The Andean Cities
The Pan-American Highway, which runs through the major Andean cities, traverses the country from north to south. Tulcán is the northernmost of these cities and the center of a rich agricultural region. Further south is the town of Chota, whose residents are mostly descendants of African slaves. The summit of Mount Imbabura points the way to the Otavalo Valley and the town of the same name. The international indigenous market, where you can buy traditional textiles and handicrafts, is well-known throughout the country. 30 km north of Quito stands the granite obelisk that marks the equator. The city of Cuenca further southwas founded in 1577 on the ruins of the Inca city of Tomebamba. The old town, which mainly consists of colonial buildings, is very well preserved. The recently completed huge Nueva Catedral forms an attractive contrast to this. In the vicinity of Cuenca are interesting provincial towns as well as the fortress of Ingapirca, an Inca ruin. In the southern mountains you drive through Loja, the last major city on the Pan American Highway. It used to be a trading post on the Spanish “Gold Route”.
- Andyeducation: Introduction to education system in Ecuador, including compulsory schooling and higher education.
Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city, main port and commercial center. A popular starting point for walking tours is the Rotonda, the city’s major historical landmark that overlooks the beautiful garden promenade of Paseo de las Colonias. On the other side of the Malecón are the Government Palace and the City Hall. To the north you can see the old fortress of La Planchada. We also recommend a visit to the Church of Santo Domingo, the recently renovated historic residential area of Las Peñas and the Civic Museum.
The north-east, also called Oriente, consists mostly of jungle with exotic flora and fauna. The main cities are Puyo, Tena, Macas, Lago Agrio, Sucúa and Zamora. Baños is a popular destination to visit; the name comes from the countless hot and cold mineral springs and lakes. From here you can reach the Amazon through the impressive gorge of the Río Pastaza. North of Baños you can climb Cotopaxi, which at 5897 m is the highest active volcano on earth. The highest mountain in the country is Chimborazo (6310 m). All high mountains provide accommodation for visitors at the snow line. In the southwestern zone of the Amazon regionThere is a so-called hot spot in Ecuador – a demarcated area with the highest concentration of endemic species. There are only 25 hot spots worldwide, which together cover 1.4% of the earth’s surface. The Amazon itself does not flow through Ecuador, but all the rivers east of the Andes flow into it.
Quito (Internet: www.quito.gov.ec ) is one of the most beautiful capitals in South America. The Pichincha* volcano with its twin peaks Ruca and Guagua forms a spectacular backdrop. The colonial city center is adorned with old churches and restored houses in the steep, narrow streets. The Cathedral, the City Hall, the Episcopal Palace and the Government House are located in the Plaza Major, the focal point of the historical centre. The Central Bank is on Avenida 10 de Agosto, and the Casa de la Cultura Ecuadoriana is near Parque El Ejido. Spanish art treasures as well as sculptures from the so-called »Quito School« can be found in many of the famous town churches and monasteries. The San Francisco nunnery and the magnificent Jesuit church La Compañia are particularly attractive. A stroll through the city includes not only the famous museums of modern and colonial art, but also the Alameda Park, the Observatory and the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1979, Quito was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its abundance of art-historical sights.
The Galápagos Islands
The Galápagos Islands are about 1000 km west of mainland Ecuador. These rocky islands have been known as home to primeval animal and plant species since Charles Darwin’s scientific voyage in the 19th century. The islands have been protected since 1959, UNESCO declared the islands a natural monument in 1978 and they have been on the World Heritage List since 2007. Air travel to this destination will therefore be restricted.
Giant tortoises, lizards, iguanas and the wonderful underwater world are the biggest attractions for visitors. The Galápagos penguins are the most northerly living penguins in the world, able to survive even near the equator due to the cold Humboldt Current. Travel and accommodation can generally be arranged by the home country or by tour operators in Ecuador.