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Ecuador is located on the equatorial line in northwestern South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean to the west, Colombia to the north, and Peru to the south and east.
Ecuador straddles the equator, from which it takes its name, and has an area of 109,483 sq miles. Its capital city is Quito, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in the 1970s for having the best preserved and least altered historic centre in Latin America. The country's largest city is Guayaquil.
Ecuador is also home to a great variety of species, many of them endemic, like those of the Galápagos islands. It's this species diversity that makes Ecuador one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world.
Ecuador has 1,600 bird species (15% of the world's known bird species) in the continental area, and 38 more endemic in the Galápagos. In addition to over 16,000 species of plants, the country has 106 endemic reptiles, 138 endemic amphibians, and 6,000 species of butterfly. The Galápagos Islands are well known as a region of distinct fauna, famous as the place of birth of Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ecuador's mainstream culture is defined by its Hispanic mestizo majority and, like their ancestry, is traditionally of Spanish heritage influenced at different degrees with Amerindian traditions and in some cases with African elements.
In the coastal region seafood is very popular, with shrimp and lobster being key parts of the diet. Plantain and peanut based dishes are the basis of most coastal meals. Churrasco is a staple food of the Coast Region specially Guayaquil. Arroz con menestra y carne asada (rice with beans and grilled beef) is one of the traditional dishes of Guayaquil, as is fried plantain which is often served with it.
In the Amazon region, a dietary staple is the yuca, elsewhere called cassava. Many fruits are available in this region, including bananas, tree grapes, and peach palms. This region is a lead producer of bananas, cacao beans (to make chocolate), shrimp, tilapia, mangos and passion fruit, among other products.
Because of its location at the equator, Ecuador experiences little variation in daylight hours during the course of a year, both sunrise and sunset occur each day at around 6am & 6pm.
Ecuador has a very varied climate. There are four main regions in Ecuador - each have contrasting climates, temperatures and seasons:
La Costa (Coastal Lowlands) to the west of Ecuador is usually warm, with temperatures averaging 25c. The humid rainy season is from December to May.
Piedra Blanca is located between the lowlands and the highlands - the climate is very pleasant.
La Sierra (Highlands) have a much cooler climate - and temperatures vary with altitude. The average summer temperature in Quito Ecuador is about 16c.
El Oriente (Amazon region) to the east of Ecuador has a humid and rainy climate. Average daytime temperatures are around 25c. The dry season varies by region, but is usually November to February.
The Galapagos Islands have a warm and relatively dry climate year round, with temperatures averaging 27c.