Marginally larger in size than the UK, Ecuador is one of the smaller countries in South America and the world’s number one supplier of bananas. The Andes Mountain range runs north to south, cutting the country into the hot and humid Amazonian rainforest in the east and the hot and dry Pacific coastal regions in the west.

The world-famous Galapagos Islands also form part of Ecuador. The Galapagos has an interesting scientific history, dating back to 1835 when Charles Darwin visited the island for five weeks to observe the incredibly unique flora and fauna on the island. Darwin observed the Galapagos tortoise (weighing up to 270km), Galapagos Marine Iguana and the numerous species of finches which inspired his ground breaking theory The Origin of Species. Today the Galapagos has become an incredibly popular tourist destination, for both biologists and nature lovers.

High above sea level in the middle of the Andes, Ecuador’s capital and main gateway, Quito, is a pleasant and accessible city benefiting from a mild climate throughout the entire year. Once the capital of the mighty Inca Empire, Quito boasts large amounts of Spanish colonial architecture and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. As of 2015, Quito had a population of 2.7 million people, the second most populous city in Ecuador behind Guayaquil. On the whole, Ecuador had a population of 16.2 million people (2015).

The Amazonian rainforest is home to many indigenous Indian tribes, such as the Huaorani and the Siona-Secoya. Logging and recent developments in the oil industry coupled with internal migration all disrupt those people’s livelihoods – as well as the fragile environment.

In 2013, Ecuador welcomed 1.4 million international tourists. However, the ever-increasing number of tourist arrivals threatens the Galapagos Archipelagos – the sensitive microcosm of unique and bountiful fauna and flora. In tandem with tourism, local and international initiatives have sprung up in recent years not only to help protect these islands and the rainforest, but also the traditional habitat of the local communities. When planning your journey to Ecuador be sure to check the environmental and community credentials of tour operators – or see our selection below.