Some people call the Andes Mountains, Ecuador’s “spine,” though one can also envision it as its Great Wall, running along the entire length of the country, standing—in colossal form—between the Pacific Coast and the Amazon Basin.
All major Andean cities as Quito and Cuenca lie along this mountain-fringed corridor. German explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt—one of the world’s most celebrated minds (whose fame was “second only to Napoleon’s” during his lifetime)—spent months here in 1802, and coined this geographical phenomenon the “Avenue of Volcanoes.”
While volcanoes are very much a defining feature of the Andes, the many different ecosystems formed around them allow for great diversity in both nature and culture. From cloud forests to snow-peak mountains, cold páramo streams to warm, forested waterfalls, the Andes are home to an astounding wilderness. At the same time, they are home to over thirty distinct ethnicities, groups that recognize their many subtle differences in traditions, rituals, and dress. Ecuador’s human population is also a reflection of this varied, rolling geography and even a brief stay will produce incredible cross-cultural encounters.