Gain first hand, on the ground experience of the physical and cultural landscapes of Ecuador, an Andean country that may serve as a microcosm of much of Spanish-speaking South America. From the Amazon to the high Andes to the Pacific lowlands see the impacts of past history, present economic development, globalization and global climate change.


  • Visit all three of Ecuador’s physical regions: the Amazon Basin (Oriente), Andes (Sierra), and Pacific lowlands (Costa)
  • Fly over the Western Andes into the Amazon Basin
  • Canoe on the Rio Napo and walk through Tropical Rainforest
  • Hike in Cloud Forests and above tree-line
  • Drive by snow-capped volcanoes
  • Bus from the Andean highlands down to the Pacific Coast
  • Observe the “verticality” inherent in Andean societies and nature: see how climate, vegetation, and ways of life vary with elevation
  • See pre-Incan and Incan ruins
  • Observe traditional agriculture and rural villages, including markets where native Andean crops are still bought and sold
  • Visit modern industrial agriculture producing crops for export
  • Look for impacts of oil exploration and extraction
  • Tour the Incan, Spanish, and modern capital city of Quito and stand on the Equator
  • Visit Cuenca, home of the Panama hat, and other settlements in the Andean Uplands (Altiplano)
  • See how a remote village is tackling Ecuador’s rampant problem of emigration
  • Take part in ecotourism and judge its effectiveness in conserving Ecuador’s extraordinary diversity of plants, animals, and habitats.
  • Visit the port of Guayaquil and discuss economic changes related to globalization

Objectives:  Participants in the Institute will

  • Learn to distinguish different types of regions, both physical and cultural
  • Recognize past and present impacts of humans on the natural environment
  • Become able to analyze cultural landscapes in terms of the imprints of different cultures through time and by different technologies
  • Record observations on maps and diagrams
  • Become familiar with some impacts of global climate change
  • Develop an understanding of current economic and social issues in a developing country in South America
  • Appreciate the natural and cultural diversity of part of South America
  • Be able to describe some of  the impacts of urbanization and the rural-to-urban migration in a developing country of South America
  • Understand implications of widespread emigration to other countries
  • Understand the interplay of economic development and conservation in ecotourism

Eligibility: Participants must be Virginia teachers. Priority will be given to teachers of world geography, AP human geography, world history, world cultures, or the history and geography of Latin America.  A few places are reserved for those who teach introductory level world regional or cultural geography at Virginia’s 2-yr and 4-year institutions of higher education. Others will be accepted as space permits.

Requirements: An orientation meeting in May 2008 must be attended. Selected readings will be provided in advance of the trip. During the Institute participants are expected to engage in discussions with leaders and local guides, document their observations photographically, keep a daily journal of reflections on their explorations of different regions, and complete a set of observation exercises. A final illustrated report in a format of your choice must be submitted after returning to the US. Each participant is expected to develop instructional materials that will enhance the teaching of world regional geography and/or cultural geography and present these materials in formats that allow them to be distributed to nonparticipating teachers.

Please note: Strenuous activities, some at elevation well above 8,000 ft, are planned.

CREDIT.  Continuing Education Units from Virginia Tech

LOGISTICS. Travel is by plane, private bus, boat/canoe, and on foot. Lodging will be in good hotels and lodges, although not necessarily top class. Breakfasts, lunches, and most dinners are provided. The midday meal is the big meal of the day.

LEADERS: Dr Susan L. Woodward (Radford University) and Dr. Robert W. Morrill (Virginia Tech)



Day 1
Saturday, July 12. Flight to Quito., Accommodation in Quito (Hotel Quito)

Day 2
Sunday, July 13. City Tour of Quito; stand on the Equator; eat a typical Ecuadorian midday meal

Day 3
Monday,July 14. Trip to Mindo Cloud Forest; Orchid farm; Butterfly farm. Accommodation near Santo Domingo (Cabañas El Descanso)

Day 4
Tuesday,July 15. Visit to palm oil plantation, processing plant and heart of palm plantation. Accommodation in Quito (Hotel Quito)

Day 5
Wednesday, July 16. Trip to El Porvenir; Cotopaxi National Park (volcano). Accommodation at El Porvenir

Day 6
Thursday, July 17. Visit to Broccoli Plantation and Saquisili Market. Accommodation in Quito (Hotel Quito)

Day 7
Friday, July 18. Flight to Coca. Boat ride on the Napo River to Yuturi Lodge

 Day 8
Saturday, July 19. Yuturi rainforest (Yuturi Lodge)

Day 9
Sunday, July 20. Yuturi to Yarina (observe some effects of oil exploitation)

Day 10
Monday, July 21. Yarina to Coca by boat. Return flight to Quito.

Day 11
Tuesday, July 22.  AM Free in Quito (Museum of Anthropology, shopping, or ?). Drive towards town of Salinas de Bolivar. Accommodation in Salinas (El Refugio).

Day 12
Wednesday, July 23. Visit Salinas Cheese Factory. Visit Salinas Chocolate Factory
Conference with Salesian priest. Accommodation in Riobamba (El Galpon).

Day 13
Thursday, July 24. Drive to Cuenca. Visit Ingapirca Ruins (Incan)

Day 14
Friday, July 25. City Tour of Cuenca.

Day 15
Saturday, July 26. Visit Chordeleg. Drive to Guayaquil. Accommodation in Guayaquil (Plaza  St. Rafael).

Day 16
Sunday, July 27. Visit Port of Guayaquil. Meeting with local officer from the Chamber of Commerce of Guayaquil. Flight to USA from Guayaquil (late evening flight or Monday morning flight).





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