Ecuador is a multifaceted country with its backbone the Andes Cordillera running through Quito, the capital. The highlands of the country are the lands of the Quechua Indians, a people of ancestral traditions and famously colourful costume. Another common aspect with its Latin American neighbours, Colombia in the north and Peru in the south, is the Pacific Ocean coastline, made of grey sand beaches and staggering high cliffs. And to the east, the seemingly neverending Amazonian rainforest. Offshore are the Galapagos Islands, a haven for plants and animals, one that is paradise for flora and fauna researchers who come from all around the world.
+ The great variety and richness of the tourist sites.
+ The omnipresence of nature.
+ The complete change of scenery.
- The tourist infrastructure can be underdeveloped which can make the trip long and tiring.
As a general rule, bring cotton clothing and, for hikes in the Sierra, opt for sturdy walking shoes. If you will be at altitude, it is imperative you bring warm layers such as a jumper and all-weather jacket. If you are attracted by Amazonia, come well prepared as those trips can be very tiring. To visit the forest or climb volcano summits, you must be accompanied by an official guide or agency worker, so that you respect the nature and avoid any adverse circumstances. Make sure his or her certificates are valid and if not, find a guide that is officially accredited.
The activity of the Guagua Pichincha Volcano (very close to Quito and on orange level alert since October 1998) has been very quiet since May 2001, however it remains in an eruptive phase.
Since the new activity of the Tungurahua Volcano, located 84 miles south of Quito, the Ecuadorian government declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Tungurahua and Chimborazo in July 2003. It is, until further notice, not recommended to travel to those two Ecuadorian provinces.
An eruption on 3 November 2003 of the Reventador Volcano, (100 miles northeast of Quito) projected a toxic cloud of ash which was carried by the winds to cover Quito and its surrounding region. The activity of this volcano remains unpredictable.
Before travelling to these parts of the country you should make enquiries by contacting the Foreign Office, your travel agency or tour operator.
The Roman Catholic religion is very much established here. During religious events, all economic activities may even stop for a few days. The country officially uses the metric system, but various products are sold according to the imperial system. For your information: 1 gallon of US petrol = 3.78 litres.
Ceviche is the local specialty, made of fish or seafood and marinated in lime juice it is often served with sweetcorn. There is also macerated pork meat and muchines (yuca and cheese nuggets). You should not miss trying the coco milk fish and the various empanadas (beef, chicken or vegetable stuffed pastries). Ecuadorian people love beer but you should also taste the local aguardiente, a spirit made from sugar cane.
The rich tradition of Ecuadorian crafts can be found at any town and village market of the Andes Cordillera. There are carpets, ponchos, scarves and colourful woollen clothes. On Saturdays, spend some time in Otavalo, north of Quito, which is home to the most lively market in Ecuador, Panama; here you'll find hats, leather goods, jewellery and pottery all sold at reasonable prices. Further to the south, you will find a concentration of diverse craft shops in Cuenca and not far from there, the village of Chordeleg is renowned for its goldsmiths. You can haggle but don't push it too far. Shops are open from Monday to Saturday, 9:00am - 12:30pm and 3:00pm - 7:00pm.