Natural disasters

Ecuador is situated in an area of intense seismic activity. There is a high risk of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. You should make sure you are aware of the risks and are familiar with the relevant safety and evacuation procedures. In the event of a natural disaster, you should monitor official channels – the Ecuadorean National Geophysical Institute - IGEPN and the National Secretariat for Risk Management (both Spanish only) – and follow the advice of the local authorities.

For information on seismic-volcanic activity and evacuation routes and other useful links, download the “Ecuador Seguro” Smarthphone App and follow “IGEPNecuador” Facebook (also in Spanish).

Earthquakes

Given the high risk of earthquakes across Ecuador, you should familiarise yourself with safety procedures and particularly the instructions in your hotel. Further information on what to do before, during and after an earthquake is available from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency website.

There was a major earthquake (7.8 on the Richter scale) on 16 April 2016, which caused extensive damage and hundreds of fatalities. The coastal provinces of Manabí and Esmeraldas were the worst affected, though the earthquake was felt strongly in the capital, Quito. Aftershocks are still occurring.

Seismologists assess the risk of earthquakes in the province of Esmeraldas on the north-western coast as particularly high because of its proximity to the convergence of the Nazca and South American plates.

Tsunami

There is a high risk of tsunamis along the coast and in the Galapagos Archipelago. There is a network of sirens in Esmeraldas and Manabí provinces which will sound in case of a tsunami alert. You should familiarise yourself with evacuation routes maps and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Volcanoes

There are numerous active and potentially active volcanoes in the highlands of Ecuador and the Galapagos Archipelago, some of which are currently in a state of eruption. Ash fall from active volcanoes can disrupt national and international flights across the country and can also pose health hazards, especially for travellers with existing respiratory problems.

There is a high risk of ‘lahars’ around glaciated volcanoes such as Cotopaxi. These are flows of water, mud, lava and debris which can be extremely destructive. The town of Latacunga and Salcedo and low-lying areas in the valley to the east of Quito are particularly vulnerable (Los Chillos and Rumiñahui).

Ecuadorean law stipulates that anyone wishing to climb a glaciated mountain must be accompanied by an officially accredited guide.

You should review your itinerary taking into account information from the Ecuadorean National Geophysical Institute and the National Secretariat for Risk Management. There are currently alerts and access restrictions in place for the Reventador active volcano (amber).

On 4 October 2017, the summit of Cotopaxi volcano was re-opened after more than two years of restrictions following the August 2015 eruption. You should monitor official sources of information closely before considering a climb.

The Cumbre and Sierra Negra volcanoes on Fernandina and Isabela islands in the Galapagos archipelago began erupting in mid-June 2018. There was no impact to tourists given that one is located in an uninhabited island and the lava and ash from the other did not reach any populated areas. Lava did not flow towards any populated areas.

Rainy seasons

Rainy season usually runs from December to May. The irregular ‘El Niño’ climatic phenomenon occurs every few years and can cause unusually heavy rains, widespread flooding and a hotter climate across Ecuador. The risk of landslides is higher at times of heavy rainfall.

During a heavy rainy seasons, you should monitor local media and discuss your itinerary with your tour operator to avoid disruption. You should also avoid crossing rivers due to potential strong currents and take care in affected areas. In the coastal region you should seek local advice on tidal activity and take appropriate precautions.

Forest fires

Forest fires occur in many areas of Ecuador, but especially in Pichincha province. This is due to high temperatures, strong winds and little rain, but also people lighting fires. If you see a fire call 911.