Ecuador, officially the Republic of Ecuador (Spanish: República del Ecuador, which literally translates to the Republic of the Equator) is a representative democratic republic in South America. Ecuador is bordered by Colombia to the north, Peru to the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west.
Ecuador is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border with Brazil. The country also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) west of the mainland.
Ecuador straddles the equator, from which it takes its name, and has an area of 272,046 km2 (109,483 sq mi). Its capital city is Quito, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the 1970s for having the best preserved and least altered historic centre in Latin America.
The country’s largest city is Guayaquil. The historic centre of Cuenca, the third largest city in the country, was also declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 for being an outstanding example of a planned inland Spanish style colonial city in the Americas.
Ecuador is also home, despite its size, to a great variety of species — many of them endemic, like those of the Galápagos islands. This species diversity makes Ecuador one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world. The new constitution of 2008 is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights.
Ecuador is a presidential republic and became independent in 1830, after having been part of the Spanish colonial empire and the republic of Gran Colombia. It is a medium-income country with an HDI score of 0.695 (2010) and about 35.1% of its population lives below the poverty line.