Ecuador is one of the smallest and one of the more colorful of the Andean countries, about the size of Colorado or Great Britain, with many distinct tribes of indigenous peoples. Pure Indigenous peoples make up about 40 percent of Ecuador, with perhaps another 40% being "mestizo" (people having a mix of indigenous blood).
The language spoken is Spanish, with some English spoken in the bigger cities. In the Andes (throughout Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia), the Indigenous peoples also speak Quichua, which varies slightly from community to community and country to country. In the jungle, indigenous peoples also have their own language.
In general, Ecuadorians are kind and friendly people. Greetings are important to Ecuadorians, especially in the Andean highlands. A simple hello, from a "gringo," may bring a bevy of smiles and laughs and a willingness to help you with anything. It's always good manners to shake hands.
As a tourist, you can receive a visa for up to 3 months a year in Ecuador. Ecuador is a wonderful destination for travelers who are interested in the outdoors and nature-related activities, as well as Colonial Architecture (there are no finer examples of Spanish colonial architecture, sculpture and paintings than those produced in Ecuador in the 17th and 18th centuries), cathedrals, museums, rainforests, isolated beaches, Inca treasures, birding, the Andes, volcanoes, handicrafts and food markets, colorful festivals and parades, traditional folk music, and colorful Indigenous peoples.
There are four different ecosystems: the “Costa” (rugged coastal shoreline), the “Oriente” (Amazon region-tropical rainforest), and the “Sierra” (Andes Mountains and highland areas, which make up the majority of Ecuador), and the Galapagos Islands (which lie 600 miles off of the coast of Ecuador). Travel in Ecuador is relatively easy, because the distance between remote sites and cities is far less than in most places. When coming to the Andes Mountains in Ecuador, even though you will be on the equator, the weather will be chilly. Temperatures are determined more by altitude (the higher you go, the colder it is) than by the calendar. Temperatures also vary greatly according to whether it’s raining or sunny and the temperature can rise 10 degrees just because the sun is out. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to predict weather patterns in Ecuador this year, mostly due to the El Nino effect. September to December are normally the driest months, however this year we’ve had alot of rain in Dec. The Amazon and coastal areas are always warmer and more humid. Quito, at 9,300 feet, remains constant year round with lows in the mid 40s and highs around 68-72 degrees centigrade. Mornings and evenings are cool. The Ecuadorian mainland time is equivalent to Eastern Standard Time in North America. Because of Ecuador’s location on the equator, days and nights are of equal length (12 hours) year round and there is no daylight-saving time.
Ecuador uses 110 volts, 60 cycles, AC, the same as in North America, but not compatible with Britain and Australia. Plugs have two flat prongs, as in North America.
You will feel the altitude more in Quito because of the pollution and most recently, because of volcanic ash in the air. Otavalo, a few hours outside of Quito, is only a few hundred feet lower, but the air contains much more oxygen because of the lack of pollution (and volcanic ash). When flying into high altitude areas, allow a day or two to adjust. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and heavy foods. Try not to eat alot of salt as the body retains fluid in the altitude. Altitude may make you feel dizzy and light-headed and also affects appetite and your sleeping patterns so you won't sleep as deep as you are used too. Drink lots of liquids, and simple painkillers will help with the headache you may have. It's always good to check with your doctor first. Be sure to bring all your prescription medicine with you.
Innoculations against cholera, yellow fever, polio, typhoid, tetanus and hepatitus might be recommended, although they are not required.
The equatorial sun can be deceiving. You are the closest to the sun on the equator, especially in the altitude. Bring plenty of sunblock and always wear a hat because you can become dehydrated easily with the sun beating down on your head. Even when you don't see the sun, it's hitting you.
Insects are generally not a problem in the Andes (the Peguche Waterfalls and some lake areas have bothersome black flies), but for jungle and coastal trips, insect repellent is a must.
A Bad Stomach
Do not use ice unless you are absolutely sure that it is made with purified water. When in doubt, drinking water should be boiled at least 5 minutes. Always peel fresh fruit and vegetables and make sure restaurant food is fresh and steaming hot. Remember, in Ecuador anyone with a few hundred dollars and a few aluminum pots, can open up a restaurant. That does not mean that they are hygienic and have the knowledge to properly and safely handle food. There are few controls! Many little "gringo" restaurants will save food until it sells, despite the fact that it is spoiling! Look for restaurants that have people in them and word of mouth recommendations should lead you to some good places.
