Ecuador is a country made up of three distinct regions, each with their own opportunities to discover. There is the coastal region, which also includes the Galapagos Islands, the highlands with the Andes mountains and all of the volcanoes, and the Amazon with the largest variety of plants and animals of any country. We did not visit the coastal region or the Galapagos Islands on this trip, but instead focused our time on the highlands and the Amazon.
One thing was immediately clear upon our arrival in Ecuador, it is a country that is embracing eco-tourism. Although the country is still heavily dependent on the revenue from oil, there is a conscious effort to embrace tourism as the future of the country. Changing the currency to the US dollar in 2000 has also made it easy for visitors from the States to travel to Ecuador. Spanish is the official language of Ecuador, but there are still many indigenous people who speak Quechua, and English is commonly spoken.
Our time in the highlands was highlighted by visiting three of the many volcanoes, both active and non-active, that exist in Ecuador. One of the most famous is Cotopaxi, which has been active since 2015, although fortunately it has only spewed ash and steam and not lava. The snow covered volcano peaks can be seen on clear days from the capital city of Quito and are a constant reminder to the volatility of the forces that have formed the landscape of Ecuador.
Ecuador gets its name from the equator line, which runs through the country. Visiting the equator actually involves seeing two separate sites. There is the equator monument, commonly referred to as the historical equator as it was originally calculated as the center of the world in 1736, but was later proven to be wrong. With the use of GPS, scientists were able to calculate the true equator, which is actually slightly north of the monument that people often visit. Going to both equator sites is worthwhile as it is interesting to learn about the history of the equator and how indigenous people were able to calculate the center of the world thousands of years ago even closer than more modern scientists.
The Yasuni National Park in Ecuador is considered to be the most biodiverse location on the earth with all of the varieties of birds, amphibians, insects, plants, and trees. It is run by a group of indigenous natives and even has two tribes inside of the park that have no contact with the outside world. Despite the reliance upon oil, Ecuador is trying to balance the need for drilling with the desire to protect their natural resources. Spending time in the park is something that was truly special and we will treasure forever.
Ecuador is a wonderful country and we enjoyed the time that we spent in the country. We didn’t have enough time on this trip to visit the Galapagos Islands, so we will definitely return sometime in the future to go to the coastal regions. Considering the variety of things to see and do in Ecuador, it is definitely a country that deserves to be visited.