Ecuador is on the west coast of South America. It is bordered by
Colombia to the north, Peru to the east and south and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
The equator runs through Ecuador-in fact, the name Ecuador means "equator."
Ecuador consists of three major regions-the Costa, the Sierra and El Oriente - and a group of islands called the Archipiélago de Colón. The Costa region is the coastal lowlands and contains rich agricultural land and beautiful beaches. The Sierra is the Andean highlands with snow-capped mountains. El Oriente, the eastern lowlands, is covered with tropical rainforests. The Archipiélago de Colón, also known as the Gal pagos, is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The Andes Mountains cover most of central Ecuador. The highest
peak is Chimborazo, at 6,310 metres. Cotopaxi, at 5,900 metres, is one of the highest
active volcanoes in the world. About half of Ecuador's people live in the valleys and
plateaus of the Andes. About 20,000 species of plants grow in Ecuador, including more
than 4,500 orchids. There are hundreds of different animals, including 17 kinds of
monkeys, and more than 1,550 kinds of birds.
The climate in Ecuador varies across the regions. Generally, the climate is tropical along the coast and cooler inland. The Costa is hot and humid. The Sierra region has snowy mountaintops and subtropical valleys. The rainforest in El Oriente has a tropical climate. The Galápagos Islands have a mild climate.
Changes in the patterns of temperature and rainfall in this region
are caused by a warm ocean current called El Niño, which rises in the Pacific Ocean
every six or seven years and creates heavy rainfall that sometimes results in flooding and
landslides. El Niño means "the child." The current was given this name because it
usually emerges at Christmastime, the time of the Christ child.