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11 things you probably didn’t know about Ecuador

Secondary Categories: The Essentials

Ecuador is best known for the staggering Galapagos, the ‘home of evolution’. Although these islands are without doubt utterly incredible, there’s a whole lot more to this Andean nation than an archipelago 620 miles from the mainland.

Here are a few of the most astonishing facts...

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The volcanic crater lake at Quilotoa (Picture: Warren Talbot)
  1. Ecuador is the most biodiverse nation in the world, boasting more species per square mile than any other country. Ecuador has 1,600 bird species (15% of the global total) in the continental area and 38 more endemic species in the Galápagos. In addition to over 16,000 species of plants, the country has 106 endemic reptiles, 138 endemic amphibians, and 6,000 species of butterfly.

  2. Ecuador supplies more than 95 percent of the world’s balsa; the extremely buoyant wood used in architectural models, fishing crankbaits, and model airplanes. In recent years, about 60 percent of the balsa has been plantation grown in densely-packed patches of around 1000 trees per hectare – compared to about two to three per hectare in the wild. Interestingly the Spanish word for ‘raft’ is

    balsa

    .

  3. If you live in a cold country, the chances are pretty good that the banana you had for breakfast came from Ecuador. Ecuador isn’t the number one producer of bananas (that title goes to India) but it is the biggest banana exporter in the world, with 29% of the global market share.

  4. Ecuador, named after the Equator, is one of three countries formed in 1830 after the dissolution of Gran Colombia – the super-state which was the vision of the great independence fighter Simon Bolivar, after whom Bolivia is named. The other two were Venezuela and New Granada.

  5. Chimborazo, which at 20,560ft above sea level is the highest point in Ecuador, is also the point on the globe that is furthest the center of the Earth. This is due to the fact that the earth is an oblate spheroid (flattened at the poles, bulging at the Equator).

  6. Ecuador, with a total surface area of 109,484 sq mi is the smallest of the Andean nations. But it is also the most geographically diverse. Ecuador is divided into four regions. The Coast (a fertile banana-producing region with incredible beaches); The Sierra (the highlands, land of volcanoes, quinoa and the ancient Andean way of life); Amazonia (Ecuador’s slice of the world’s greatest rainforest) and the ‘Region Insular’, the home of the Galapagos Islands.

  7. Ecuador is one of only two South American nations which doesn’t share a border with Brazil. The other is Chile. (And Brazil, if you want to be pedantic.)

  8. With 30 volcanoes on the mainland and another 16 on the Galapagos Islands  Ecuador has one of the highest concentrations of volcanoes in the world. It’s not quite Indonesia or Japan, but it’s still pretty fiery. Check out this link for

    Ecuador's top 10 volcanic experiences

    .

  9. Ecuador’s new constitution which was passed in 2008 was the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable ‘Rights of Nature’, as described here in section 4.1: “To sustainably conserve and manage the natural heritage, including its land and marine biodiversity, which is considered a strategic sector.”

  10. The Panama hat is actually from Ecuador. Panama hats are woven hats made from toquilla straw plants. The hats are made in Ecuador but were shipped to Panama on the way to the United States. The label on the boxes often had the shipping point for the products (Panama), hence the name.

  11. Ecuador is home to the world’s first and second UNSECO World Heritage sites. The Galapagos Islands are at number one and the historic center of Quito comes a close second.

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Puerto Lopez is one of many seaside towns on Ecuador's mainland. (Picture: Jean-Francois Renaud)

Ecuador may be small, but it packs a ton of diversity into a tiny package, meaning that you don’t have to travel great distances to experience vast variety. We think it might just be the ultimate travel destination. And once you’ve been, we reckon you’ll agree.

Have we convinced you yet? Speak to a Destination Expert about curating a tailor made Ecuador itinerary just for you, or check out our most popular Galapagos & Ecuador tours here.

Thanks to Andreas Kay for the main picture for this post.

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