Driving Directions Ecuador

ECUADOR is an Andean country situated in the northwest of the South American continent. It is bounded to the north by Colombia, to the east and south by Peru and the west by the Pacific Ocean. It also includes the Galapagos Islands which are located about 965 kilometers or 600 miles west of the mainland.

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The country contains over 30 active volcanoes. Running down the middle of Ecuador from north to south and rising inland from the coastal plain is the Sierra or Central Highlands, consisting of the Western and Eastern Cordillera ranges of the Andes. These are separated by a long, narrow valley forming a high plateau, and they contain vast, towering peaks, several of which exceed 4,876 meters or 16,000 feet in height and some which are active volcanoes. They include Mount Cotopaxi, which at 5,895 meters or 19,340 feet is the highest active volcano on Earth, and Mount Chimborazo, which is an even more massive 6,310 meters or 20,556 feet high.

The coastal area or the Costa consists of plains and is up to 160 kilometers or 100 miles wide. Lying to the east of the Andes and comprising about one-third of the total land area is the region known as the Oriente. It is drained by rivers, which form some of the headwaters of the mighty Amazon, this region covered by dense tropical rainforest and is well known for its biodiversity. The climate varies according to altitude from equatorial through warm temperate to mountain conditions.

Much of Ecuador’s coastal area has been cleared of forests to make way for the cultivation of bananas, sugar cane, coffee, cocoa beans, rice, manioc, and maize. In contrast to this, the highland areas adapted to grazing, dairying, and cereal growing. The fishing industry is important on the Pacific Coast and processed fish, such as tuna and shrimp, is one of the country’s main exports. Ecuador is one of the world’s leading producers of balsa wood. Oil produced in the eastern region and crude oil is Ecuador’s most important export.

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