From the highest peaks to captivating islands, the smallest country of the Andrean highlands hosts an array of vibrant indigenous cultures

Nestled on the equator in South America — from which the country takes its name — the Republic of Ecuador is beautifully diverse in its terrain.

Home to some of the highest mountains on earth, the Sierra region is composed of the high plateaus and valleys between the massive twin mountain ranges of the Andes. This area was the core of ancient civilization in South America and was one of the centers of the Inca Empire during the 15th and 16th centuries.

A tourism favorite, the Galápagos Islands are located more than 600 miles off the mainland. Filled with wildlife like sea lions and sea tortoises, the 19 beautiful islands serve as one of the country’s most popular attractions.

The majority of Ecuador’s nearly 15 million inhabitants can trace their heritage to various indigenous groups, the Incas, Spaniards and African slaves brought by the Spanish colonists in the mid-1500s. Over the centuries, the country has become a largely mestizo (mixed) population. This diversity has caused deeply ingrained divisions among the people of Ecuador that have been elevated by various economic and political crises.

Cultural Snapshots

Ecuador is home to a whole range of cultures mingled together. The Afro-Ecuadorians that are present in Ecuador today are famous for their marimba music and many music and dance festivals.

Faith Fact

Many indigenous Ecuadorians have blended their traditional beliefs with those of Catholicism over time, including the connection of Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) and the Virgin Mary.

Country Profile

Population: 13,032,000

Major Religions: 80% Roman Catholic, 11% Protestant

Languages: Spanish and Quichua

Literacy: 93%