Some symptoms of a "bad stomach bacteria" could be low fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach bloating, diarrhea or constipation. Many pharmacies are familiar with these symptoms and can give you something. Mebendazole, taken over a period of 2-5 days is a usual treatment for giardia. Bring anti-diarrheal medicine (Immodium) and painkillers with you from the States. Eating antacids is not a good idea as you need all the stomach acid you can get for maximum digestion. Sometimes, a day or so of untreated diarrhea can get the "bug" out of your system, but drink lots of fluids. Eating fresh garlic and putting lemon juice in your drinking water are good preventatives.
There are excellent clinics and hospitals in Quito, Metropolitan Hospital being the best, with an emergency room outclinic. Prices will be very reasonable and you will be expected to pay immediately. When you get home, you can arrange reimbursement with your insurance company. And almost everywhere you go, there will be a highly recommended doctor or laboratory for common complaints. Ask at your hotel.
There are two international airports in Ecuador-Quito (the Andes) and Guayaquil (the coast). When arriving in Quito, expect to pay $7-10 for a taxi to the new city where most of the tourist hotels are located. Generally, "taxistas" in Ecuador are pretty honest and friendly. Ones that sit in front of the first class hotels will charge a bit more. For long trips, it's always good to hire a newer car and one that doesn't have an odor of gas inside (which means a bad exhaust system, and a headache for you). Here in Otavalo, taxis will charge about $10.-$12. per hour, and we have gotten very fair rates for people going to Banos or the Coast. Many times it's much cheaper to hire a taxi by the day than to actually rent a car yourself or pay a 4X4 tour company, with guide (some places do not require a guide and you can always be sure that your taxi driver will have alot to say, and may speak a little English). Taxis in Quito have meters, though they are not always used. Establish a price first if the taxi has no meter. Ask at the hotel what a particular trip should cost. Taxi fares within the city of Quito are very inexpensive compared to North American standards. Also, there is an efficient electric trolly system in Quito that runs north and south. It's fast and easy, but beware of thieves.
Renting a car and driving yourself should be only for the adventurous and experienced who have some extra money to spend. Expect to spend at least $80 per day. Driving in developing countries can be barbaric at times. If you do rent, check the contract well and make sure you understand all charges and check the car well, for spare tires, jacks, and working windshield wipers. You should choose hotels that have secure garages as you can't leave the car on the street at night! Avoid driving at night! And drive defensively! Bring a valid driver's license with photo, and if possible, an international driver's license, easily obtained through Triple A in the U.S. You will be expected to present it at the many roadblocks in Ecuador. Don't be afraid or intimidated by the routine police checks in Ecuador; they only wish to see your documents. Always be friendly; a smile will get you all the cooperation you need. While you are driving, ignore anyone on the highway who tries to motion you over to stop. This is a dangerous scam to extort money from you or rob you. Quito has a number of car rental agencies, including the three international companies, Avis, Budget and Hertz. The procedures for reporting an accident are somewhat hazy, but everyone agrees that you must report to the nearest police station as soon as possible. The police will try to decide and divide the fault, but almost always, the foreigner will end up paying.
Buses are an excellent way to "see the country" and can be considered an "anthropological experience." They will always take longer but cost practically nothing. It's not a good idea to put your bags in the back luggage compartment of the bus. There have been many cases of people getting robbed of their bags this way. And at the least, they will slide around and get filthy dirty. Most of the time, there is space on the bus for you to tuck your bags in somewhere, such as leaving them in the front, but keeping an eye. Or consider buying an extra seat on the bus for your suitcases or packs. Always keep an eye on your belongings. Two new bus terminals in Quito are both clean and efficient. One is located in the north of Quito, for destinations northward and one is in the south of Quito for arrivals and departures southward. There is no "shuttle" that connects the two terminals so you must take a taxi or a city bus to one from the other. If you plan to sleep on the bus, make sure you are connected to your belongings.
