Ecuador Geography and Culture

Ecuador Geography and Culture


Ecuador is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, Colombia to the north, and Peru to the east and south.

It is divided into three landscape areas. To the west along the coast of the Pacific Ocean extends the western lowlands (Costa), which is traversed by up to 700 m above sea level rising coastal mountains, in the south to the Gulf of Guayaquil is 130-150 km wide and then narrows to around 50 km width. The center of the country is formed by the Andean region (Sierra), two parallel chains from 3,000–6,000 m above sea level, which in places come closer to 50 km, with around 30 active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes.

The west chain in Chimborazo is 6,267 m above sea level, while the east chain in the Cotopaxi volcano, which is 500 m higher on average, is 5,897 m above sea level.

Other active volcanoes in this chain are the Sangay (5 230 m above sea level; the Sangay National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983), the Antisana (5 704 m above sea level) and the Cayambé (5 790 m above the sea level).

Between the two cordillera, the highlands are divided into many basins (cuencas, lojas) with a mean height of 2,600 m above sea level by mountain ranges running across them; these basins, like that of Quito, were already main settlement and economic areas in pre-colonial times. The slopes of the Eastern Cordillera drop steeply to the east to the eastern lowlands (Oriente) in the flow area of ​​the Amazon, a lowland covered by dense tropical rainforests, which is only crossed by small elevations, and although it takes up almost half of the national territory, except for a few Agricultural colonization projects have hardly been developed.

The group of volcanic Galápagos Islands, located about 1,000 km off the coast, also belongs to Ecuador.

The main rivers of Ecuador flow east and southeast to the Amazon; the largest river is the Río Napo. The main watershed is in the Western Cordillera. The coastal rivers on the west side form south-facing longitudinal valleys between the coastal mountains and the western cordillera; they flow into the Pacific Ocean with wide, mangrove-covered deltas (Río Guayas, Río Daule).


For the vegetation and climate classification of Ecuador, in addition to the altitude levels of the Andes, the windward-lee effect of the mountains is decisive. Costa and Oriente have annual mean temperatures of 24–28 ° C. The Oriente has annual precipitation of 2,000–5,000 mm, which is rarely reached in the north in the Costa, while it becomes increasingly drier to the south due to the influence of the cold Humboldt Current flowing northwards from the coast (up to nine dry months per year). The outer flanks of the Cordilleras receive abundant rainfall, the inner flanks and the high basins have a dry season lasting up to nine months.


Early Andean cultures in pre-Columbian Ecuador are highly developed. Archaeologists found evidence of the Tolita culture such as artistic clay figurines and small objects made of gold-platinum alloys. In the 16th century, the Spanish conquerors brought the architecture and art of their homeland with them. This is particularly noticeable in the capital Quito to this day. Its old Andalusian-style town center with palaces, mansions and magnificent churches is one of the best preserved colonial architectural ensembles in Latin America and was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site at an early stage.

Quito was also the starting point for A. von Humboldt’s research trips to Ecuador. The German naturalist and geographer, who undertook a spectacular expedition in South America from 1799–1804, carried out height measurements in the Andes, among other things. There he also climbed the Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest mountain, up to 5,400 m above sea level in 1802 – an unprecedented achievement at the time. He also studied the life of Indian tribes and how people lived under the constant threat of volcanoes.

The »School of Quito«, founded by Franciscan monks in the 16th century, formed a focus of Ecuadorian art. Its most important sculptor was the indigenous Manuel Chili (* 1723, † 1796), called Caspicara, who fused elements of the Spanish Baroque with indigenous art. In the 20th century, the painter and graphic artist O. Guayasamin was a representative of expressive painting linked to folk art. In wall and panel paintings as well as in drawings, his work refers to the social and political situation in Latin America. The writer J. Carrera became internationally known with his symbolic poetry supported by humanitarian and political commitment as well J. Icaza , author of the socially critical novel “Huasipungo” (1934; German), who opposes the oppression of the indigenous population (Ecuadorian literature).

According to naturegnosis, the music in Ecuador is diverse. The popular music style, mainly on the coast, is Pasillo with its most important interpreter Julio Jaramillo (* 1935, † 1978), the Sanjuanito as music of the indigenous people from the Andes and the marimba of the Afro-Ecuadorians in the Esmeraldas province. Everywhere in the country you can see the colorful traditional costumes and ponchos of the indigenous people and the lively life in their markets. The textile and art products of the Otavalo Indians in the northern province of Imbabura are particularly well known. The most popular sport is soccer. Ecuavóley, a form of volleyball, comes from the highlands and is played in parks and streets across the country. Each team has three instead of five players.

World Heritage Sites in Ecuador

World Heritage Sites (K) and World Natural Heritage (N)

  • Galápagos Islands National Park and Marine Reserve (N; 1978)
  • Old Quito (K; 1978)
  • Sangay National Park (N; 1983)
  • Colonial city center of Cuenca (K; 1999)
  • Great Inca Road » Qhapaq Ñan « in the Andes (K; 2014)

Ecuador Culture