Ecuador is located on the northwest coast of the South American continent, nestled between the Pacific Ocean in the west and the neighboring countries Colombia and Peru. Belonging to Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are located about 1,000 kilometers from the mainland, in the Pacific Ocean. We provide details about the Galapagos Islands separately on the website.
Ecuador has three main landscapes: The Andean highlands ("La Sierra") ; the highest peak in Ecuador is the Chimborazo volcano at 6310 meters. Located in the Andean region, the Ecuadorian capital Quito, is at an altitude of 2850 meters. East of the Andes of South America is the Amazon rainforest ("El Oriente") and west of the Andes, the coastal area ("La Costa") .
As varied as the nature of Ecuador are also its people. The proportion of the indigenous population is very high, which can be due to the dense population under the rule of the Incas. In addition, other than Spaniards, there were other Europeans who emigrated to Ecuador, as was the case, for example, in Argentina. The descendants of indigenous and Europeans are called "mestizos”, and there are 5 to 10 percent Afro-Ecuadorians. The various self- identifications of Ecuadorians produce a fascinating variety of cultures. Even within the same population as that of the Kichwa, which is considered as the largest ethnic group in the country, there are significant cultural differences, which is due to the circumstances of each habitat like the high mountains or the Amazon region. Other indigenous groups are the Huaorani and Shuar of the Amazon region, and the Chachi and Cofan on the Pacific coast.
Our main locations are Quito, Puerto Quito, Puerto Lopez and an animal welfare project in the Amazon-Region in Arajuno.
Locations in Ecuador
Situated on a high valley of the Andes, Quito, the capital of Ecuador, extends north to south for more than 30 kilometers. Numerous districts nestle up the steep slopes of the surrounding hills and mountains and to the east of the city, down into the valleys, where commuter towns such as Cumbayá have developed. The volcano, Pichincha, with its two peaks at 4680 and 4794 meters above sea level, rises west of the city.
Quito can be essentially divided into four areas: the old town and the new center in the core, as well as the North and South City.
The historic old town, El Centro is characterized by colonial facades, the presidential palace, picturesque squares, the Cathedral, as well as other numerous churches, chapels, convents and monasteries and narrow streets (some with cobblestones leading steeply once up and down). Wander through the old town, and you will always perceive something new. South of the old town, the hill El Panecillo (small loaf) rises, on which stands the statue of the Virgin Mary. From there, you have a great view over the expanse of the city.
Located to the north from the historical center, is "New Quito”. It is considered the office and business district with many bars, restaurants and nightlife as well as hotels, hostels and B & Bs. This new part of Quito is referred to as Mariscal Sucre or as short Mariscal.
The northern part of the city is considered clean and more prosperous; the South has the reputation of being dirty and poor.
In Quito, the second largest city in Ecuador to Guayaquil, live about 2.2 million people. They meet a colorful mix of tradition and modernity and strong contrasts between rich and poor.
Amazon Rainforest and Puerto Quito
Amazon Rainforest and Puerto Quito
In addition to Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, Ecuador is among the Amazon countries. About 42 percent of the area of Ecuador is covered by rainforest. This is only 2 percent of Amazonia. However, despite the small size of Ecuador, the presence of about 20,000 plant species, 1,500 bird species, more than 840 amphibians and reptiles and over 300 species of mammals, places it among the countries with the greatest biodiversity.
Unfortunately, Ecuador is also the highest in terms of the destruction of this unique ecosystem. The oil reserves and oil production especially cause considerable damage to nature and man with the mining, logging and deforestation for agricultural use.
Our project site, "animal protection project in the Amazon rain forest”, is located near Arajuno, about 1 hour’s drive from the Ecuadorian jungle town of Puyo to the northeast, surrounded by nothing but the breathtaking rainforest.
Puerto Quito is a small town with about 3000 inhabitants, about 140 km north- west of Quito. The area is less than 200 meters high and thus, in the lowlands west of the Ecuadorian Andes. The area is dominated by agriculture and there are also a number of ecotourism offers. The town has developed as people increasingly settled here to take up farming only in the 1960s and 1970s . The agricultural production is mainly cocoa, bananas, various tropical fruits such as papaya, oranges or pineapple and corn.
Puerto Lopez is about 4.5 hours by bus from Ecuador's largest city Guayaquill, located on the southwest coast of the country. This coastal town with about 14,000 inhabitants, is a little long in the tooth, but that is what gives it a certain charm. In the immediate vicinity is the National Park Machallila (Parque Nacional Machalilla). The National Park covers 40,000 hectares of beach, coastline, tropical dry and cloud forest and 20,000 hectares of marine area including various islands. A significant feature is the Galapagos Islands like Isla de la Plata (Silver Island). The island is a nesting site for a variety of seabirds such as blue footed booby (the intensity of the blue on their feet provides information about their age), frigatebird, pelicans and several species of gulls. On the one-hour boat ride to the island, one often can watch dolphins, and during the period between mid-June and early October (especially in July and August), humpback whales visit the waters to mate. Sea turtles wander around the Isla de la Plata and also on the mainland coast. Puerto Lopez even has a sandy beach and it is possible to swim in the sea and to enjoy sunsets. The beach village of Montañita, south of Puerto Lopez (about 1000 inhabitants), is considered Ecuador's surfing mecca, attracting numerous visitors. Similarly, one can enjoy the sun and sea at Los Frailes beach in Machalilla National Park (travel time about 30 minutes north of Puerto Lopez).
