Geography of Ecuador

The Geography of Ecuador has four different regions: the Highlands, the Coast, the Amazon Rain Forest and the Galapagos Islands. Ecuador is one of the smaller countries in South America.

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Located on the North west coast of South America and straddling the equator, Ecuador has a total area of about 265,000 square kilometers, including the Galapagos Islands.

To the north of Ecuador is Colombia and to the east and south is Peru. The border with Colombia is 590 km in length and that with Peru is 1,420 km.

The Andes Mountains, traverse the country from north to south, with topped majestic mountains like the Cotopaxi Volcano which is the highest "active volcano" in the world. The highest volcano in Ecuador is Chimborazo at 20,577 ft (6,272 m).

Those who like mountain climbing will love the geography of Ecuador and the epic mountains of the northern Andes.

If you like the jungle, there is a biological mother lode within the Amazon Rain Forest. If you like the sea, you will be rewarded with miles of Pacific coastline.

And if you like endemic species and evolution you will be stunned by the living wonders of the Galapagos Islands.

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Regions in the Geography of Ecuador

The Highlands

The geography of Ecuador in the highlands consist of two major chains of the Andes mountains, known as the Western Chain and the Eastern Chain.

Several transversal mountain spurs, cut across the plateau. The Spur of Azuay, at 4,500 meters is the highest of these transversal spurs and divides the highlands into two subregions: the area of modern volcanism to the north and the area of ancient volcanism to the south.

The former area consists of newer, higher mountains than those in the ancient volcanism section, which with time have eroded to lower levels.

The highlands of Ecuador have at least twenty two peaks over 4,200 meters in height. The Eastern Chain is wider and generally higher, with peaks averaging over 4,000 meters.

The Western Chain, however, contains the highest point in Ecuador, which is the Chimborazo volcano at 6,267 meters.

The Coast

The Coast is located between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains. It consists of coastal lowlands, coastal mountains, and rolling hills that separate river valleys.

The widest part of the region stretches 150 kilometers from Cabo San Lorenzo in Manabi Province to the foothills of the Andes Mountains.

In the southern part of Guayas Province, east of the Gulf of Guayaquil, the narrow coastal plain is only fifteen to twenty kilometers wide.

The coastal mountain chain, divides the region into the External Coast, next to the coast, and the Internal Coast, next to the Andes mountains.

This mountain chain reaches from the city of Esmeraldas in the north to the city of Guayaquil in the south.

To the North of Portoviejo in Manabi Province, the coastal mountain chain becomes only a series of hills and small mountains.

The Amazon Rainforest

Located in the eastern part of Ecuador, this region has a hot and humid climate with frequent rains most of the year.

It is the region with the greatest biodiversity in Ecuador, a region rich in flora and fauna.

The tropical rain forest of the Ecuadorian Amazon has endemic species that have evolved over hundreds of year. Several ethnic groups also co-exist with the exuberant nature in the Amazon.

Some of these tribes include: the Huaoranis, Shuar, Achuar, Quechua, Siona-Secoya, Zapara, Cofán and others that mostly maintain the ancient customs and rituals today.

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The Galapagos Islands Region

The Galapagos Islands are part of the geography of Ecuador. This Archipelago consists of a chain of large, medium, and small Islands that have a combined area of 7,845 square kilometers.

The largest Island is Isabela, also known as Albemarle Island, which is 120 kilometers long with an area of 4,275 square kilometers. All of the Islands in this Archipelago are of volcanic origin, and some have active volcanoes.

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Rivers in the Geography of Ecuador

Almost all of the rivers in Ecuador rise in the Highlands region and flow east toward the Amazon River or west toward the Pacific Ocean.

The rivers originate from snow melt at the edges of the snowcapped mountains or from the abundant precipitation that falls at higher elevations.

In the Highlands, the rivers are narrow and flow rapidly over precipitous slopes. The highland rivers broaden as they enter the more level areas of the Coast and the Amazon Rain Forest.

The Guayas River, which flows southward to the Gulf of Guayaquil, constitutes the most important of the drainage systems in the Coastal region. This river has an extension of sixty kilometers and starts just north of Guayaquil out of the confluence of the Babahoyo and Daule rivers.

The Guayas river widens south of the city and flows through a network of small islands and channels.

At its mouth, the river forms a broad estuary with two channels around Puna Island. Major rivers in the Amazon Rainforest include the Pastaza, Napo, and Putumayo rivers.

The Pastaza is formed by the confluence of the Chambo and the Patate rivers, both of which begin in the Highlands. The Pastaza includes the Agoyan waterfall, which is the highest waterfall in Ecuador (60 mts).

The Napo river starts near Cotopaxi volcano and is the major river used for transport in the Eastern lowlands. This river flows rapidly until the confluence with one of its major tributaries, the Coca River, where it slows and levels off.

As you can see the Geography of Ecuador is diverse and varied. This is one of the many reasons why this country is attracting more and more visitors every year.

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