Surface area : 98985.0 km2
Population : 13625000 inhabitants
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.
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 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.
Hiking: 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.
Volcano activity: 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. 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 leaving: make enquiries by contacting the Foreign Office, your travel agency or tour operator.
The Foreign Commonwealth Office has updated alerts for Ecuador warning of the Ziki virus, which can be dangerous to pregnant women. It is important to follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and seek the advice of a healthcare professional before planning your trip, just in case.