Taking photos of the people is sometimes offensive to them. Some elderly people feel that it is robbing their spirit or that it is just plain rude. It's always a good idea to be friendly and ask in a polite way. Also, offer a tip for a photo, especially to the older people and poorer people who can use the money. When you are buying something, like in a market, it's always a good idea to ask for a photo for a "recuerdo" (rememberance) before you pay for the item. People are usually cooperative in this way. It's also a good idea to bring a few snapshots from home, perhaps of your house, children, mother, school or town. They can always relate. With digital cameras, it is easy to find a camera store that will upload your photos and print them instantly! Remember, we are asking for a copy of their image and it's only fair to "tithe" something for it! Never force a photo. Regarding film: If you still use 35mm film, it's a good idea to bring all the film you will need from home, as it will be fresher and generally cheaper.
Thieves are another common complaint. They are everywhere in the world and Ecuador is no exception. Quito is much safer than it has been in years, but be very careful in big markets, bus stations and in the old city of Quito. Carrying a photocopy of your documents will do for short journeys- leave your airline tickets, passport, extra money and fine jewelry in a hotel safe when exploring these places. Always have a money belt or pouch. Carry bags or purses under your arm, preferably under a jacket. When walking through crowded streets or markets, it's a good idea to carry your day pack in the front. Be extremely careful when renting a taxi to visit the Virgin of Quito (Panecillo) Overlook. You should never go there on foot.
Markets like those at Otavalo or Saquisili are frequented by big city pickpockets that "work the circuit". (This is sneaky crime and only occurs when people are not paying attention to their belongings.) Luckily they go back to Quito in the afternoon, and these pueblos return to the relatively safe places that they are during the week. Thieves look for easy targets! They often work in pairs or groups. While one distracts your attention, another thief is robbing you. It's always a good idea to go in a group to remote areas, like lakes outside of towns, or to take long mountain hikes. Always go trekking or climbing with a reputable guide, as most robberies of tour groups or hotels are "inside jobs". Lately in the new city of Quito (the Mariscal), there have been some reports of armed assaults. It's not a good idea to go out at all at night unless you are in a group. Always try to look like you know where you are going, and never flash huge packs of cash. Always keep a few small bunches of the local currency in various places. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Never leave valuables in an unattended car. Windows will be smashed by hit and run thieves. If you are careful, nothing should happen, and you'll return home with only good memories of your visit to Ecuador. Before you leave home make copies of EVERYTHING. Your passport, airline tickets, traveler's checks' numbers, and also have handy, phone numbers to call in case of lost items. Another safty precaution: Never accept food or drinks from anyone that you do not know. This goes for people on buses as well as "well-meaning" locals in bars, etc. Many people have been "drugged" in this way, only to wake up days later robbed of everything, even their shoes! If you have been robbed, make sure you get a police report as this may be necessary for you to collect from your insurance company when you return home. Many policies have a "travel insurance" rider, or if necessary, take out a travel insurance policy.
For the latest travelers' advisories, call the U.S. Department of State Overseas Citizens Services (202-647-5225); the Canadian Travel Advisory Line (800-267-6788 in Canada or 6l3-944-6788 outside Canada); British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (171-238-4503) or the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Consular Operations Section (2-6261-3305) or check out theri web pages.
As far as tipping goes, generally 10% tip is added on to most hotel and restaurant bills. Sometimes the employees do not receive this, sometimes they do. If you liked the service and you feel that the person was being honest and going out of their way to accommodate you, leave something extra, perhaps another 5%. If 10% is not put onto a bill, give 10-15% directly to the employee. Generally, all services such as carrying your bag, watching your car, etc., merit a tip (about $1.00-$2.00), especially if the service was good. Don't be surprised to find a 12% sales tax on all sales in Ecuador. The government tax department is very strict and not many services are exempt from paying it.
Begging is a fact of life in Ecuador. Especially concerning the elderly, it's a good idea to give something, a piece of food if you can. Follow your heart and common sense. Please show basic human respect to these people. More and more children are begging these days and are being brought into the big cities by their desperate mothers who have no way to earn a living in the country. Again, follow your heart- it's better to buy some fruit, bread and cheese or other food. Children may not spend the money you give them on food, which is their greatest need. There are so many homeless children roaming the streets of Quito, selling flowers, shining shoes. There are a number of centers in Quito, one being "The Centro del Muchacho Trabajador" which helps to educate and feed homeless kids. A tour of the place can be arranged, and donations are greatly needed. Talk to the folks at the South American Explorer's Club for more info on this. Elderly seem to have the "right" to beg and even the locals will tithe a little bit of food to them. Even a half U.S. dollar in the local currency can greatly impact the life of an old person.
