Vamos Expeditions

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  • Vamos Expeditions

    “The two trips (Peru and Ecuador/Galapagos) I've taken with Vamos Expeditions have been wonderful and a life-changing experience. The itinerary was well-planned out such that I never felt rushed, and our tour guide’s intimate familiarity with the local sights and people made the trip... see more

    Yan Biao Boey
    United States
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Ecuador > General Information

Area: 3,286,470 square miles
Capital: Brasilia
Languages: Portuguese is the official language. English is widely spoken in major cities and tourist centers.
Population: 184,101,109
Religions: Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant (various types), 40%, other 10%.
Time zone: The west coast of the South American continent is roughly aligned with the east coast of North America. In other words, Lima, Peru (west coast) is due south of Miami, Florida and New York and is in the same time zone. Rio de Janeiro thus is positioned far out in the Atlantic Ocean. Assuming it is standard time, when it is noon in New York, it is 2 p.m. in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The only country in South America that traces its culture and language back to Portugal, Brazil is the continents largest nation and covers nearly half of South America with borders on every nation of South America except Chile and Ecuador. The Atlantic Ocean is on the east coast of Brazil and provides some famous beaches. Brazil is geographically divided into highlands and plateaus in the south and the Amazon River Basin in the north. The Amazon and its hundreds of tributaries drain more than a third of Brazil. The other major river is the Sao Francisco, located entirely within Brazil and navigable for 1,000 miles. Brazil has a long coastline with nearly two-thirds of the country’s population living near the coast.

Brief History of Rio de Janeiro

Situated in southeast Brazil on Guanabara Bay, Rio is positioned between ocean and mountains with a natural landscape that makes it one of the most striking cities anywhere. Rio, with over ten million people, is a melting pot of cultures, and the Cariocas (as the citizens of Rio are called) are full of passion and vigor, a characteristic on full display during Rio’s famous annual Carnival.

It has taken some 500 years for Rio to transform itself from the small trading post from which it began. On January 1, 1502, Portuguese explorers sailed into Guanabara Bay and named it Rio de Janeiro (River of January), under the mistaken impression that it was an enormous river mouth. The Portuguese established a colony in Rio based on sugar cane and farming. In the 17th century, gold was discovered in the nearby minas Gerais region and Rio began to emerge as the region’s major trading center. The capital of colonial Brazil was moved from Bahia (now Salvador) in 1763 to Rio and the city flourished, especially when coffee became a major export in the 19th century. When the Portuguese monarchy were exiled from Portugal during the Napoleonic years in the early 19th century, Rio became the capital of an independent Brazilian Empire. Rio grew at a rapid pace and by the late 1800s it was one of the largest cities in the world. Many of the newcomers came from Europe, but a sizable portion were Brazilians of African descent who brought with them the musical traditions of Africa and the Brazilian northeast. Rio de Janeiro remained the capital of Brazil until 1960, when the Federal government was transferred to Brasilia.

Rio is now a city of over 7 million. It is the country’s media capital, finance center, and Brazil’s most famous tourist destination.