40 Interesting Facts About Ecuador, Ancient and Modern

interesting facts about Ecuador

In this article, we introduce you to 35 interesting facts about Ecuador. Let’s dive in!

Ecuador is a land of extraordinary diversity and natural beauty. Ecuador’s landscapes are as diverse as its rich cultural heritage, from the stunning Andes Mountains to the lush Amazon rainforest and the enchanting Galapagos Islands. 

Ecuador Facts At-a-Glance

Location: Western South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Peru.
Population: 17.4 million (estimated 2023).
Capital City: Quito.
Area: 283,561 sq km.
Official Languages: Spanish; Quechua and Shuar are official languages of intercultural relations.
Predominant Religion: Roman Catholic.
Climate: Tropical along the coast and in the Amazonian jungle lowlands, cooler in the highlands.
(Source: The World Factbook)

General Facts About Ecuador

map of Ecuador
Map of Ecuador.

1. Ecuador is located on the west coast of South America. It is bordered by Colombia to the north, Peru to the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

2. Ecuador is segmented into four distinct geographical regions:

  • The coastal area is known as La Costa
  • The mountainous highlands referred to as La Sierra
  • The eastern rainforests, also called La Amazonía or El Orient
  • The Galápagos Islands constitute the Insular Region.

3. Ecuador is named after the equator, which runs through the country. Visitors to Ecuador have the chance to stand in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres at the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) monument.

4. Spanish is the official language of Ecuador, with more than 14 million speakers. That’s over 90% of the population. Indigenous languages such as Quechua and Shuar are also spoken in various regions, and English is spoken in most major cities too.

5. In 1830, Ecuador emerged as one of the three nations formed from the disintegration of Gran Colombia. Following its liberation from Spanish colonial rule as part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, Gran Colombia existed briefly as a republic from 1819 to 1830.

6. Ecuador is home to a diverse population, with mestizos (mixed indigenous and European ancestry) being the largest ethnic group, followed by indigenous peoples and Afro-Ecuadorians.

7. The main religion in Ecuador is Christianity. Approximately 80% of the population identify as Roman Catholics. There are also minority religions in the country, and roughly 7% of the population doesn’t follow religion. 

8. Most of Ecuador’s landscape is covered in rainforest. In fact, more than 13 million hectares of Ecuador is rainforest. That’s an area larger than Greece! However, despite this figure, more than 64% of the population lives in urban areas like Guayaquil.

9. Ecuador is famous for its wildlife. Despite its small size, Ecuador holds the title for the highest level of biodiversity per square kilometer worldwide. The Galápagos Islands, located off the coast, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a hub of unique flora and fauna.

coastal view of the Galapagos Islands
Beautiful coastal view of the Galapagos Islands.

10. The Galapagos Islands host a unique array of wildlife, including the only penguins found north of the equator, known as the Galapagos penguins. These birds have adapted to the tropical climate thanks to the cool waters brought by ocean currents.

11. Marine iguanas, found exclusively in the Galapagos, are the only lizards that can swim in the ocean. These iguanas have adapted to their environment by feeding on underwater algae and can expel excess salt from their bodies through specialized glands.

12. The diverse ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands served as a living laboratory for Charles Darwin, which greatly influenced his formulation of the theory of evolution. The variation in species from island to island, such as the finches and tortoises, provided key insights into how species adapt to their environment.

Basilica del Voto Nacional in Quito, Ecuador
Basilica del Voto Nacional in Quito, Ecuador.

13. Aside from its impressive wildlife, Ecuador is also best known for its bustling cities (Quito, Cuenca, Guayaquil), rich history, and ancient monuments. Ingapirca in Ecuador’s Cañar province is one of South America’s greatest surviving Incan ruins. 

14. Mount Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador, stands as the point on Earth’s surface most distant from the center due to the planet’s equatorial bulge, making it the point nearest to the sun.

Interesting Facts About Ancient Ecuador

15. Ecuador was once home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world. The earliest remains of the Valdivia culture found in Ecuador reveal they inhabited the country as early as 3500 BC. 

16. Humans have inhabited Ecuador for more than 8,000 years. Indigenous tribes inhabited the nation for more than a millennia before the Incan invasion. During the 15th Century, the Inca took control throughout Ecuador, and the country became part of the Inca empire. The charge was led by the infamous Incan leader Pachacuti.

17. The Chavín civilization, which thrived around 1500 to 300 BCE, is famous for its impressive stone architecture. This included the Chavín de Huántar complex, and its religious iconography, particularly the “Lanzón,” which is a towering stone sculpture.