The country changed its currency to the US dollar twelve years ago but there is much uncertainty if it will remain the national currency. The wireless infrastructure in Ecuador is now excellent! ATM machines are reliable and consistent, especially in larger towns and cities. Most businesses will not accept traveller's checks. A common eccentricity in Ecuador is that almost no one will admit that they have change. Even the banks may not give you change. Bring small denomination US. dollar bills (ones, fives, tens and twenties). Do not bring old or torn US bills. The Ecuadorian banks will not accept any torn, ripped in even the smallest way, or old bills; consequently, the people will not accept them either. In our experience, only Supermaxi and the gas stations will accept beat up dollar bills. Expect to pay 10% to 14% additional to use your credit card in Ecuador. Most tourist services will add 22% on to youir bill for sales tax and service.
TELEPHONES, INTERNET AND E-MAIL
Ecuador's phone service has come a long way in the last few years! Internet cafés and public cellular phone centers are now located everywhere and are very efficient and economical for local and long distance calls.
Interprovincial calls can be made by using any one of six area codes.
Dial 02 before all calls to the province of Pichincha and Quito,
Dial 03 before calls to the provinces of Bolivar, Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, Pastaza, and Tungurahua, and the cities of Banos, Ambato, Puyo and Riobamba.
Dial 04 before numbers to the province of Guayas and the cities of Guayaquil and Salinas.
Dial 05 before numbers to the Galapagos and the provinces of Los Rios and Manabi and the cities of Manta, Portoviejo, Quevedo and Babajoyo.
Dial 06 before numbers to the provinces of Carchi, Esmeraldas, Imbabura, Napo and Sucumbios and the cities of Esmeraldas, Tulcan, Ibarra, Otavalo, Latacunga, Tena, Coca, and Lago Agrio. (So, for example, to call the Ali Shungu Mountaintop Lodge (in Otavalo) from Quito, you would have to dial 06-890509945).
07 before numbers to the provinces of Azuay, Canar, El Oro, Morona Santiago and Zamora Chinchipe, and the cities of Cuenca, Machala, Azogues, Gualaceo, Loja (Vilcabamba) and Zamora.
There are huge numbers of tour offices all over the country, especially in Quito. If you are planning to go to the Galapagos or the jungle, and if you are an adventurous person, you might want to wait until you arrive here in Ecuador to visit some of the agencies that offer Galapagos and Jungle trips yourself. Prices are very, very competitive and many places will be open to bargaining with you. Especially in light of the fact that there have not been a record high number of tourists here the last few years. The more middle men that are involved in your Galapagos or Jungle trip, the higher the price will be. It's always a good idea to ask other travellers who they recommended and to read the guide books. A place that was first rate some time ago, may not be that way now, or perhaps has even closed down, and new businesses and services are constantly opening. Again, the South American Explorer's Club has invaluable information-they have a "book of comments" so you can see what other travellers have to say about everything. Also as a member you have access to all their trip reports. Beware of any hotel or agency who may want to control your whole itinerary. Chances are they are making huge commissions on every leg of your vacation and what is "set up" for you may or may not be in your best interest. If you have read about a hotel and would like to make a reservation, it's always a good idea to call yourself and speak directly. Most places have an english-speaking representative and some hotels are even owned and run by Americans themselves. Most upscale places now use email for reservations. Making reservations through a third party can become jumbled with misunderstandings. When contracting a tour or trip with an agency, get EVERYTHING in writing-what you are paying, and what you are receiving. Try to cover and understand every detail of your trip before forking over your money, and don't forget to get a receipt.
Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands, Lonely Planet Survival Kit, by Rob Rachowiecki (Lonely Planet). One of the best.
South American Handbook (all countries, Ben Box) and Ecuador & Galapagos Handbook (Alan Murphy), Footprint Handbooks, Passport Books.
Ecuador Handbook, Including the Galapagos Islands (Julian Smith), Moon Travel Handbooks, new.
Ecuador, Galapagos Islands (Alain Legault), Ulysses Travel Publications. Also is published in French.
