Few places on earth offer such a striking landscape as Ecuador. You can spend your morning on a beautiful Pacific beach and your afternoon high on a mountain top at 15,000 ft. The country is divided north to south by the Ecuadorian Andes, which include the second highest mountain on the continent and the highest active volcano in the world. These precipitous peaks abruptly fall away to the Pacific in the west and to the Amazon in the east, separating the two expanses of tropical forest with a saw-toothed spine of glaciated peaks.

Deeply embedded in this spiritually rich environment lie a mix of cultures that have been vying for their own claim of the intrinsic and physical resources. A complex history, whose beginnings can still only be theorized about, has seen numerous indigenous cultures, eventually absorbed by the Inca Empire only to be ended abruptly by Spanish conquistadors. But to this day, 25% of the population is indigenous, and the list of languages in the country includes names like Otavalo, Salasaca and Aupa.

Rapid urbanization in recent decades has left the rural population scattered amidst large-scale farms, dense forest and jagged peaks. Unfortunately, like many developing nations, Ecuador has a history of rapid resource extraction, including expansive, unsustainable logging of forests and unsound mining practices. While pressure is still quite high to maintain or increase the income from these projects, there has been mounting opposition from the global, as well as local, communities. Now, numerous community cooperatives and non-government organizations (NGOs) are working to replace these practices with more sustainable industry, supplemented by eco-tourism efforts, and are working to restore the habitats in previously damaged areas. The people of Ecuador have also turned their attention to economic growth, productivity and sustainable development.

Galapagos Islands

The birthplace of Darwin’s landmark ideas, the Galapagos Islands are a series of isolated volcanic islets. As recipients of occasional migrations of various species, these stark, semi-arid landscapes are now home to some of the most unusual life forms on earth. Here, in the absence of a top predator, the animals, including many endemic birds, iguanas, tortoises, sea lions, fur seals and Galapagos penguins, have forgotten fear and appear almost tame.

Often overlooked, but equally interesting, are the adaptations made by the 875 unique plant species whose few ancestors have blown (or were carried) ashore with the volcanic formation of the islands. These fragile ecosystems which are highly susceptible to invasive, non-native species, need to be carefully preserved not only for intrinsic reasons, but also so that they will be here to enchant future generations. Any of the islands could be a launching point for an epidemic of extinctions, should specialized organisms, which could easily overtake the delicate endemic species, be brought ashore.

Facts about Ecuador
  • Nationality: Ecuadorian
  • Population: ~13.7 million people
  • Capital: Quito
  • Language: Spanish; Amerindian languages
  • Geography: Ecuador sits in western South America and has four major regions, the Amazon (El Oriente), the Andes (La Sierra), the Pacific Coast (La Costa), and the Galápagos Islands (Región Insular). The country is bordered by Columbia, Peru and the Pacific Ocean.
  • Terrain: Coastal plains , central highlands (Andes), jungle (the Amazon), volcanic (Galapagos)
  • Currency: US Dollar
  • Climate: The weather in Ecuador varies more with altitude than with the time of year, and the climate is known to be very unpredictable! The high altitude of the Andes averages anywhere between 42 – 88 degrees Fahrenheit year round. The Amazon is humid and warm all year with a temperature ranging between 72 and 88 degrees. Expect the coast to be hot, 80 and 90 degrees. The Galapagos Islands weather is determined by the wind the water currents with the temperature between 60 and 90 degrees depending on both factors.
  • Did you know? Ecuador sits on the equator, from which it gets its name.


Ecuador Itinerary

  • Day 1 - Arrive in Ecuador
  • Day 2 - Explore Quito
  • Day 3 - Travel to host community (or Galapagos Islands)
  • Day 4 - Host community and service project
  • Day 5 - Host community and service project
  • Day 6 - Host community and service project
  • Day 7 - Host community and service project
  • Day 8 - Travel back to Quito
  • Day 9 - Quilotoa Crater Lake
  • Day 10 - Depart for home city
Ecuador & Galapagos Islands