The country takes its name from its location on the equator, which runs just north of the capital, Quito. With an area of around 257,000 km2, Ecuador is smaller than its neighbors in South America, but around three times the size of Austria. Of the 16 million people, more than a quarter are indigenous and around half are mestizos.
Ecuador is located on the Pacific coast and is one of the most diverse countries in the world in terms of landscape. Three parts of the country can be distinguished:
- The Sierra consists of the two mountain ranges Cordillera Occidental and Cordillera Oriental, which enclose a densely populated highland. Several volcanoes rise more than 5000 m, the highest mountain is the Chimborazo with 6273 m. The highlands are the most densely populated part of the country with the most cities. The populated areas are mostly at 2500 to 3000 m above sea level.
- The Amazon lowlands in the east are called Oriente. There are only a few smaller towns here. Several indigenous groups live in the rainforest. Large parts of the rainforest are protected in the Yasuni National Park and in the Cuyabeno Nature Reserve.
- The Costa is the part of the country along the Pacific coast. The Rio Guayas delta forms a large natural harbor, with the largest city in Ecuador, Guayaquil (about 3 million inhabitants). A sizeable minority of Afro-Ecuadorians live in the northern part of the Costa.
The Galapagos Islands are around 1000 km off the coast. The 13 larger and numerous small islands have an area of around 8000 km2, of which Isabela Island accounts for more than half. Around 97% of the area is under strict nature protection, and around 30,000 people live in the remaining 3% of the islands.