One popular reason for going to Ecuador is the Galapagos, but there is so much more to explore there. Here are some things to know about visiting the Andean country.

Ecuador was named after the equator, and there is a middle of the world monument to pose next to when you’re there. But the thing is, that the monument, built in 1979, is actually placed in the wrong spot. The 100 foot statue is actually 100 meters off from the actual spot, which has been determined from GPS. There is now a sign at the correct location, so you can actually check out both.

The elevation in Ecuador is actually quite high, and in places like Quito it is not uncommon to experience headaches or feel short of breath when you arrive. Chewing on coca leaves is a local cure that actually works, so you might want to try that if you’re having an issue. Just don’t try to take any of the coca leaves home with you, they are illegal to bring into the states. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol will help with the acclimation as well.

Ecuador is a big exporter of cacao beans. Cacao is similar to wine in the way that it tastes different depending on where it is grown. The rich volcanic soil in Ecuador grows some great tasting cacao beans with a complex taste. There are actually tours that you can take to visit cacao farms and get a first hand look at the harvesting and grinding the beans. Many chocolatiers have headed to the area to get it on this chocolate action as well.

Another interesting food fact about Ecuador is that roasted guinea pigs are considered a delicacy and sold for $20-25 each. While in the U.S. we generally just see the guinea pig as a pet, in Ecuador it is usually served up with potatoes and corn, and only at the nicer resturants.

The great growing conditions in Ecuador make beautiful flowers like roses quite cheap. Twenty-five long stemmed roses can be purchased for $2-$2.50, which is a real bargain when compared to in the states.

There are tons of sharks in the Galapagos, but they are not considered a big threat to humans. The sharks there are so well fed that they don’t need to go after humans for a snack. The native reef shark however mostly just eats fish anyway, but even the hammerhead sharks are not considered a big danger.

Ecuador has a lot of volcanic activity, and sits on what is called the “ring of fire”. The¬†Tungurahua volcano has been erupting since 1999 and has been one of the most active volcanoes in recent years.

People in Ecuador still follow certain folk remedies, such as whipping people with stinging nettles to purify them of negative energy. Doesn’t sound like the most appealing way to do it, but the process is finished up with a rubdown of rose petals and some herbs to calm the stinging sensation, so there’s that.

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