The New Key to Ecuador and the Galapagos (David Pearson, David Middleton), Ulysses Press. Emphasis on Natural History and Ecology.
Insight Guides: Ecuador, edited by Tony Perrottet, (APA Publications). Beautiful photos, many contributing writers.
Climbing and Hiking in Ecuador (Bradt Publications, Globe Pequot Press).
The Panama Hat Trail, by Tom Miller (Wm. Morrow, NY). A light insight into everyday life in the Andes and the areas of the famous hat industry).
Walking the Beaches of Ecuador, by Jose-German Cardenas and Karen Marie Grenier.
Travel Amongst the Great Andes of the Equator, by Edward Whymper (out of print in the U.S. but likely available in Ecuador). A classic l880 account of the region.
Savages, by Joe Kane. For interesting perspectives on Ecuador's oil policies, written from the perspective of an endangered Amerindian tribe.
The Amazon Stranger, by Mike Tidwell (The Lyons Press). Focuses on Randy Borman, the son of U.S. missionaries who now lives with the Cofan Indians and who has helped them win a number of battles with oil corporations.
Living Poor: A Peace Corp Chronical (out of print); The Farm on the River of Emeralds (out of print); and The Saddest Pleasure: A Journey on Two Rivers (Greywolf Press, Minnesota). 3 books by Moritz Thompson, the best accounts of peace corps life and an almost 30 years living as a foreigner here in Ecuador.
Otavalo, Weaving, Costume and the Market, by Lynn Meisch (a foremost Anthropologist, who has specialized in Andean Textiles and the Otavalen Indians for well over 25 years).
Costume and Identity in Highland Ecuador, edited by Ann Pollard Rowe with text by Lynn Meisch, Laura M. Miller, Ann Rowe et al. The Textile Museum, Washington, D.C., Univ. of Washington Press, Seattle. The BEST there is for info on Ecuadorian Andean Indigenous textiles and costume. Exquisite photos.
Digging up Prehistory, The Archaeology of Ecuador, by Karl Dieter Gartelmann, Ediciones Libri Mundi (can be bought in Quito).
Witch Doctor's Apprentice, by Nicole Maxwell, Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing, NY. An easy to read account of a woman's travels amongs the Indians in search of healing plants.
A Traveler's Guide to El Dorado & the Inca Empire, by Lynn Meisch (Penguin Books). Full of interesting details and sketches on the
textiles, crafts, peoples, markets, fiestas, archaeology and travel etiquette of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
The Conquest of the Incas, by John Hemming (Harcourt Brace & Co.). A classic account of the Spanish arrival.
Crafts of Ecuador, by Pablo Cuvi (Dinediciones). Beautiful photos of Ecuadorian crafts.
Amazon Worlds, by Noemi Paymal and Catalina Sosa (Quito: Sincha Sacha Foundation). Beautiful photos of the indigenous cultures of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Los Viejos, by Grace Halsell, Bantam paperback. An light story about an American woman who visits the "sacred valley" of Vilcabamba, Ecuador in search of their secrets of long life. A tidbit on the daily life of a remote little Andean village.
The Rivers Amazon, by Alex Shoumatoff, Sierra Club Paperback. An 8-month odyssey by bus, plane, boat and on foot, following the Amazon River and its tributaries to their headwaters high in the Peruvian Andes. An exciting ecological and cultural adventure.
Herbs of Ecuador, by Alan White, Ediciones Llibri Mundi (can be bought in Quito). A bilingual guide, with fine descriptions and illustrations, of every medicinal plant in the country.
Birding Ecuador, by Clive Green. Up-to-date and detailed directions to the hottest bird spots and natural areas in Ecuador.
A Guide to the Birds of Colombia, by Steven Hilty and William Brown. One of the best detailed field guide to the birds of Ecuador and Colombia.
South American Birds, by John Dunning (Harrowwood Books, Newtown Sq., Pa.). 1,000 color photos.
GALAPAGOS AND NATURE
A Neotropical Companion: An Introduction to the Animals, Plants, and Ecosystems of the New World Tropics, by John Kricher, (Princeton Univ. Press). Written for the lay person.
The Last Rainforest, edited by Mark Collins (Oxford Univ. Press).
In the Rainforest, by Catherine Caulfield (Univ. of Chicago Press).
