Ecuador comprises a Pacific coastline, Andean highlands rising to the 20,564-foot summit of Mount Chimborazo, a tract of Amazon jungle and the Galápagos Islands, situated 620 miles to the west of the mainland. As a result, it is a country of astonishing biodiversity. Found within its borders are more than 2,500 species of orchids, 4,500 species of butterflies and more bird species than in all of North America and Europe combined. The region became part of the Inca Empire in 1463 but was soon absorbed into the Spanish colonial empire. Spanish rule ended in 1822, but the colonial architecture and Incan remains survive in small towns and bustling cities alike. Indigenous people today constitute around 25 percent of the total population of 15 million. Both the capital, Quito, and the city of Cuenca are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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