Situated in right on the Equator in South America, the small country of Ecuador is home to an amazing variety of animal and plant species and a great diversity of cultures and traditions. This is due to the heritage of multiple Amerindian groups which have left their mark on its territory. Travelling to Ecuador is a great cultural immersion, and the wondrous Galapagos Islands are also part of this country.
Let’s have a look at the top 15 interesting facts about Ecuador.
1. Ecuador is named after the Equator
Because of its geographical location right on the Equator, the country was literally named the Republic of the Equator (“Republica del Ecuador”). Naturally, this is one of the iconic places any tourist would visit in Ecuador. You can stand with one foot in the Northern and one in the Southern Hemisphere there, and it’s easily reached just 45 minutes outside of Quito, the country’s capital. As such, the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World City) has been built for people to visit. However, new measurements have shown that, ironically, the exact Equator is about 240 meters north of where the often-photographed line has been drawn, an interesting fact about Ecuador!
Finally, Ecuador is the only country in the world named after a geographical feature.
2. The first UNESCO World Heritage Sites were designated here
When UNESCO first assigned World Heritage status to the sites of special importance around the world, they started off with 32 places. As of 1978, they named the Galapagos Islands at number 1 and the Ecuadorian capital of Quito at number 2.
3. They are the first country to recognize the rights of nature
Ecuador officially stated that they recognize nature to have rights just like people have human rights, in 2008. According to an official press release, they see these as the “right to exist, persist, maintain and generate its vital cycles”.
4. Ecuador is the country closest to the sun
Even though it’s not the highest summit in the world, the summit of Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador is the location on Earth that’s closest to the sun, a fun fact about Ecuador. This is due to the location of the mountain in relation the Equator, making its peak the furthest point from the center of the Earth. This makes Ecuador the closest country to space, too.
5. They are the creators of the Panama hat
Interestingly, the Panama hat doesn’t actually come from Panama! Straw hats made on the Ecuadorian coast were worn by workers on the Panama Canal so this made people associate the type of hat with Panama. Once the canal opened, the same straw hats were sold to visitors and this perpetuated the name.
6. Its biodiversity is astounding
Although Ecuador is small, it’s considered a “megadiverse” country. Its surface corresponds to only 0.2% of the world’s land surface, but on it you can find 8% of the world’s amphibian species, 5% of reptile species, 8% of mammals, and 16% of all bird species.
7. They eat guinea pigs
Yes, Ecuadorians consider guinea pigs a delicious dish, called “cuy”. They are a local delicacy, served roasted on a spit, unlike in most of the world, where they’d be household pets, a fun Ecuador fact.
8. Ecuador is the orchid capital of the world
Over 4,250 species of orchid are grown in Ecuador, of which 1,301 are native to the country. This makes Ecuador the country with the most orchid species worldwide.
There is even one species which looks like the face of a monkey, which grows in the cloud forests at higher altitude (above 1,000 meters). The exact name of the species is “Draculia simia” because of its fang-like parts which hang from the petals and “simia” because of its resemblance to a monkey.
9. They export most of the bananas we eat
The chief product exported by Ecuador is bananas, and they are the number one producer of the fruit all over the world.
Ecuador also exports oil, flowers, cocoa, rice, cotton, and coffee.
10. Ecuador is a magnet for expat life
This small country has been voted several times as a great destination for expats, an interesting fact about Ecuador. It’s the top popular country for expats to live in South America.
11. They are home to a shape shifting frog
Among the many diverse species living in Ecuador, a recent discovery is that of the “Punk Rocker” which is a mutable rainfrog. This is the first vertebrate known to be able to change the actual texture of its skin, going from smooth to spiky in minutes.
12. They are extremely multilingual people
In total, over 24 languages are spoken across Ecuador, including Spanish and nine varieties of Quechua, Shuar and others.
13. Ecuador is home to Paddington Bear
The well-loved children’s story character may say he comes from “darkest Peru” but he is based on the Andean bear, a species that lives in Ecuador.
14. It has a long-standing border conflict with Peru
Speaking of Peru, there is an ongoing dispute between the two countries regarding their borders. They’ve fought several times since 1941, most recently in 1999, when the conflict appears to have stalled.
Interestingly, Ecuador has a perpetual lease of one square kilometer of Peru where the former has a military base.
15. It was once part of Gran Colombia with two other countries
Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela were joined between 1822 and 1830 to form the nation of Gran Colombia. This was subsequent to Ecuador gaining independence from Spain, but it didn’t last long and the country went its separate way, a fun Ecuador fact.
Ecuador has lots of cultural and natural diversity, astonishing for the small surface it covers actually. It’s best known for exotic plants and animals and the amazing Galapagos Islands, where Charles Darwin developed ideas which eventually led to the theory of evolution. A visit to Ecuador also takes you to middle of the world where you can have one foot in each hemisphere, and closest to the sun!
I hope that this article on Ecuador facts was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!