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Travel Handbook

Most travelers are particularly concerned about what to bring on their trip. Here’s where you really benefit from our years of adventure travel experience. We asked our customers from past trips to Ecuador about the gear and clothing they carried with them. They told us what worked, what didn’t and what they wished they had.

Some of the information detailed below was taken from the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism’s database and also from some very knowledgeable, useful and reliable trip handbooks.



We encourage you to start learning about Ecuador before your trip. The ancient and contemporary culture of Ecuador is rich and complex. Even a small amount of background reading can help you make sense of the kaleidoscope of facts and impressions that will come your way. Having some knowledge in advance can complement and enrich what you can learn from your expert Trip Leader.

Ecuador and the Galapagos at a Glance

Population: Approximately 13 millions of habitants
Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua
Religion:  Roman Catholic (95%)
Monetary Unit: U. S. Dollar

Historical Overview
There is archaeological evidence of settlements established by hunter-gathered groups as early as 10,000 BC along Ecuador’s southern coast and in the central highlands. Agricultural societies that followed produced some of the oldest pottery in the Western Hemisphere. These ancient peoples traded with others in Peru, Brazil, and the Amazon Basin, building a civilization sophisticated enough to construct large coastal cities by 500 BC. These city dwellers worked metal, and had navigational skills sufficient for them to trade with cultures as far away as the Maya in ancient Mexico.

The Inca ruler Tupac –Yupanqui invaded form the south in 1460 AD, but could not conquer the territories of three strong groups in Ecuador: the Cañari, Caras and Quitu. It fell to his son Huayna Capac to0 accomplish this in the next generation. The Incas brought their language, Quechua, to Ecuador, where it is still widely spoken today.

Huayna Capac celebrated his conquest by building the monumental Inc city of Tombebamba, whose ruins near Cuenca remain impressive today. This Inca city in Ecuador rapidly became as large and important in the empire as Cuzco in Peru. When Hayna Capca split the empire between his two sons at his death in 1526, he made Tombebamba the capital of the northern half. It was here that the last Inca ruler, Atahualpa, began his reign. Later, he defeated his brother Huascar in a civil war that weakened the empire just before the Spanish conquistadors arrived.

After Francisco Pizarro and his conquistadors conquered the Inca Empire in 1532, Pizarro made his brother Gonzalo the first Spanish governor of Quito, Ecuador. A few years later, Francisco was killer in a dispute among the Spanish conquerors, and Gonzalo Pizarro rebelled against Spain. He ruled Ecuador independently for over seven years, until Spanish forces defeated his army and executed him in 1548.

Spanish governors ruled Ecuador from Lima, Peru until the 18th century, after which Spain moved the seat of authority to Bogotá in New Granada (now Colombia) . In 1822, Simon Bolivar’s chief lieutenant Antonio Jose de Sucre brought an end to Spanish rule in the area, though it was not until 1830 that the nation adopted the name “Ecuador” and gained complete autonomy.

Following independence, civil war broke out between the conservatives of Quito and more liberal elements in Guayaquil, initiating a pattern of conflict between right –and –left wing groups which has persisted in Ecuador’s political life ever since. Dictators ruled the nation for the remainder of the 19th century. Ecuador’s 20th –century history has been an intricate series of alternating periods of democratic and military rule.

The last period of military rule in Ecuador ended with the presidential election of 1979. In 1984, conservative businessman Leon Febres Cordero Rivadeneira was elected president, and succeeded in putting down military rebellions to finish his term in office. Hw was followed in 1988 by Rodrigo Borja Cevallos of the Democratic Left, who in turn was succeeded by U. S.  born Sixto Durán Ballen in 1922.

Ecuador Today
Native Americans (“Indians”) make up about 40 percent of Ecuador’s present population. Their cultural traditions include the Quechua language, the ruana (shawl), and a social focus on their local communities, which are largely located in the mountains.

Mestizos, called “cholos” in Ecuador’s highlands, are people of mixed native and European ancestry. They constitute another 40 percent of Ecuador’s people, and form the bulk of the labor force for the rice, banana, and cacao plantations in the country’s coastal region.

About 10 percent of Ecuador’s people have black African ancestry. They are the descendants of African’s who were brought as slaves to work on plantations along the seacoast. Today they live mostly along the northern section of the coast.

The remaining 10 percent of the population is of Spanish descent and is concentrated n Ecuador’s largest cities. People of primarily Spanish background tend to hold the positions of highest social and economic status in the country.

Landscape and Climate
Ecuador is roughly the size of the state of Washington and straddles the equator between Peru and Colombia. Ecuador has a striking diversity of landscapes for a country of its size. Tropical forest in the Amazon Basin dominate its eastern section, the Oriente.  The Eastern and Western Cordilleras of the Andes make up the Sierra region that bisects the country, topped by the towering peaks of Cotopaxi (19,347 feet above sea level). In the lowlands, the seasons are defined more by rainfall than temperature. A warm rainy season lasts from January to April. From May through December the weather is cooler and drier.


Ecuador’s fourth distinct region is the Galapagos Islands (“Archipielago de Colón”), on the equator 600 miles offshore, which are like a world of their own. Like the Hawaiian Islands, they were created by volcanic activity that continues to create new islands to the east of the present group of 60. Most volcanic cones on the islands are extinct, but there was a significant eruption on Isla Isabela in September 1988. Fernandina, Isabela, Baltra, James, Santa Cruz and San Cristobal are the mayor islands in the group.

Spanish bishop Fray Tomasde Berlanga named the islands “Galapagos” – tortoise- in 1535. Naturalist Charles Darwin’s 1835 visit on the H.M.S. Beagle, during which he saw how unique flora and fauna had developed here, had a significant impact on his development of the theory of evolution. About 20,000 people live on a few of the large islands today, with many smaller islands uninhabited and reserved for nature study in what is now and Ecuadorian national park.  

In the Galapagos Islands, temperatures are comfortably mild thorough the year. From December through June, high temperatures are in the mid-to-upper 80´s. This is the rainier season, though there is still quite a bit of sunshine-in the desert climate of the Galapagos the amount of rainfall is miniscule compared to the Amazon rainforest! From July through November, high temperatures are in the upper 70´s to low 80´s. During this part of the year, Humboldt Current cools the ocean water to about 68 degrees and the mist called  garua often occurs in the higher terrain. (See FAQ’s about GPS)


Visas, Passports, and Tickets

All travelers must have a passport valid for at least six months before arriving in Ecuador. They must also have a return ticket to their country of origin or to another destination. Starting on June 20th 2008, citizens from any nationality can enter Ecuador without visa. To enter the country, visitors must fill in an international embarkation/disembarkation form. It is important to keep it with your passport. Travelers should have their passports with them during their stay in Ecuador to avoid problems with the authorities who may want to see it. Those who wish to stay in the country longer than 90 days have to fill out the corresponding paperwork in an Ecuadorian Consulate. If the traveler enters Ecuador as a tourist it is not possible to change his/her status while they are in the country

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Quito - Ecuador