A Traveler's Guide to the Galapagos Islands, by Barry Boyce. An excellent Galapagos guide!
Galapagos: A Natural History Guide, by Michael H. Jackson.
A Field Guide to the Birds of the Galapagos, by Michael Harris.
Plants of the Galapagos Islands, by Eileen Schofield.
Staying Healthy in Asia, Africa & Latin America (Moon Publications). One of the best to carry.
Traveler's Health, by Dr. Richard Dawood (Random House). Easy to read, recommended but very large to carry.
Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice, by Mark J. Plotkin, Ph.D., (Penguin Books). An Ethnobotanist searches for new medicines in the Amazon Rain Forest.
The Way of the Shaman, by Michael Harner, (Bantam). Focuses on Shamanic practices and beliefs of the Shaur Indians of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Hallucinations and Shamanism, edited by Michael Harner, (Oxford Univ. Press). An excellent compilation of Shamanic practice and Ayahuasca use.
Wizard of the Upper Amazon, by F. Bruce Lamb, (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston). Account of life among So. Amer. jungle indians who use the hallucinogenic vine, ayahuasca, for healing.
Rio Tigre and Beyond, by F. Bruce Lamb, (North Atlantic Books, Berkeley). More about Amazon jungle medicine.
Amazon Beaming, by Petru Popescu, (Penguin). An exploration of native jungle telepathic way of life.
Healing States, by Alberto Villoldo and Stanley Krippner, (Simon & Schuster, NY). A journey into the world of spiritual healing and shamanism.
Visionary Vine, by Marlene Dobkin de Rios, (Waveland Press). Hallucinogenic healing in the Peruvian Amazon.
Voices from the Amazon, by Binka Le Breton, (Kumarian Press, W. Hartford, CT). Insight into human and environmental issues of Amazonia.
True Hallucinations, by Terrence McKenna, (Harper San Francisco). An account of time spent with Amazon Shamans in pursuit of hallucinogenic experiences.
Shamanic Voices, by Joan Halifax, Ph.D., (E.P. Dutton, NY). A survey of worldwide shamanic insights, with a section on South America.
The Yage Letters, by William Burroughs & Allen Ginsberg, (City Lights Books, San Francisco; probably out of print). A Classic '60s account of the correspondence of these two greats while visiting a "witch doctor" in the Colombian Amazon and eating Yage (ayahuasca).
Many of these books can be ordered in the U.S. or bought in Quito at one of the extensive Libri Mundi Book Stores (Located on Calle Juan Leon Mera 851 in the new city and with locations in the Hilton Colon and the Oro Verde Hotels.
In Guayaquil, there is the Libreria Cientifica on Calle Luque 223.
Another place that publishes the best selection of works on the indigenous people of Ecuador is Abya Yala Press, Ave. 12 of Oct. l430 and Wilson, Tel 562-622 or 506-247. Upstairs is an Amazonic Museum with real Tsantsas (shrunken heads).
The Abya-Yala Journal of the South and Mero-American Indian Rights Center (SAIIC), P.O. Box 28703, Oakland, Calif 94604, tel. (510) 834-4263, email: email@example.com, provides an indigenous perspective on news and native movements in Latin America. One year of four issues if $25.
At least l9 days each year are celebrated nationwide in Ecuador. Many of these days are holidays for everyone, and travel or services can be very difficult to arrange. Other holidays are just celebrated regionally or only by some part of the population. There are historical and political holidays, usually commemorating famous generals, battles and independence anniversaries and can range from nationwide parties to special days for individual towns. Religious holidays combine the solemnity of Catholic processions and services with drinking and dancing celebrations, especially in indigenous Andean pueblos. At any rate, be prepared for some inconveniences, even though these national and regional celebrations can be an exciting and memorable experience. Be sure to change enough money into local currency when a fiesta is coming up. Also, transportation will be more crowded.
January 1 - Countrywide: New Year's eve is a big night in Ecuador with the burning of the old images (effigies), lots of local drinking, with possibly some local parades. On New Year's Day most shops and services close to recover from the previous night's celebration.
January 6 - Countrywide: The Religious holiday Three Kings' Day. Many businesses will be closed.
