Ecuador, named for its position on the equator, is the smallest country of South America with 256.370 sq km after Uruguay and the Guyana’s. (Roughly the size of the US State of Colorado)
Local Time.- Ecuador continental territory is on Eastern Standard Time (GMT –5). The Galapagos Islands are on Central Standard (GMT –6). There is no Daylight Savings Time.
The country of Ecuador has 24 provinces, 11 spreading out from the highlands, 6 in the Amazon region, a further 6 in the coastal areas and the Galapagos islands.
Within these 24 provinces the country is divided up into 3 distinct regions which are straddled with the Andes Mountain range, the backbone of Ecuador that traverses the country from north to south as well as dividing it into the western coastal lowlands, the Sierra or Highlands, the Oriente or Amazon (eastern jungles of the higher Amazon) and the Archipelago of Galapagos forming the fourth region respectively. The Pacific coastline of the Western lowlands is situated between the pacific ocean and the Andean mountain range and extends some 300 miles beginning in Esmeraldas spreading all the way down to El Oro. The latter province along with Manabí and Los Rios provinces are the major farmed areas due to their rich agricultural lands while other areas have been the home to many fishing villages spanning the entire coastline. The rest of the coastal areas have various marshes, mangrove forests, tourist resorts along with beautiful beaches as well as major ports for exporting and importing produce.
The major beach resorts in the southern central area worth visiting are Salinas the jewel of the coastline, Montañita (famous for surfing), Manta, Bahía de Caráquez, Puerto Bolivar and Puerto López, many of the beaches are sandy and Palm fringed as well as having all year round warm waters for swimming in comparison to other countries such as Peru and Chile who’s waters are much cooler depending on the time of year.
Finally, to the north lies the Province of Esmeraldas, which is much hotter, humid, wetter and is home to a large afro-Ecuadorian culture and from their food to the dancing festivals along with their bamboo more rustic accommodations, the ambiance is unique within the coastal lowlands and well worth a visit.
In contrast the Sierra (highlands) as well as being a bio-natural diverse region of untamable volcanoes, thermal baths emanating from the former, wild animals (many endemic), serene wild landscapes, cloud forests and Paramo highlands all combined makes for excellent sightseeing, hiking, trekking, camping as well as guided day trips arranged from the architecturally delightful capital of the country, Quito along with its two distinct cities of colonial and modern construction.
The Oriente in comparison, offers great jungle towns along with combinations of eco-ethno tourism with the option of staying with the local indigenous cultures along with guided tours allowing you to view the heart of Amazon culture, customs, sport excursions such as white river rafting, cycling down spectacular scenery and the wildest nature of bio-diversity of animal, bird and plant life known to man.
Finally, the Galapagos islands offers the traveler the ultimate in tranquility and remoteness and along with its great climate and un-daunting, fearless human interaction of the animals and mammals who roam the islands making a once in a life time experience in these timeless lands which is a must during your visit.
You can also swim with playful dolphins and often will be joined by the penguins while for divers the ocean’s marine world is the pearl of all oceans for viewing many endemic and exotic species. The tour options offering all classes of boat tours throughout the islands is also very appealing for many travelers whom get to visit many islands dotted throughout the Archipelago some with active volcanoes and running lava making your trip complete.