Towards the northern end of the South American continent, Ecuador (as its name suggests) sits astride the Equator. The country is divided into three distinct regions: the 'Sierra', which comprises the Andes and its foothills, the 'Oriente', which is the low Amazon rainforest region to the east of the Andes and the 'Coast', which lies to the west of the central Andean crest. The most distinctive feature of the Ecuadorean Andes is the large number of volcanoes, most of which display the classic conical shape. From the perspective of the trekker and climber, it is the Andean region which most appeals. There is superb trekking in the 'Avenue of the Volcanoes', on the 'paramo' highlands and on the easier of the volcanoes themselves. The biggest volcanoes, like Cotopaxi and Chimborazo (6310m / 20,702ft) are snow-capped and provide wonderful climbing objectives for suitably motivated and well-prepared groups. Ecuador's great variety of scenery, its Inca and Spanish colonial history, as well as its vibrant mix of environments makes it a particularly worthwhile destination for family groups and school groups. One thousand kilometres offshore, the Galapagos Islands provide a justifiably famous wildlife destination.

Geography

Ecuador is the second smallest of the South American countries and, as its name suggests, sits astride the Equator. The country is divided into three distinct regions: The Sierra, which comprises the Andes and its foothills, The Oriente, which is the low Amazon rainforest region to the east of the Andes and The Coast, which lies to the west of the central Andean crest. The most distinctive feature of the Ecuadorean Andes is the large number of volcanoes, most of which display the classic conical shape. Eruptions from volcanoes such as Cotopaxi and Chimborazo have partly blocked the central “Valley of the Volcanoes,” creating a number of basins, filled with volcanic ash to depths of several hundred metres, especially in the Latacunga and Ambato areas. Rivers have cut through this fairly soft ash, creating deep gorges, cliffs and plateaux and large areas are relatively arid and infertile. Large areas of eastern Ecuador (The Oriente) are low-lying and covered by dense Amazonian rainforest. A transitional zone, between this rainforest and the Andean heights, is occupied by cloud forest, starting at altitudes above 1500 metres and extending upeards to above 3000 metres. Between 3500 metres and the snowline at around 4700 metres, the characteristic vegetaion is grassland (known as ‘‘paramo’’) with large tracts of ichu grass - a poor, rough pasture type grass. Some of the areas around the volcanoes are in the ‘‘rain shadow’’ and are, as a result quite dry, with a scrub type of vegetation.

Time Zone

The time in Ecuador is GMT -5 hours