sangay National Park

           Sangay National Park is a national park located in the Morona Santiago, Chimborazo and Tungurahua provinces of Ecuador. The park contains two active volcanoes (Tungurahua and Sangay) and ecosystems ranging from tropical rainforests to glaciers. The National Park is an important refuge for rare species of the Andes, like mountain tapirs and spectacled bears. Typical species of the alpine and subalpine areas are mountain tapirs, pumas and Andean foxes. In the forests below live spectacled bears, giant otters, jaguars, ozelots, margays, Brazilian tapirs, white-tailed deer, little red brocket deer and Northern Pudus. About 300-400 bird species also inhabit the Park
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks, Top 100 Flowers, Top Ten Cats, Top 100 Birds,,
  6. Links: Top Ten South American Attractions, Top Ten Ecuadoran Hotels, Top Ten Ecuadoran Restaurants,,

Recommendations for Excursions in Ecuador