Ecuador, officially the Republic of Ecuador, is a country in northwestern South America. With its astounding biodiversity, sandy beaches, snow-capped volcanoes, impressive historical legacy, stunning colonial architecture, and diverse mix of people, Ecuador is regarded as a microcosm of South America. Here are some interesting facts about Ecuador.
Facts about Ecuador
1. Ecuador is the fourth smallest country in South America.
Ecuador has a total area of 283,561 km² (109,484 sq mi). It is the ninth largest country in South America, only Guyana, Uruguay, and Suriname are smaller. Comparatively, it is slightly smaller in size than the US state of Nevada.
2. Ecuador is the only country in the world officially named after a geographical feature.
Ecuador gets its name from the Spanish word for “equator”, the imaginary line around the Earth that splits the country in two. Most of the country is in the Southern Hemisphere.
3. Ecuador is the most densely populated country in South America.
With a population of around 18 million, Ecuador is the most densely populated country in South America with a population density of 61/km² (158.0/sq mi).
4. Ecuador shares a land border with two countries.
Ecuador is bordered by Colombia (708 km/440 mi) on the north and Peru (1,529 km/950 mi) on the east and south. Ecuador is also one of only two countries in South America (the other is Chile) that does not share a border with Brazil.
5. Ecuador is home to the highest point on the Earth’s surface from the Earth’s center.
One of the most interesting facts about Ecuador is that the country is home to the highest point on the planet farthest from its center, not China or Nepal which are home to Mount Everest.
The earth is an oblate spheroid (squashed sphere not a round one), and peaks close to the Equator get an extra few kilometres due to the centrifugal force generated by the planet’s constant rotation. Thus, the highest point above Earth’s center is the peak of Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo, located just one degree south of the Equator where the earth’s bulge is greatest.
Mount Chimborazo, is Ecuador’s tallest peak rising to an elevation of 6,268 m (20,564 ft). Because of the equatorial bulge of the earth, the summit of Chimborazo is 6,384.4 km (3,967.1 mi) from the planet’s center, over 2,073 m (6,800 ft) farther from the center of the Earth than Mount Everest’s peak.
6. Ecuador is home to the fastest point on Earth.
The summit of Cayambe ( 5,790 m/18,996 ft), the third-highest mountain in Ecuador, is the fastest point on Earth (the point farthest from Earth’s rotational axis). Cayambe’s summit revolves around the Earth’s axis at a speed of 1,676 km/h (1,041 mph).
7. Ecuador has the highest density of amphibians, birds, and mammals among the 17 megadiverse countries on Earth.
One of the most amazing facts about Ecuador is that its considerable biodiversity is virtually unmatched by any country of its size. More than 17,000 plant species (7% of the world’s total), 230 different mammals (8% of the world’s total), and 375 amphibian species (7% of the world’s total) in the world are found in this diminutive country, which comprises only 0.2% of the world’s land area.
With more than 1,550 species of birds (16% of the world’s total), Ecuador is home to about twice as many birds as all of Europe, and half the total for all South America.
Ecuador’s unique geography and its position on the equator are chiefly responsible for its extraordinary concentration of wildlife. In September 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize rights for nature in its constitution.
8. The famous Galápagos Islands belong to Ecuador.
Lying 960 km (600 mi) west of mainland Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands archipelago consists of 13 major islands, six smaller islands, and over 40 islets. The ultimate natural zoo, the unique conditions of the isolated islands created a variety of species unlike any others across the globe that has fascinated generations of scientists.
The Galápagos Islands remain forever associated with renowned naturalist Charles Darwin. Darwin visited the Galápagos Islands in 1835 as a young naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle, and the islands’ unique flora and fauna, including the famed Darwin’s finches, inspired Darwin to formulate his theory of evolution.
9. Ecuador is divided into four main and unique geographic regions.
The four distinct geographic regions of Ecuador are La Costa or “the coast”, La Sierra or “the highlands”, La Amazonía also known as El Oriente or “the east” and La Región Insular, the region comprising the Galápagos Islands.
10. Ecuador was once part of the mighty Inca Empire.
Beginning from the mid-15th century, the powerful Incas were rulers in what is now southern Ecuador for no more than seventy years, and in northern Ecuador for only thirty years: However, in spite of their short rule, the Incas left an indelible impact on the region.
11. Ecuador was colonized by Spain.
In 1526, Spaniard Bartolomé Ruiz sailed down the Ecuadorian coast on a reconnaissance mission and, near Salango, captured a large Manta merchant vessel laden with gold, silver and emeralds. Convinced there were great riches in South America, Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro landed in Ecuador with his troops in 1531.
