Ecuador lies on the west coast of the South American continent between Colombia to the north, and Peru to the South. The equator crosses Ecuador and gives it its name (ecuador is the Spanish word for equator). The world famous Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean are part of Ecuador.
Once the Inca Empire's northernmost territory, successive waves of invaders have left their mark on the country. The remains of Inca and pre-Inca fortresses dot hill tops across the Sierra, while in the highland valleys Queshua speaking Indiana sell traditional handicrafts in thousand year old markets. The beautifully preserved cities of Quito (an old Inca capital) and Cuenca, both rich in 16th century art and architecture, and the elegant colonial haciendas found throughout.
Ecuador features three main regions: La Sierra or the Highlands, is a high altitude belt which features mountainous terrain dominated by the Andes mountain range, El'Oriente or the East, which features the Amazone rainforest and accounts for about half of the country's total land surface, and the Region Insular, comprising of the Galapagos Islands, this is the region located along the Pacific Ocean.
Quito is Ecuador's capital, and the country's second largest city. Quito is a long narrow city running north to south for over 40 kilometers and by approximately 4 kilometers west to east. It is also the highest capital after La Paz in Bolivia in this continent. The city is divided into three main areas, namely the center (El Centro), the old colonial and historical city center, the distant south consisting mainly of working class residential areas and light industry and thirdly, the commercial, financial, shopping, restaurants and park areas with the newer tourist zones located in the northern sector along with its modern hotels. Along the Guayas River, and facing the Pacific Ocean, is the most populated city and the largest port and commercial center of the country, Guayaquil (3.2 million inhabitants).
Peak season for visiting mainland Ecuador is June through September and December through January. However, even in the rainy season (February to May and October to November), conditions are good and travel is still enjoyable. Quito especially is a year-round destination, though be prepared for temperatures becoming chilly due to its altitude during the dry season, June through September.
The lowland coastal areas have a warmer climate than the Sierra and generally have much less rain. The Galapagos Islands remain dry even in the wet season, so a good all year-round destination.