Activities in Ecuador
Internships & Volunteering
In Quito internships can be done in the fields of business administration, marketing, finance, project management, communication, web design, environmental engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical power engineering, as well as in sustainable tourism development, tourism, hotel and restaurant industry. In addition, volunteering in the areas of child care, education and teaching are possible.
Animal Welfare and Sports projects are possible in Puerto Lopez and at the Amazon Rainforest near Puyo.
You can find the various internships and volunteering opportunities in Ecuador in the main menu on top of this page or using the Activity Finder.
Language Training in Spanish is possible in three areas in the mainland of Ecuador: Quito, Puerto Quito, Puerto Lopez and also at Galapagos.
You can find various World Learner options in Ecuador in the main menu on top of this page or using our Activity Finder.
Discover The Country
Mitad del Mundo
The country Ecuador owes its name to its location directly on the equator. The equator monument, La Mitad del Mundo, is at the place where Charles Marie de La Condamine in 1736, could prove based on his measurement, that the equator actually runs here, and is about 22 km north of the capital, Quito. Today, we know that Charles Marie has measured about 240 meters away, but the popularity of La Mitad del Mundo amongst visitors remains.
The small town of Otavalo (about 2 hours by bus, located north of Quito) is one of the strongholds of the Kichwa Andean culture, and hence is home to several handicrafts. Here, the daily market in the central square has centuries of tradition. On Saturdays, the stalls extend also to the surrounding streets. You can easily browse here all day, and marvel at the many choices of fabrics, knits and leather goods, paintings, jewelry and other items.
The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is located in the northeast of Ecuador and is part of the Amazon. During a multi-day tour, you can admire the variety of flora and fauna of the rainforest here. You will find various monkey and bird species, anacondas, other snakes, spiders and other critters in all sorts of sizes and colors, caimans and pink river dolphins. The protected area is home to various indigenous groups; whom you can visit during the tour and get to know their ways of life.
Outdoor Activities in the Andes
The opportunities to enjoy the fascinating Andean landscape are numerous in Ecuador. Cotopaxi National Park can be visited from the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, or you can choose the small town of Latacunga as a starting point. Within the national park, there are several hiking routes, where, for example, you can observe wild horses. Those who can manage high altitudes, can go up to the edge of the glacier at about 5000 m (16404 ft). Also, it is possible to reach the summit at 5897 meters (19347 ft) of altitude. The highest peak in Ecuador is the Chimborazo at 6310 m (20702ft), which one can also climb. And then there are the volcano Cayambe, whose snowy peaks are the highest point in the world, through which runs the equator, the Imbabura Volcano, Volcano Cotocachi, Volcano Iliniza, and so on. Who would not want to climb so high to the Quilotoa Loop or at least a part of it?! The ring road which starts and ends in Latacunga leads through various Kichwa Andean villages. The scenic highlight is the Quilotoa Lagoon with its intense turquoise-blue water.
Sun, Beach and Sea
With a coastline of 2237 kilometers, Ecuador gives you quite a wide range of choice as to which coastal town you want to visit. In the north coast, it attracts visitors especially to Canoa; Mompiche is a small town of about 6100 inhabitants, with a 7 km long beach. On the southern coast, the beach Los Frailes attracts visitors mainly in June to October, when Buck whales can be observed; as do the Machalilla National Park and Puerto Lopez. Further south, is the beach village of Montañita, which is known as the Mecca of surfing.
Esmeraldas and the Afro-Ecuadorian Culture
Quito has a lot to offer: a historic old town, which is considered as a Unesco World Heritage Site, the modern district of La Mariscal with numerous shopping facilities, a large city park, where you can play typical games like Ecuavoley (Ecuadorian form of volleyball) or pelota Nacional (a kind of oversized tennis Meet), shopping malls, smaller markets and many street vendors, great views of El Panecillo, the hill that separates the old city from the southern part of the city and on which there is a statue of the Virgin Mary enthroned, or take a ride on the cable car to an altitude of 4100 m to the volcano Pichincha, and also plenty of cultural activities like music or dance.
Guayaquill, with 2.6 million inhabitants, is the largest city in Ecuador and is located in the southwest. Guayaquill is the economic center and also a lively city. The city center is characterized by a series of high-rise buildings and the waterfront, the Malecón, with restaurants, entertainment facilities and green spaces. At the end of the promenade, there is the hill of Santa Ana, whose peak is reached via steep stairs leading through a variety of multi-colored houses. In the district of Las Peñas, at the foot of Santa Ana, Guayaquill has its historical origins.
If your budget does not allow a trip to the Galápagos Islands, you should visit Guayaquill's Cathedral Square, "el parque pay semenario" or "el parque de los iguanas". Countless iguanas lazily hang from the trees and wait for the next lettuce leaf, which may be fed to them.