Map from Google - Ecuador
As the name suggests, Ecuador is bisected by the equator (in the north), the imaginary line that divides the Earth, in which the days last 12 hours throughout the year. One would expect, therefore, an equatorial climate
, hot and humid with year-round rains, but this is only true for the eastern part of the country and the northernmost part of the coast, both covered by forests. The central part is in fact crossed by the Andes
and is therefore more or less cold depending on altitude, while almost the entire western plain and coast
, is affected by a cool ocean current, which lowers a bit the temperature and makes the climate more arid.
In the far north-west of Ecuador, on the border with Colombia, and across the vast eastern Amazon area, the climate is equatorial
, ie hot and humid with year-round rains. The amount of rainfall is quite remarkable, around 110/118 inches per year in most of the low-lying areas. The rains occur primarily in the form of heavy showers or thunderstorms in the afternoon. The period (relatively) less rainy goes from August to November in the north-west, while in the Amazon it goes from November to March, when, however, from 6 to 8 inches of rain per month fall. The average temperature ranges from 79 °F in the Southern Hemisphere summer (December-January), to 73.5 °F in winter (July is the coolest month). The relative humidity is constantly high and makes the heat sweltering.
In the central area Ecuador, along the eastern slopes of the Andes, we find the rainiest part of the country. In the city of Puyo
, at almost 3,300 feet above sea level, therefore at the boundary between the tierras calientes
and the tierras templadas
, 170 inches of rain per year fall. It rains almost every day, and the sunshine is scarce because the sky is often cloudy.
Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Puyo
The only consolation is that the altitude makes the temperatures pleasant, around 68 °F as daily average all year round. Here it doesn't really make sense to speak of "best time", however, January and February are the only months in which "only" 12 in of rain per month fall.
Here are the average temperatures of Puyo.
Average temperatures - Puyo
West of the Andes, there's a plain which has a tropical climate, with a dry season (July to November in the north, May to December in the south) and a wet season (December to June in the north, January to April in the south), although the rainfall varies greatly: in general, the coasts are drier than the areas at the foothills of the Andes, and the north is rainier than the south.
The temperature is high throughout the year, however, it decreases slightly in the austral winter and spring, as we can see from the temperature of Manta, located in the central part of the coast.
Average temperatures - Manta
On much of the coastline, the cool current inhibits the formation of clouds that can generate rains, for many months a year. However, the sunshine amount is low, because even in the dry period, the sky is often cloudy, and fogs and mists form. Here is the average rainfall.
Average precipitation - Manta
Along the southern part of the coast (see Santa Elena, General Villamil Playas) there's even a desert
, where less than 4 inches per year fall; rainfall is concentrated in the period from January to April. Even though generally the rains are very scarce in this period, in the years of El Niño
there can be heavy rains, and even floods. In addition, in this period, although it's the warmest of year, the sunshine is not so frequent, because there is often a haze that covers the sun. The period from June to October
is better: the heat is less intense and therefore more enjoyable, and it never rains. It must be said that the amount of sunshine is not good even in this period.
Continuing north, as mentioned in Manta the rainfall amounts to about 10 inches per year, while in Bahia de Caraquez and in Esmeraldas it's about 20 in.
As you move away from the coast, the rains increase, reaching the highest levels at the foot of the Andes. From south to north, precipitation ranges from 40 inches per year in Guayaquil, to 80 inches in Montoya, to 110 inches in Santo Domingo de los Colorados, where it rains a lot from February to April, and it still rains a lot in June: here the driest months are definitely July and August
, with less than 1.6 inches per month, anyway, from July to November, less than 2.8 inches per month fall.
Here is the average rainfall of Guayaquil, in the south central part, a short distance from the coast.
Average precipitation - Guayaquil
In the north-central part of the coast, the sea is warm all year round, while in the southern part it becomes a little cool from July to November, as you can see in the following table.
Sea temperature - Guayaquil
As already mentioned, the climate of Ecuador is affected by a cycle in which normal periods alternate with those of El Niño and La Niña
. During the years of "El Niño", the sea level rises by about one inch, the water (and air) temperature rises by a few degrees, and heavy rains affect the coastal zones, which are normally arid, in the period from December to May. Even the Andean areas receive more rainfall than usual. On the contrary, during the years of "La Niña", the temperature of the sea (and the air) becomes cooler than normal, and rainfall more scarce.
The central part of Ecuador is crossed by the Andes
, which are divided into two mountain ranges, and include several volcanoes of considerable height. Glaciers start at a height of about 16,400 feet. In the Cordillera Occidental
lies the volcano Chimborazo, the highest peak of the country with its 20,564 feet, while in the Cordillera Real
we find Cotopaxi, 19,347 feet, Antisana, 18,714 ft, and Cayambe, 18,996 ft.
Between the mountain ranges there are plateaus, in which we find important cities, like the capital Quito
, which is the second highest capital in the world, being located at 9,350 feet above sea level. Here the temperatures are mild, spring-like throughout the year, with highs around 66/68 °F, but some days can be a bit warmer, and minima at night around 50 °F, but sometimes at night the temperature can approach the freezing point.
Average temperatures - Quito
The rainfall amount to 47 inches per year, and is frequent and abundant from October to May. Therefore, the best time here goes from June to mid-September, but in reality the only months where it rarely rains are July and August
. In the capital, the amount of sunshine throughout the year is acceptable, but nothing more, because the sky is fairly often cloudy. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Quito
At higher altitudes, the temperature decreases further. At 11,500 feet, the daily average temperature is around 45/46 °F throughout the year, this means that it's cold and can freeze at night.
Other cities, located at high altitudes in the Andes, are drier than the capital. For example in Cuenca, in the south, 28 in of rain per year fall, which drop to 24.5 inches in Ibarra, located in the north.
Along the western slopes of the Andes, even at low altitudes, the sky is often overcast during the drier season (July-December).
If we want to find a single period which is best to visit Ecuador, we can choose the Northern Hemisphere summer, and in particular the months of July and August
, which are the least rainy and the sunniest. It must be said, however, that in the area of the forest it rains a lot even in this period, and the amount of sunshine is low. On the other hand, along the west coast, although it rarely rains, the sky is often cloudy.
What to pack
For the Amazon, in the plain, loose fitting, lightweight clothing of natural fibers, maybe with long sleeves for mosquitoes; possibly a light sweatshirt and a light raincoat for thunderstorms. For the Amazon at low-mountain altitude (see Puyo), light clothes, sweatshirt and light jacket for the evening, raincoat.
For the western plains and the coast: light clothing, raincoat and lightweight sweatshirt in the rainy season (December to June in the north, January to April in the south), sweatshirt for the evening in the cooler season (June to September).
For the southernmost part of the coast, throughout the year, a sweatshirt for the evening; from June to September, a sweater or sweatshirt, a light jacket.
For Quito and the Andes, clothes for spring and autumn, sweatshirt or sweater, warm jacket for the evening, sun hat; raincoat or umbrella especially from October to May.
For the high mountains, warm clothes, down jacket, hat, gloves, scarf.
See also the climate of the Galápagos