Ecuador is famous for its diverse nature, beautiful colonial cities and towns and the fact that the locals like to eat guinea pig (cuy) but here’s some interesting trivia that you might not know…

1. You won’t get malaria at Quito’s high altitudes

Quito is the second highest city in the world at a whopping 2,850 meters above sea level (second to La Paz in Bolivia). While you might have to worry about altitude sickness when you first arrive, you don’t need to worry about contracting malaria at such high heights. The malaria transmission threat stops at 1,500 meters above sea level. This is due to the lower temperatures that prevent the malaria parasite from reproducing in the mosquito.

2. Quito was the first city to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Quito is an UNESCO World Heritage site — © Patricio Sánchez / Pixabay.
Quito is an UNESCO World Heritage site — © Patricio Sánchez / Pixabay.

Quito’s enchanting historical architecture seduced the UNESCO Committee in 1978 and the city was the first city in the world to be named a World Heritage Site, along with Ecuador’s equally unique Galapagos Islands. Not only that but UNESCO has also stated that Quito’s historical center is the best preserved and least altered in the whole of Latin America.

3. Quito a.k.a the Florence of the Americas

Quito is often nicknamed the Florence of the Americas because of the city’s European-style charm and culture, beautiful colonial architecture and the abundance of impressive art.

4. The sun sets at the same time every day

Sunset over Quito — © Juan Jose Jimenez / Flickr.
Sunset over Quito — © Juan Jose Jimenez / Flickr.

Quito’s close proximity to the equator (just 26km north of the city) means that there are around 12 hours of daylight every day of the year. The sun always rises between 6am and 6.30am and sets between 6pm and 6.30pm. In fact, the name Ecuador actually comes from the word equator as the earth’s equator runs through the entire country. This makes Ecuador one of the only countries in the whole world that’s named after a geographical feature. The site of the equator itself, known as the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World City) is now a big tourist attraction with a giant statue commemorating its discovery. Go and pose for an Instagram photo with one foot in the southern hemisphere and one foot in the northern hemisphere.

5. The summit of Mount Chimborazo is the closest point on earth to the sun

Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador — © Philip Schilling.
Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador — © Philip Schilling.

While we’re on the topic of the equator, Ecuador’s most famous and highest mountain Mount Chimborazo sits right on the equator. This means that the summit is the furthest point from the Earth’s core and Ecuador is the closest country to space.

6. Ecuador is the world’s biggest exporter of bananas

Ecuador is the biggest producer of bananas — © SatyaPrem / Pixabay.
Ecuador is the biggest producer of bananas — © SatyaPrem / Pixabay.

If you’ve ever read the stickers on your bananas, you’ve probably noticed that many of them come from Ecuador. The country is actually the world’s number one exporter of bananas and the banana industry is one of the most important after oil. This also explains why bananas show up so frequently in Ecuadorean cuisine and there’s such a diverse selection, from oritos (those sweet tiny little bananas) to verdes (green bananas) and plátanos (the banana’s more savory sibling).

7. The Panama hat should be called The Ecuador hat

Panama hat from Ecuador — © NatashaG / Pixabay.
Panama hat from Ecuador — © NatashaG / Pixabay.

The famous Panama hat that’s become a trendy summer wardrobe staple was actually first conceived in Ecuador’s city of Cuenca, NOT in Panama. The straw hats were originally hand woven by artisans along the Ecuadorian coast from the plaited leaves of the toquilla palm but then taken to Panama and sold to canal workers. Once the canal opened, rich Westerners passing through started to snap up the hats, following in the footsteps of President Roosevelt who bought one in 1906 during a trip to inspect the construction of the Panama Canal. As a result, the hats soon became known as ‘Panama Hats’. If you need more proof, there’s a museum in Cuenca that’s dedicated to the subject.

8. There’s an orchid that looks like a monkey

Monkey orchid in Ecuador — © Schwoaze / Pixabay.
Monkey orchid in Ecuador — © Schwoaze / Pixabay.

In Ecuador, there’s this cool species of orchid that has a remarkable resemblance to the face of a monkey (we kid you not). It can be found at heights of 2,000 meters above sea level in Ecuador’s cloud forests. The precise name for this species is Draculia Simia due to the fang-like features that hang from the petals and its similarity to monkeys (Simia). If you don’t believe us, take a look for yourself here. We haven’t seen one in real life but people say the orchid smells a bit like a ripe orange.

Got any other interesting trivia to add about Quito or Ecuador? Share them with us in the comments section below.

Originally published on Ailola by Sophie Lloyd on June 11, 2018.