Things to do in Riobamba and Chimborazo, Ecuador
There are many reasons to visit the vibrant city of Riobamba. For us it was a perfect place to spend the night during our latest road trip from Quito to Cuenca. A city with architectural gems, a colorful market and friendly inhabitants ready to greet visitors from all over the world. In addition, it is the perfect city to explore and visit the surrounding mountains, being the most important one the impressive show-capped mount Chimborazo.
The city was the first capital of the country, but after an earthquake in 1797, the city was destroyed. It was then moved to San Francisco de Quito. The city has been an important link between the highlands and the Coast due to the train station which at that time was the most important means of communication in the country.
Places to visit
The cathedral of Riobamba – With a beautiful facade, the cathedral was reconstructed with the fragments left after the earthquake in 1797. Another feature of the cathedral worth mention is the bell, done with jewellery of those who lost their life after this earthquake. During your visit, notice the mixture of indigenous and spanish images.
Leon Borja Avenue – The main street in the city, the place where you find shops, restaurants, bars and most of the activity in the city. When choosing accommodation I made sure we stayed in this avenue, so that we could easily walk to explore some of the city.
Mercado de la Merced –
An interesting market to visit and a perfect way to lift your mood while you enjoy some traditional hornado. This is the place that attracts locals and tourists alike.
Our mission during our visit was to taste the traditional fruit juices made with ice brought down from Chimborazo mountain by the legendary Baltazar Ushca, the last iceman of the Chimborazo.
As we visited the market, I had the opportunity to learn more about the history of this traditional natural juices, if you speak spanish click here to watch an interview in Spanish. After a few minutes we were ready to enjoy our 100% natural juices that included some special ingredients, such as eggs, borojo, alfalfa and collagen.
This park is where you find the cathedral and the municipality, in the center of the park stands the monument to Pedro Vicente Maldonado, the most famous Ecuadorian scientist. He was part of the French Geodesic mission that determined the center of the Earth or Equator line. On each of the 4 sides there is a small bronze fountain brought from France making this the most charming park in the city for tourists.
Mercado Autóctono –
Do as locals and learn about the traditions of the town at la feria de Guamote. Visit this open-air market with indigenous people offering their colorful handicrafts and fresh crops.
Stroll along this charming small village, famous for the beautiful handmade carpet and rug weaving industry.
You should also visit the city`s museum for a chance to meet Baltazar Ushca, the last ¨Iceman¨ of the Chimborazo. (His income is solely based on tips and he´s had a hard life, so consider this when you tip him) the mummy of a monk that was found entombed in the wall of an old church, among other sites.
Feria Plaza Roja –
Get in contact with Quichua culture at this market in the center of Riobamba. The market fills with bright colors as indigenous lay out their beautiful artisanal products.
Mercado de San Alfonso –
Saturdays would be the best days to witness some of the local fresh produce in a lively market.
Mercado Mayorista –
If you are in Riobamba on a Friday, do as a local and visit the Mercado Mayorista. Enjoy aromas, colors and textures in this lively market while you learn about the exotic fruits and food that you only find in South America.
Nature lovers can enjoy hiking, biking and visits to the lakes of Atillo, and Ozogoche. After admiring the colors of the Andes surrounding Colta lake you can visit the Balvanera church, the 1st catholic church in Ecuador.
Where to eat
This plaza cleverly made from containers, makes a perfect option to have a memorable gastronomic experience. Food ranges from sushi to parrilladas, with the use of containers they have created an open are in the middle, perfect for socializing and enjoying some of the nightlife in the city.
1.- La Nariz del Diablo Train Ride
The city´s history is connected to the role it played as a connection between the Coastal region and the highlands of the country. The train was the main means of communication in the past.
Nowadays, the train is not used for transportation. But, enjoying the train ride is a great activity for tourists.
There is transport from Riobamba to Alausi, in order to enjoy the most spectacular track of the railway, at “Nariz del Diablo” (Devil´s Nose). An exhilarating ride, where you go through part of the Andean Cordillera.
There are train rides every day, except monday, at 8 am and 11am.
2.- Train del Hielo I
Depart from Riobamba on this 43 km exciting train ride. Along the way, on a clear day, you will admire the Capa Urcu volcano, Majestic Chimborazo and Carihuairazo volcano. Some other highlights are: Museo del Hielo, meeting Baltazar Ushca, the last “iceman” of the Chimborazo, trails to enjoy nature and lunch at the community La Moya.
What to bring
Riobamba can get chilly, especially at night. So, when you visit the city remember to dress in layers and bring some warm clothes, a scarf and a warm jacket.
Where to stay
Hotel Rincon Aleman – Stay at the best place in Riobamba, to explore Chimborazo and its surroundings
For more options, this website will help you find and choose more options.
There are plenty of reasons to visit Riobamba, a small, charming Andean city with impressive plazas, colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and a vibrant market. The perfect city to do day excursions to the mountains in the surroundings.
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If you want more in-depth information and also a guide that you can bring along during your trip, I recommend the travel guide Lonely Planet Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands.
This is a great source of information and tips, maps, and all you need if you plan on visiting Ecuador. I personally like the option of having a hard copy version where I can take notes and have them at hand.
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