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24 Provinces of Ecuador: Population, Area, Capitals, Cantóns, Parroquias

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In this post, you’ll learn about the 24 Ecuador provinces. We also include the population numbers, physical area, and provincial capitals. Plus an explanation of cantóns, parroquias in Ecuador.

Ecuador provinces

Pictured is the highway just outside of Quito, Ecuador.

Ecuador has a lot of provinces – especially for its relatively small size.

Map of Ecuador’s Provinces

ecuador-provinces-map
Ecuador has a total of 24 provinces with a land area of 283,520 km2. This makes Ecuador larger than 43 of the 50 US states. It falls right between Nevada (slightly larger) and Colorado (slightly smaller).

Each province is divided into cantons and parroquias. 

Here is a map and list of all of the provinces (and their capital cities) in Ecuador.

Complete List of Ecuador’s 24 Provinces

# Province of Ecuador Capital Population (2010) Area (km²)
1 Azuay Cuenca 712 127 8 639
2 Bolívar Guaranda 183 641 3 254
3 Cañar Azogues 164 524 3 908
4 Carchi Tulcán 225 184 3 699
5 Chimborazo Riobamba 458 581 5 287
6 Cotopaxi Latacunga 409 205 6 569
7 El Oro Machala 600 659 5 988
8 Esmeraldas Esmeraldas 491 168 14 893
9 Galápagos Puerto Baquerizo Moreno 25 124 8 010
10 Guayas Guayaquil 3 645 483 17 139
11 Imbabura Ibarra 398 244 4 599
12 Loja Loja 453 966 11 027
13 Los Ríos Babahoyo 778 115 6 254
14 Manabí Portoviejo 1 369 780 18 400
15 Morona Santiago Macas 147 940 25 690
16 Napo Tena 103 697 13 271
17 Orellana Francisco de Orellana 136 396 20 773
18 Pastaza Puyo 83 933 29 520
19 Pichincha Quito 2 576 287 9 612
20 Santa Elena Santa Elena 308 693 3 763
21 Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas Santo Domingo 410 937 4 180
22 Sucumbíos Nueva Loja 176 472 18 612
23 Tungurahua Ambato 504 583 3 334
24 Zamora Chinchipe Zamora 91 376 10 556

Division of Ecuador’s Provinces by Region

  1. La  Sierra (Andean Highlands): 10 provinces (Carchi, Imbabura, Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Bolívar, Chimborazo, Cañar, Azuay, Loja)
  2. La Costa (Coast): 7 provinces (Esmeraldas, Manabí,  Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, Los Ríos, Santa Elena, Guayas, El Oro)
  3. El Oriente (Amazon jungle): 6 provinces (Sucumbíos, Napo, Orellana, Pastaza, Morona Santiago, Zamora Chinchipe)
  4. Insular Region (Galapagos): 1 province (Galápagos)

Learn about the beaches on Ecuador’s Pacific coast.

Best beaches in EcuadorEcuador’s 8 Most Popular Provinces

According to interest on our site and from our experience, here are Ecuador’s 8 most popular provinces. This is not scientific and is based on tourism and relocation.

  1. Galápagos (Galápagos)
  2. Azuay (Cuenca)
  3. Pichincha (Quito)
  4. Guayas (Guayaquil)
  5. Santa Elena (Salinas)
  6. Manabí (Manta, Bahía de Caráquez, Puerto Cayo)
  7. Loja (Loja)
  8. Tungurahua (Baños de Agua Santa)

Learn more about cities in Ecuador.

Ecuador’s 3 Administrative Divisions

So here is the political structure in Ecuador.

  • Province (24)
  • Cantón (221)
  • Parroquia (1500+)

How is this actually used? If you live in Cuenca on Avenida Ordoñez Lasso (like many expats) you would live: in the parroquia San Sebastián, canton Cuenca, province of Azuay.

Cuenca is a city and a canton (county). The canton of Cuenca includes a total of 36 parroquias and the city just the 15 urban ones. Read all about Cuenca’s Parroquias.

Although Cuenca has 15 urban parroquias, it is often asked: “What sector do you live in?” instead of “What parroquia do you live in?”.

People often refer to a landmark instead of a political division. Many real estate listings state: sector el tiempo (near the El Tiempo newspaper) or sector estadio (near the stadium). This is helpful when searching for rentals and purchases in Ecuador.

canton-parroquia-ecuador

Ecuador’s Cantóns and Parroquias

So, what are cantons and parroquias in Ecuador? If you have been reading online about Ecuador, you have seen that the areas and cities are divided into cantóns and parroquias.

Generally speaking, the political division of where you are looking to live (or visit) doesn’t really matter.

Determining which parroquia or canton you are going to live in is an afterthought.

But because you are going to make Ecuador your home, it’s worth learning about how it is structured.

Here are the basics:

What is a Cantón?

The term Cantón was explained to me as the equivalent of a county in Canada or the States. The term is derived from the French word canton meaning corner or district.

In Canadian French, a canton refers to a township (also a Canadian term) which describes a subdivision of a county. (Source: Wikipedia)

From what I’ve seen, every town and area in a province in Ecuador is assigned to a cantón, and (at least in the rural areas) the people are proud of which canton they belong to. They generally go to the capital town of their canton to do their trámites (legal and government paperwork).

In each canton, there is a mayor (alcalde) and a municipal council (concejo municipal) responsible for the day-to-day operations. The mayor and his council belong to the national political parties. They are voted in during the general election.

Ecuador’s 221 Cantons

Ecuador has 221 cantons – including three that don’t belong to any province.

According to some sources, this means that the inhabitants receive double services in some places and none in others. It makes it hard to tell others where you are from – because technically you aren’t from any province.

These are the three unassigned cantons in Ecuador:

  1. Las Golondrinas: Located between Esmeraldas and Imbabura provinces between the Agua Clara y Guayllabamba rivers. Over 5,000 inhabitants.
  2. Manga del Cura: Located between the provinces of Guayas, Manabí, Santo Domingo y Los Ríos. It covers 600 km² with more than 20,000  inhabitants (some sources put it over 60,000). Because all four provinces claim this territory, resolving this issue is complicated. Some references note that Santo Domingo doesn’t claim it.
  3. El Piedrero: Located between Guayas and Cañar, at the foot of the Andes. Has over 6,000 inhabitants.

In 2010 these territories had more than 32,000 inhabitants with a land area of 1,419  km².

What is a Parroquia?

A parroquia is a subdivision of a canton. In English, it is known as a parish and can mean precinct or territory. This word is used in Ecuador, Venezuela, Andorra, and in parts of Spain.

These parishes are classified as either urban or rural. Cuenca, for example, has 15 urban and 21 rural parishes.

There are more than 1,500 parroquias in Ecuador.

How Large is a Cantón and Parroquia?

According to an article in El Universo the current guidelines are: “A canton (county) must have at least 50 000 inhabitants and in its seat/capital about 10 000. But a parish should have a total of 10,000 and 2,000 at its head, according to current regulations.”

From what I have seen, this guideline isn’t followed very strictly – unless it has recently changed. There are cantons with just 3000 inhabitants total.

Now it’s your turn!

What provinces are you planning on visiting? Which area is your favorite?

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