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10 Things You Didn't Know About Ecuador

By Sarah Mahaney

With a culture as multi-dimensional as Ecuador, tourists are constantly learning something new about the country. Most people don't know that the "Panama Hat" originated in Ecuador or that there is a chain of volcanoes that cross the entire country. Please find ten commonly unknown facts about Ecuador below. How many did you know?

 

Ecuador is a multicultural, multiethnic and multiracial country. In an area equivalent to half of the size of Spain live 14 million people from over 200 officially recognized nationalities including the Mestizos, the White Ecuadorians, European Jewish, Pardo, Afro-Ecuadorians and many more.

Ecuador is in the middle of the world
Earth's precise midpoint – 0 degrees latitude, 0 minutes, 0 seconds – sits in the province of Pichincha, Ecuador. Visitors can visit the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo where they can see a 100-foot monument, topped with a globe five feet across, and yellow line that marks Earth's midpoint. Although the real Equator is a couple hundreds of feet north of the line, about half a million people visit the spot each year to partake in the fun.

Ecuador created the "Panama Hat"
Although wearers have nicknamed it the "Panama Hat," the Toquilla Straw Hat originated in the Ecuadorian cities of Montecristi, Jipijapa and Cuenca in the mid-seventeenth century. For many years, they stayed only in the local market until the late nineteenth century when local artisans were commissioned to make hundreds of light hats for the workers building the Panama Canal. The nickname was coined after a photo was taken of President Theodore Roosevelt wearing the hat while visiting the construction site. Today, these hats are part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as well as a fashion staple.

Ecuador is a bouquet of flowers
Ecuador is known as "The Land of Orchids" as it is home to four of the five subfamilies of orchids that exist around the world. With more than 1,714 species, these beautiful plants are spread over the entire country and considered to be the most attractive and ornamental flowers. Additionally, the Ecuadorian rose is appreciated all over for its perfection in aroma, size and indescribable beauty, which make it highly valued in the international market. With unique characteristics, this rose is grown in Tabacundo in the Andes region, where it is considered the Rose World Capital.

Ecuador is an eruption of beauty
Ecuador has a chain of volcanoes that crosses the entire country. Formed by the clashes of the Nazca and South American tectonic plates, the Andes Mountains are a geographical accident at around 4,350 feet and contain the worlds' highest volcanoes including Cotopaxi one of the world's highest active volcanoes.

Ecuador is a chocolate factory
Ecuadorian chocolate has been praised for its fine aroma and exquisite flavor and is undoubtedly one of the best in the world. It has received several awards including the International Chocolate Awards in London in 2012.

Ecuador has cuisine with character
Ecuadorian cuisine walks its own path to the public palate with different flavors taken from each of the country's regions. The coast is characterized by its varied and rich seafood while in the inland regions meats are a big part of the main dishes, among them cuy (guinea pig), which is considered to be a delicacy. No matter where tourists visit in Ecuador, they will find ají-based sauces accompanying every dish with each region and city creating their own unique blend.

Ecuador has its own architectural style
The fusion of religion, Andean culture and European influence make up the "Baroque Quito" style found in the most outstanding colonial architectural gems of the world-heritage cities in Ecuador. Churches such as Compañía de Jesús, San Francisco de Quito Convent and Cuenca Cathedral are the most significant and beautiful works of art in this aesthetic trend in South America and the rest of the world.

Ecuador is a bird sanctuary
With more than 1,630 species, Ecuador ranks fourth among the countries with the greatest diversity in the world particularly because its various bird watching sites are very close to each other. Unique species include the Golden-Headed Quetzal and the Umbrellabird.

Ecuador can put on a good face
Ecuadorian masks tell stories of an ancient heritage and are used in funeral rituals and holidays. Along with costumes and dances, they symbolize gods, animals or mythological beings. The most representative Ecuadorian feast of masks is the Diablada Pillarena, declared Cultural Heritage of Ecuador in 2009.

With so much to offer, it's no wonder why there is always something new to learn about Ecuador. For additional information, please visit www.ecuador.travel.