In 1534, an army led by Simón de Benalcázar defeats the Incas when thousands of members of the Inca army stage a mutiny. The Spanish colonial period was marked by a time of ruthless exploitation of the indigenous Amerindians and bickering and bloodshed among the Spanish in the struggle for power and riches.
After declaring independence from Spain in 1809, complete independence was achieved in 1822 after Antonio José de Sucre’s forces defeated the Spanish in the Battle of Pichincha.
12. Ecuador was once part of the federation of Greater Colombia (Gran Colombia).
Immediately after independence, Ecuador joined the federation of Greater Colombia along with Colombia and Venezuela. However, due to political rivalries and regional jealousies Ecuador seceded from the federation in 1830 and the Republic of Ecuador was born.
13. Ecuador is home to the world’s biggest tortoise.
True to its namesake, the Galápagos tortoise serves as the “signature animal” of the Galápagos archipelago. The typical Galápagos tortoise has an overall height of 69-91 cm (27-36 in) and body length of 122-152 cm (48-60 in).
On average, the Galápagos tortoise weighs between 150-250 kg (330-550 lbs). According to Guinness World Records, the biggest Galápagos tortoise on record was measured at 417 kg (919 lbs).
14. Ecuador has had 20 constitutions since its foundation.
This is one of the wackiest facts about Ecuador. Chronically plagued by political turmoil, Ecuador has had 20 constitutions (fourth-most among nations), including the present one, since its independence in 1825.
15. Ecuador is a unitary presidential constitutional republic.
Ecuador is a Presidential (as opposed to Parliamentary), unitary (as opposed to Federal) Republic. Its government is democratic and freely elected. The government is divided into Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches. The President is elected every four years.
16. The Andean condor is the national animal of Ecuador.
In and above the highlands of Ecuador at altitudes of up to 6,500 meters lives one of the largest flying birds in the world, the Andean condor, with a wingspan of nearly 3 m (10 ft). The condor is an incredible – and incredibly endangered – species, with only a few hundred mating pairs remaining.
17. The cinchona tree is the national tree of Ecuador.
The national tree of Ecuador is the cinchona tree which produces quinine, the first drug used to prevent and treat malaria. At its peak, it can reach heights of 15 m (50 ft).
18. The Guanábana is the national fruit of Ecuador.
The Guanábana is one of the most popular fruits among Ecuadorians. It is roughly the size of a softball or a small melon, with white flesh pulp and inedible black seeds. Guanábana is often used to make ice-cream.
19. Ecuador has the largest number of orchid species in the world.
One of the myriad fascinating facts about Ecuador is that there are over 3,200 orchid species in the country (as much as 12% of the world’s total).
20. Ecuador is home to the highest constitutional capital in the world.
Quito, Ecuador’s capital, lies at an altitude of 2,850 m (9,350 ft) above sea level, making it the highest constitutional capital city in the world. La Paz in Bolivia lies at a higher elevation, but it is only the country’s executive and legislative capital (the constitutional capital of Bolivia is Sucre).
21. Ecuador has the third-largest proven oil reserves in South America and is a former OPEC member.
The Ecuadorian economy is dependent on oil and crude oil accounts for about 40% of its exports. Before it left the organization, Ecuador was one of the smallest oil-producing members of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries).
22. The currency of Ecuador is the United State Dollar (USD).
In 1999, a sharp decline in oil prices sent Ecuador’s economy into a tailspin. The country’s foreign exchange value dropped 67%, resulting in an exchange rate of 25,000 sucre (Ecuador’s then currency) to $1 USD.
This led the Ecuadorian government to propose adopting the US dollar as the country’s official currency in order to curtail soaring inflation. In March 2000, the US dollar became legal tender in Ecuador.
23. The national flag of Ecuador is one of only eight national flags in the world whose design incorporates a depiction of the flag itself.
It’s interesting to know that the national flag of Ecuador is one of only eight national flags in the world whose design incorporates a depiction of the flag itself. Four national Ecuadorian flags can be seen on the coat of arms that features in the center of the national flag.
24. Spanish is the official language of Ecuador.
Spanish is Ecuador’s official language of business and government, spoken by over 90% of the population as their mother tongue.
25. Several Amerindian languages are still spoken in Ecuador.
More than 10 Indian languages exist in Ecuador, and several of these persist as mother tongues. The most spoken Amerindian language in Ecuador is Kichwa, a dialect of the Quechua language. Other Amerindian languages spoken in Ecuador include Awapit, A’ingae, Shuar, Chicham, Achuar-Shiwiar, Cha’palaachi, Tsa’fiki, Paicoca, and Wao Tededeo.
