Ecuador officially the Republic of Ecuador ( , which literally translates as "Republic of the Equator") is a representative democratic republic in northwestern South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Ecuador also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about west of the mainland.
Ecuador's official language is Spanish, which is spoken by 94% of the population; thirteen indigenous languages are also recognized, including Quichua and Shuar. Ecuador has a land area of 283,520 km2 and a population of approximately 15.2 million. Its capital city is Quito, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1970s for having the best preserved and least altered historic center in Latin America. The country's largest city is Guayaquil. The historic center of Cuenca, the third-largest city in the country in size and economically, was also declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 as an outstanding example of a planned, inland Spanish-style colonial city in the Americas.
In addition to its rich history, Ecuador is known for hosting a variety of species, many of them endemic, such as those of the Galápagos Islands. It is one of seventeen megadiverse countries in the world, with the most species diversity per unit area. 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. It became independent in 1830 after having been part of the Spanish colonial empire and, for a much shorter time, of the republic of Gran Colombia. It is a medium-income country with an HDI score of 0.711 (2013).