Ecuador is a republic in northwestern South America, located between Colombia and Peru, that has about 15 million inhabitants. Named after its proximity to the Equator, this country is one of the smallest but also one of the most versatile countries of South America. The Galapagos Islands also belong to Ecuador and are located at 1000 km west of the coast in the Pacific. Snow-capped volcanoes, waterfalls in the Amazon jungle, the music of the Indians with their melon hats and diverse colonial cities: these are just a few examples of what Ecuador has to offer.
The Galapagos archipelago is located almost 1,000 km west of the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific. It comprises 13 islands that are larger than five square kilometers, six smaller islands and more than 40 mini-islands. The five large and inhabited islands are named Isla Isabella, Isla Santa Cruz, Isla San Cristobal, Isla Baltra and Isla Floreana. The Galapagos Islands are among the most active volcanoes in the world. In many ways they form a very special holiday destination. The islands are of volcanic origin which shaped the unique landscape of the islands. Visitors will find a unique flora and fauna that is largely unaffected. Moreover, the islands are particularly famous for their diverse and abundant wildlife. The Galapagos tortoises, after which the islands are named, are just one example of the amazing wildlife species that can be found on the islands among snakes, lizards, albatrosses and flamingos. But the slands are not only interesting for animal lovers but also for sporty travelers. Diving excursions are an unforgettable experience here; especially near the reefs of the small volcanic islands divers will find a rich variety of marine life.
Ecuador's capital city, built on the ruins of the former northern Inca capital, offers visitors not only a rich pre-Columbian history, but also leaves nothing to be desired for a modern traveler. It is one of the highest cities in the world located on an elevation of 2850m above sea level. The city has the least altered historic center in Latin America where you can find the major attractions including the monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo, and the Church and Jesuit College of La Compañía. UNESCO declared the historic city center of City a World Heritage Site in 1978. The huge city extends over a gorgeous valley surrounded by the Andes and volcanic peaks. Close to Quito you can find the Middle of the World Monument which divides the northern and the southern hemispheres. The monument has been built after a French expedition team defined the precise location of the equatorial line during the 17th century.
Avenue of the Volcanoes
Even though Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America, it has a high concentration of volcanoes. The Avenue of Volcanoes passes along eight of Ecuador's highest summits. The name "Avenue of the Volcanoes" was given to this part of the Ecuadorian Andes by the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt. As the site of Ecuador's most famous volcano, the Cotopaxi Volcano, the Cotopaxi National Park enchants its visitors with dreamlike views on the scenic mountainous landscape. Just a few people make it to the summit of Volcán Cotopaxi (5897 m), undoubtedly a great experience. Horse riding, cycling and hiking tours to the highlands lakes or nearby volcanic peaks are also possible.
Cuenca is the third biggest city of Ecuador and a real jewel of the South. The historic city center whose architecture incorporates Gothic, neo-Classical and Modernist styles, is characterized by its cobblestone paving of the narrow streets, the flowering plazas, the colorful buildings and beautiful ironwork balconies who give the centre its particular colonial appearance. Everywhere in the city you can find a diverse culture of art and handicraft; especially weaving is one of the main crafts in this part of Ecuador. Cuenca is famous to be the "city of the Panama hat"; Panama hat weaving has a long history in Cuenca. As odd as it may sound, more than 90% of the Panama hats all over the world have been produced in Cuenca.