18. The practice of creating shrunken heads – tsantsa – was once carried out by some indigenous tribes in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador, including the Jivaroan peoples. A shrunken head is a severed and intricately prepared human head that has been decreased in size. Tribes would use these heads for trophies, trade, and rituals.

19. It wasn’t uncommon for the Incas to sacrifice children. In an act known as capacocha, children from both sexes would be chosen from across the Incan empire and sacrificed. These ceremonies took place to prevent natural disasters and when a leader was crowned.

20. The Inca civilization practiced artificial mummification to honor their ancestors. The most important mummies, including emperors, were treated as living beings. They would be draped in textiles and jewelry and served food.

Ingapirca Inca Ruins in Azuay Ecuador
Ingapirca Inca Ruins in Azuay Ecuador.

21. The ancient Ecuadorians had a profound understanding of astronomy. Sites like Ingapirca and Cochasquí feature structures aligned with astronomical events, suggesting sophisticated knowledge of celestial movements.

22. Incan women didn’t paint their faces, but men did. In particular, warriors and priests would paint their arms, faces, and legs in colorful paint to indicate their status.

23. Incan men wore a type of dress called a tunic. The tunic would reach to just above the knees. Incan women wore ankle-length skirts that usually featured a braided waistband. 

24. The ancient Ecuadorians crafted intricate ornaments and clothing adorned with brightly colored bird feathers. Attire would change from region to region, and clothes would be designed to display specific cultures and beliefs. 

Inca face
Colorful Inca visage: A vibrant slice of Ecuador’s rich indigenous legacy.

25. Many ancient Ecuadorian cultures practiced extreme body modification, including facial tattoos, scarification, and lip piercing. These modifications held cultural and aesthetic significance.

26. Archaeologists have found evidence of dental surgery in ancient Ecuador. Individuals had their teeth modified or filed down, possibly for aesthetic or ritual reasons.

27. The practice of cranial deformation was common among ancient Ecuadorian cultures. The heads of infants were intentionally shaped into elongated or flattened forms. This practice was a mark of social status and identity.

28. The guinea pig, known as “cuy” in Ecuador, was a food source and had ritual significance in some ancient cultures. Guinea pigs were used in divination ceremonies and sacrificial rituals.

29. Some indigenous tribes in the Amazon rainforest, like the Shuar, practiced hallucinogenic mushroom ceremonies. They performed the ceremonies for spiritual and medicinal purposes, often leading to intense visionary experiences.

30. The earliest evidence of ingredients used to make chocolate was found in Ecuador. The earliest traces of cacao were found in pottery used by the Mayo-Chinchipe peoples 5,300 years ago.

Interesting Facts About Modern Ecuador

31. The official currency in Ecuador is the United States Dollar. Ecuador switched its currency to the US dollar from the old Ecuadorian Sucre in 2000.

32. Ecuador’s capital city is Quito, the second-highest capital city in the world. It is located at an altitude of about 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) above sea level. La Paz in Bolivia is the highest capital in the world at a height of 3,650 meters (11,975 feet). 

33. In Quito, the last digit of a car’s license plate determines which day of the week the car is not allowed to be on the road. This traffic control system is called “Pico y Placa” and is aimed at reducing congestion.

Zero latitude sign at Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador
Zero latitude sign at Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador.

34. Near the city of Quito, there’s a well-known monument named Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), which denotes the location of the equator.

35. Ecuador has been ranked 7th for cocoa production. Ecuador produces more than 205,000 metric tons of cocoa annually between Peru and Brazil. 

36. Ecuador has been ranked 5th for banana production and is the largest banana exporter worldwide. More than 6.5 million tons of bananas are produced in the country annually. 

37. Ecuador holds the record for the most species of hummingbirds. There are more than 132 different species of hummingbirds found in the country. That’s more than 40% of all hummingbird species. 

38. Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize the rights of nature. The Constitution gives nature the right to grow and flourish. It also allows humans to protest and petition on nature’s behalf. 

39. Mount Chimborazo in the Ecuadorian Andes is the closest place on Earth to space. The inactive volcano isn’t as tall as Mount Everest, but, because the Earth is a squashed sphere, the peaks around the Equator get a few extra kilometers. 

40. A particularly fun fact about Ecuador: the Panama hat comes from Ecuador. Artisans along the coast crafted straw hats to shield the Panama Canal workers from the intense sun. These hats remained popular with laborers and visitors long after the canal’s completion.

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