Searching for a few fun facts about Ecuador?
When I traveled to Ecuador three years ago, it was an eye-opening experience. I arrived in Quito at night with no knowledge of the city or the country, for that matter. It would be a pleasant surprise as the charming city is the world’s first UNESCO Cultural Heritage City. There was so much to delve into! So many interesting Ecuador facts – the culture, the history, and the food!
If you’re looking for some facts about Ecuador you’ve come to the right place. Ecuador is a nation that needs to be seen, and heard about. Here are some interesting Ecuador facts to learn about before visiting.
Fun Facts About Ecuador
1. Ecuador was the first country in the world to recognize the rights of nature
One of the first Ecuador facts I want to mention is perhaps the most important one. The country recognized that, you know, nature has a right to grow and flourish. It also recognized the right of actual humans to petition or protest on nature’s behalf. And it also highlighted the responsibility of the government to step in to protect nature. This occurred in 2008.
2. Ecuador was part of the Inca Empire
This is an interesting Ecuador fact. Though centered in Cusco, and with their home base mainly in Peru, the Inca Empire stretched a long way. Ecuador was one of those places. It became part of the Inca Empire in 1463, but the indigenous people of the area didn’t submit without a fight. The tribes here were already reasonably developed and weren’t interested in having an outsider rule them. Cue years of fighting.
3. The Spanish captured the Incan Emperor in Ecuador
That was in 1533. The new emperor Atahualpa (victor, by way of killing a lot of his family, of the Inca Civil War) was ransomed; a “Ransom Room” was stacked with silver and gold, but he wasn’t released. The Spanish held a mock trial then executed him. Then the rest of the Inca Empire fell. Ecuador gained independence in 1822 after a two-year war.
4. Amazonian and Cayapas people resisted both Inca and Spanish rule
As a result, they were able to keep their language and culture pretty intact well into the 21st century. You may have heard of Amazonian, but Cayapas? They’re based in and around the rainforests on the northern coast of Ecuador.
5. The equator runs through Ecuador
Another one of those fun facts about Ecuador that most people know. It’s a pretty obvious fact about Ecuador, but yeah – in case you didn’t know, the equator practically splits the country in two. Its official name is “Republica del Ecuador” – the Republic of the Equator.
6. Because of that, the daylight hours are pretty regular
Being basically on the equator, Ecuador’s sunrise and sunset remain virtually the same throughout the whole year. The sun rises at 6 am, the sun sets at 6 pm. Twelve hours of light, twelve hours of night. Super equal.
7. From 1972 to 1979 Ecuador had a succession of military dictatorships
There was a military coup in 1972, led by General Guillermo Rodriguez, overthrowing five-time president Velasco Ibarra. Then there was a military junta in 1976, led by Admiral Alfredo Poveda, that got rid of the previous military junta. Before the next junta came along, a colonel proposed democratic elections. Jaime Roldos Aguilera won the most votes of any Ecuadorian election ever.
8. Ecuador is more biodiverse per square kilometer than any other nation
This is a cool, fun fact about Ecuador. There are so many species represented here. It’s one of the world’s 17 most biodiverse countries, though it tops the world for the density of its biodiversity. We’re talking tens of thousands of bird species alone (15% of the world’s bird species)! There are many endemic species here, too; the Galapagos alone has 38, but there are also 106 reptiles and 138 amphibians endemic to Ecuador.
9. Ecuador is where you’ll find the Galapagos Islands
Yep. The Galapagos. They sit around 1,000 kilometers west of Ecuador’s mainland in the Pacific Ocean. These biodiverse islands are super famous for their endemic species, such as the Galapagos land iguana, the Galapagos penguin, and the largest living species of tortoise (the Galapagos tortoise, of course), to name just a few.
10. Charles Darwin came up with his Theory of Evolution in the Galapagos
One of the most interesting facts about Ecuador is this one. Looking at all the different kinds of finches that lived in the Galapagos Islands, Darwin had a eureka moment when he noticed their beaks were all specialized to what the birds were eating, or what particular island they lived on. Skip a few years on, and Darwin had his theory down to a T.
11. Quito is the second-highest capital city in the world
This is one of my favorite fun facts about Ecuador. That’s right – this is such a fun Ecuador fact to know before you go! At 9,350 feet above sea level, it’s pretty high. Not only is it the Ecuadorian capital, it’s also the nation’s largest. The highest capital in the world is La Paz. But what Quito has that La Paz doesn’t is another distinction: being the closest capital city to the equator. Boom.
12. Quito’s historic center is one of the best-preserved in the Americas
Not just in Ecuador, not just in South America, but in all the Americas. The historic center here has hardly been changed. In fact, it’s so impressive that – along with Krakow, Poland – it was one of the first “old towns” to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
13. And just nearby the capital is a very tall volcano
Cotopaxi may only be the second-highest peak in Ecuador, but it’s one of the tallest volcanoes in the world, at 19,347 ft. It looks cool too, like an Ecuadorian Fuji. In the last 50 years, it’s erupted more than 50 times. For math fans, that’s more than one eruption per year on average.
14. Mount Chimborazo is the tallest mountain in Ecuador
Its summit is 20,560 feet above sea level. But because of the shape of the planet (not a sphere but an oblate spheroid) and being basically on the widest part of the Earth – because of being on the equator and all – the summit of Chimborazo is the furthest you can possibly get from the center of the Earth. Now that is a wild fact about Ecuador.
15. Ecuador is bananas for bananas (my favorite Ecuador fact)
One of my favorite Ecuador facts is this one! Well, it’s more like Ecuador is bananas for exporting bananas, actually; it’s the world’s highest exporter of bananas. Chances are the banana you’re eating right now is from Ecuador. It might not be, but it also has a high probability of being from the Republic of the Equator. Bananas account for 12.1% of the country’s exports.