Catholic Spring Holidays - The Catholic Church's most festive season revolves around Easter, which technicallly occurs on the Sunday after the full moon of the vernal equinox. Carnival in February or March is the big celebration before the 40 days of fasting and penance known as Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday.
Holy Week (Semana Santa) occurs just before Easter. Palm Sunday kicks things off, with parishoners bringing palm fronds to church. Four days later, Holy Thursday, similar to the Day of the Dead in November, precedes the solemn processions on Good Friday and elaborate nighttime masses on Holy Saturday. Businesses not closed already will close on Saturday. Easter morning Mass (Pascua) signifies the end of the deprivations of Lent and the holiday cycle.
For the year 2001, Ash Wednesday falls on Feb. 28; Palm Sunday falls on April 7; and Easter falls on April 14.
February 27 - Countrywide: Patriotism Day-Speeches, parades, flag-waving.
Countrywide: Intense partying and revelry mark CARNIVAL- the three days prior to Ash Wednesday. Many shops and services close to celebrate the major holiday of the year. It is common for "carnival spirit" to start weeks before, especially with the water throwing.
May 1 - Countrywide: Labor Day-most shops and services stay open. Some parades and speeches focusing on workers.
May 24 - Countrywide: The Battle of Pichincha-commemorates Battle of Tarqui over Spain in 1822.
May/June (ninth Thursday after Easter) - Countrywide: Corpus Christi-honors the Eucharist, heavy indigenous influence in the Andean highlands; parades, street dancing, harvest fiestas.
June 24 - Otavalo, Guamote, Tabacundo: Saint John the Baptist Commemoration, one of the biggest Indigenous celebrations in the Otavalo area. Lots of dancing and folklore music, as of late-cultural programs, presentations. Goes on for 3 days, continues into the St. Peter and Paul fiesta.
June 28-29 - Countrywide: Religious fiesta of St. Peter and St. Paul. Largely celebrated in the "Campo". Lots of celebrations in the town of Cayambe.
July 24 - Countrywide: Lots of parties, drinking and dancing commemorate Simon Bolivar's birthday (Ecuador's liberator). Celebrations last one day in the highlands and two days on the coast, fading into the Anniversary of the Foundation of Guayaquil on the 25th.
August 10 - Countrywide: National Independence Day, few shops and services will be open.
September (first week) - Otavalo area: Yamor festivities, the harvest fiesta, lost of dancing and drinking, some cultural presentations. Cotacachi (minutes from Otavalo) simultaneously celetrates the Jora Corn Festival (another harvest celebration) with dancing and parades.
September (third week) - Loja: The Virgin of Cisne Festival, religious processions with several days of street parties and local color.
st Days of September - Machal
September (Third week) - Portoviejo (Manabi), The Arts and Tourist Fair-Many unique souvenirs can be found at this fair.
Last Days of September - Machala (El Oro) - The International Banana Fair
September 23-24 - Latacunga (an hour outside of Quito): Our Lady of Mercy Festival-religious processions, parties and festivities.
October 9 - Guayaquil: Guayaquil Independence Day.
October 12 - Countrywide: Discovery of America or Colombus Day-Another excuse for the usual in street dancing, drinking and general partying. Celebrated by Indigenous peoples as the "Dia de la Raza (Day of the Race).
November 1 - Countrywide: All Saints' Day.
November 2 - Countrywide: All Souls' Day, also known as the Day of
the Dead-Indigenous families bring food, flowers, and offerings to the graves of loved ones. There are often "celebrations" here in the Otavalo cemetery.
November 3 - Cuenca: Cuenca Independence Day.
November 11 - Latacunga (1 hour outside of Quito): Latacunga Independence Day-general festivities.
November 21 - Pichincha: Virgin of the Quinche Festivities-religious procession.
December 6 - Countrywide: the San Francisco de Quito Foundation Day starts a week before the actual holiday on Dec. 6 (Quito's birthday), which opens the bullfighting season in Quito. Mostly celebrated in Quito, a week of wild, frenzied celebrations.
December 24 - Countrywide: Christmas Eve-Midnight Mass with family meal following.
December 25 - Countrywide: Christmas is fairly quiet in Ecuador, with almost all shops and services closed.
December 28 - Countrywide: Although too soon after Christmas and too soon before New Year to be a big celebration, the Day of the Innocents, is an excuse for a few more parties.