The Mountains and Volcanoes of Ecuador

Ecuador Geography 

Ecuador, despite its small size, is considered one of the countries with the most variety in the world. The country is divided into three distinct regions by the narrowing points of the Andean range.

Towards the eastern part of Central Sierra, the tropical rainforest Oriente is situated.  To the west lies the coastal lowlands, a hot and humid region but it is a more accessible area.

About 200 kilometers from the western lowlands to the eastern jungle stand two peaks of 6310 m that form the two mountain ranges or cordilleras.

The two cordilleras lie 40 to 60 kilometers apart and run north to south.  The central valley, a fertile region of about 400 kilometers long is situated between the two mountain ranges.  It holds Quito and the majority of Ecuador’s main cities and about half of the country’s inhabitants.

Alexander von Humbolt, a famous German scientist and explorer, once called this Central Valley “The Avenue of the Volcanoes” when he visited Ecuador in 1802.

Ecuador Geology

Ecuador is among the countries having the greatest concentration of volcanoes in the world.  At least eight of the more than thirty volcanoes of Ecuador are considered active.

The Cordillera Real, also called the Easter Cordillera, is older, higher, and larger as compared to the Western Cordillera.

These areas stand on a base of rock bedding of gneiss, mica – schist, and a variety of crystalline rocks.  Heavy volcanic material resulting in some cone-shaped volcanoes of which the 5897 meter Cotopaxi is particularly known for.

On the Eastern slopes of this Cordillera are several peaks that are not volcanic in origin. These are found outside the jungles of the Oriente.  Further to the east, set apart from the Eastern Cordillera by a jungle are other isolated mountains.

Two significant active volcanoes situated on this area are Reventador and Sumaco.

Chimborazo image via Wikipedia
Ecuador’s highest peak, Chimborazo, standing 6,310 meters high, is a part of the Western Cordillera range and is a dormant volcano. This range is covered with more volcanic material than the Eastern Cordillera.  

Because of the active volcanic activity centuries ago, this range has gathered large amounts of porphyritic eruptive rocks from the Mesozoic age.

© 2012 Athena Goodlight