16. But 40% of its exports consist of crude oil
And Ecuador has a lot of it. Oil is a significant part of the nation’s economy; they produce 520,000 barrels a day. A lot of it goes to the USA. It was partly the actions and impact of the oil industry that made Ecuador recognize the rights of nature.
17. The official language of Ecuador is Spanish
Yep, not much of a surprising fact about Ecuador, but around 93% of the population speaks Spanish. However, many people also speak Amerindian languages, such as Quechua (the language of the Quecha people), or other native languages such Awapit, Paicoca, Cayapa, A’ingae, Tsa’fiki, and Wao Tededeo.
18. The “national genre of music” in Ecuador is Pasillo
It’s a blend of indigenous and Latin musical traditions, with European flavors mixed in; Pasillo has a broken-hearted, nostalgic feeling, often describing the beauty of the country. Still popular to this day, towns and villages across Ecuador have their own take on Pasillo – as well as dances to go with it.
19. One of the most popular street foods in Ecuador is hornado
A foodie fun fact about Ecuador for you now: Hornado is pork. Well, it’s a pig cooked whole on a spit, served with llapingacho (fried potato pancakes) and corn, with vegetables on the side too. There are loads of other types of street food, such as patacones (refried plantains) and seco de chivo (goat stew).
20. One of the earliest examples of Ecuadorian literature was the work of Jacinto Collahuazo
The 1600s – a time in which the native “language” of talking via knots called quipu was banned by the Spanish. Jacinto Collahuazo, chief of a village in Ibarra, taught himself to write and decided to record Inca stories – but in the Quechua language. His work was found, burned, and he was imprisoned. Centuries later, masons found a manuscript written by Collahuazo hidden in the walls of a church in Quito; it was a tale of the sadness Inca people felt losing their emperor, Atahualpa.
21. There’s a community of African descent in Ecuador with an amazing story
A Jesuit slave ship bound for Ecuador ran aground in the 17th century. Those on board being transported to be used as slaves swam ashore and escaped through the jungle, led by a chief named Anton. They maintained their freedom. Their descendants live in the Chota Valley, which spans the Carchi, Esmeraldas, and Imbabura provinces.
22. The official currency of Ecuador is the US Dollar
That’s right; even though it’s not US territory, the official currency of Ecuador is actually the US dollar. A bill was signed in 2000, making the US dollar the main currency. It replaced the sucre, 25,000 of which were worth just $1. This is one of those Ecuador facts that is super important for those traveling there.
23. There’s an iguana park in Ecuador
For a weird little fact about Ecuador, we head to Parque Seminario in Guayaquil. Hundreds of iguanas have, for some reason, made this park home. They wander around, sunbathe, and watch people watching them. It’s not a zoo; it’s an actual city park. There are vendors selling lettuce you can feed to the iguanas. Of course, this park is also known as Parque de las Iguanas.
24. Ecuadorian garbage trucks play music
This is one of those fun facts about Ecuador I couldn’t miss. Yes, they play songs like old-school ice cream trucks. So if you’re awakened by that music box kinda sound at 6 am, you won’t have to wonder who’s getting a popsicle; it’s just the garbage man. Gas and water trucks also play music, you know, just in case you need more. That’s life in Ecuador.
25. Ecuador has a national fruit
It’s called the guanabana, and it’s a spiky, green, sour fruit called a “soursop” in English. But being a firmly tropical country, and with all that volcanic soil, Ecuador is pretty well situated to grow a whole load of tasty fruit. Avocados, mangos, plums, pitahaya (like a dragon fruit but yellow), mora (like a blackberry), and more known and unknown fruits besides.
26. A 15th birthday for girls in Ecuador is called a quinceanera
Sweet 16 may be more of a thing elsewhere, but in Ecuador, it’s one year earlier. Part of Mesoamerican culture, turning 15 is like a coming of age. In Ecuador, the father accompanies the daughter; there’s a waltz sort of like a first dance, then there’s more dancing, food, even more dancing, a “surprise” dance, toasts, cake-cutting, speeches… It’s a big deal!
27. Panama hats originate in Ecuador
Fun fact about Ecuador: those straw hats widely known as “Panama hats” aren’t from Panama at all; they’re from Ecuador, and they’re less commonly, known as “Ecuadorian hats.” The art of weaving one out of toquilla palm has been recognized by UNESCO. Why the confusion? Roosevelt was pictured wearing one when he went to see the progress of the Panama Canal, so there you go.
28. Voting is compulsory in Ecuador
Yep. You have no choice in not having a choice: you must vote – which is a super interesting fact about Ecuador! This is thanks to a law passed all the way back in 1936. Even after the 1970s dictatorships, this law came back into place. It’s compulsory between the ages of 18 and 65. But you can actually vote from as young as 16 if you want to. Even if you’re a foreigner, once you’ve registered to vote, you have to vote!
29. Ecuador is made up of four distinct regions
There’s La Costa – that’s easy; the coast. It’s full of fertile land and is where a lot of bananas and rice are grown. Then there’s La Sierra; these are the highlands, comprising the Andes (home to volcanoes, tall peaks, and a lot of potato-growing). La Amazonia – or El Oriente – consists of the Amazon, national parks, and is home to Amazonian tribes (and oil). Then there’s La Region Insular, i.e., the Galapagos, which needs no introduction.
30. Measuring the equator began in Ecuador
In 1736, French astronomers started to calculate where the equator – the imaginary line halving the Earth – would be. They made a pretty accurate measurement of the Earth, so accurate, in fact, that they were also able to prove that the world was far from a perfect sphere. (Obviously, modern techniques have refined this measurement).