26. Christianity is the major religion in Ecuador.
Ecuador is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic (≈70-80%). In fact, the Roman Catholic Church is considered to be one of the three pillars of society in Ecuador, along with the government and the military.
Approximately 10-15% of Ecuadorians are Protestants, most of whom are Evangelicals. The remainder of the Ecuadorian population is either irreligious or belongs to other religions.
27. Ecuador is very multiethnic.
One of the remarkable facts about Ecuador is how ethnically diverse its population is. The Ecuadorian population consists of four main groups—Native Ecuadorians (indigenous people), mestizos (of mixed indigenous and European descent), Afro-Ecuadorians, and people of European & Middle Eastern descent.
There is such a generalized mixing of races over time that it is difficult to define exact parameters for any individual. Ethnicity in Ecuador is often a matter of self-identification. It is estimated that mestizos form about 75-80% of the population, people of European & Middle Eastern ancestry (whites) account for about 6% of the population, Afro-Ecuadorians make up 5% of the population, and native Ecuadorians make up about 7% of the population.
Afro-Ecuadorians are descendants of African slaves taken to Ecuador from the 16th to 18th centuries from places such as modern-day Angola, Benin, Gambia, DR Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Liberia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Senegal.
White Ecuadorians are mostly of Spanish descent from the early settlers. There are also those whose ancestors arrived in the last 150 years from places like Germany, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Hungary, Portugal, Italy, Lebanon, and Syria. The remainder of Ecuador’s population is mostly East Asian (primarily ethnic Chinese and Japanese).
28. The famous Panama Hat actually originated from Ecuador.
One of the lesser-known Ecuador facts is that despite the name, the famed Panama hats actually came from Ecuador. Panama hats have been woven in Ecuador since the early 17th century, when they were worn and traded locally.
By the 19th century, Panama hats were exported out of Ecuador for distribution in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. The story goes that as early as the 1830s, gold-rush miners that were making the trip to California via Panama bought hats there, earning them the misleading moniker “Panama” hats.
Later, the construction of the Panama Canal in the early 20th century caused a great demand for toquilla straw hats from Ecuador, because of their qualities to protect from the sun. A major contributor to the Panama Hat’s infamous name comes directly from US President Theodore Roosevelt himself.
In November 1906, Roosevelt was carrying out a three-day inspection of the Panama Canal excavation, and a photo was taken of him wearing a black-banded Panama Hat, which was soon disseminated throughout the world. By the 1940s, Panama hats were Ecuador’s top export.
29. Football is the most popular sport in Ecuador.
No surprises here. Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the country. However, Ecuador has traditionally been one of the weaker footballing nations in South America.
The Ecuador men’s national football team has qualified for the FIFA World Cup only thrice – in 2002, 2006, and 2014.
30. Ecuador has won only two medals in the Olympics.
Despite having competed at the Summer Olympic Games since 1924, Ecuador has only managed to win two medals. What’s even more interesting is that both medals came courtesy of one athlete—Jefferson Pérez.
Pérez won the gold medal in the men’s 20 km walk at the 1996 Olympic Games and the silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games.
31. Ecuador has the world’s first and second UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
In 1978, 32 sites were designated at the inaugural UNESCO World Heritage conference. Each World Heritage Site has a number – site #1 is the Galápagos Islands and #2 is the city of Quito.
Besides the Galápagos Islands and Quito, Ecuador is home to three other UNESCO World Heritage SiteHistoric Center of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca, the Sangay National Park, and Qhapaq Ñan, Andean Road System.
32. In 2012, Ecuador was the country to grant political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
In June 2012, Ecuador famously granted controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asylum on the grounds of political persecution. Under investigation from the US government and facing extradition to Sweden, Assange sought refuge at the Embassy of Ecuador in London.
However, in April 2019, Assange’s asylum was withdrawn following a series of disputes with the Ecuadorian authorities. They invited British police into the embassy in London where Assange was finally arrested.
33. Voting is mandatory in Ecuador.
Ecuador is one of the few countries in the world to still enforce compulsory voting. Voting is obligatory in the country for citizens between the ages of 18 and 65. That means that all Ecuadorian citizens in that age range are required to vote, or face minimal sanctions.
34. Ecuador is the world’s leading exporter of bananas.
Exporting over five million tonnes of bananas annually, Ecuador is the world’s largest exporter of bananas, accounting for about 25% of the world’s banana exports. Over 300 banana varieties are produced in the country.