- 22d6 Ecuador
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Ecuador actually means the “Republic of the Equator.” It is a nod to the geographic line that bisects the country, dividing it between the northern and southern hemispheres. Being in the middle perhaps is one way to define the nation, especially when compared to its Latin American neighbors. It is neither too rich, nor too poor, as evidenced by its average 0.807 rating in the Human Development Index.
This even applies to its tourism industry: not too popular, yet not too overlooked with some 850,000 visitors heading there every year. Ecuador's economy is propped up by its export industry - it is the world's largest producer of bananas, yielding a yearly income of 936.5 billion USD. Not to mention the country's rich reserves of crude oil, which in turn constitute 40 percent of its export.
Second Smallest in South America
At only 256,370 square kilometers in size, Ecuador is considered as the second smallest country in South America. While that may be the case, it makes up for the fact by being one of the 17 countries with the largest biodiversities in the world. For the nature lovers, it is somewhat of a paradise, home to over 16,000 plant species, 1,600 bird species, 4,500 butterfly species, and an array of unique wildlife. No other place in the country, though, embodies that trait more than the Galapagos Islands - famous for influencing Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution.
Ecuador's location contributes to its beauty as well, bounded by the Amazon Basin, the Andes Mountains, and the Pacific Ocean. As such, it is the ideal destination for adrenaline junkies, with plenty of opportunities for activities like trekking, mountain climbing, rafting, and mountain biking.
Once a part of the storied Inca Empire, Ecuador was then conquered by Spanish colonists during the 16th century, only regaining its independence by 1820. These centuries of foreign occupation had made a lasting impression on the country's culture, especially in its cuisine, customs, and religion (95 percent of Ecuadorians are Roman Catholics). Many of the festivals celebrated there every year are testament to the Spanish influence, particularly the Carnival and Semana Santa.
Ecuador's architectural landscape bears tell-tale signs as well. Its capital, Quito, is a perfect example, especially with the city's colonial old town center. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the pretty city of Cuenca, which boasts of an array of colonial architecture too.
Ecuador Traveler Advice
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