134km (83 miles) W of Quito; 287km (178 miles) N of Guayaquil; 185km (115 miles) E of Esmeraldas

Set in the lowlands just below the western slope of the Andes, Santo Domingo de los Colorados is a major transportation hub connecting coastal and southern Ecuador with Quito and the rest of the country. It is also in the center some of the country's most productive agricultural lands, where bananas, palm nuts, pineapples, cacao, and more are grown.

The city gets its name from the local indigenous group, the Tsachilas, who paint their hair a bright red using an achiote paste. Seeing this, the early Spaniards dubbed them los colorados (the colored ones). When the area was colonized and converted by Dominican priests, the town was christened Santo Domingo de los Colorados.

Red-Haired Boys -- Although they only number some 3,000, the Tsachila are one of the most distinctive indigenous groups in Ecuador, well known for their healers and shamans. Today, the Tsachila live in eight community groups in the area surrounding Santo Domingo. Most dedicate themselves to farming and cattle ranching. As part of their traditional dress, the men use a thick paste made from the achiote seed to mat down and color their hair, and wear a knee-length wraparound skirt, with black and white horizontal stripes, tied at the waist with a red belt. For ceremonies and healings, men and women paint their bodies with horizontal black lines said to be indicative of the snake or serpent spirit. In Santo Domingo, it's rare, but not unheard of, to see Tsachila in their traditional garb.