Destination Diary – Loja, Ecuador
From behind the scenes Lily Ann Fouts emerges to the podcast for the first time! Lily helps out around here with various tasks, and helps me put together the links in the weekly newsletter, so you know her, even if you don’t know that you do!
Lily has recently released the second version of her book on Loja, Ecuador and joins me today to talk about all the awesome things there are to do there. She’s definitely got me adding it to my list!
From hikes to bus rides and delicious food (but maybe not the guinea pig) Loja captured Lily’s heart and she’s more than happy to share her knowledge.
She’s even provided us a ton of stuff for our show notes! Below you’ll find some info on nearby cities, some great hikes, and of course our usual great places to eat, drink, and stay!
What are your experiences of Ecuador? Let me know @PackOfPeanuts!!
Today’s episode has been sponsored by our friends at Tortuga Backpacks!
In This Episode
- 10:05 How do you get to Loja?
- 15:00 The ENTIRE bus map of Loja
- 25:21 Where to stay
- 29:15 Average Prices
- 35:00 Eating, drinking and music!
- 52:19 For the hikers
- 1:11:00A discount for listeners!!
To Drink/Live Music
- Hotel Podocarpus
- AirBnB – James’s properties are usually nice
- Hostales throughout the city
- AVOID – Jardines del Rio
- Get a Cultural Agenda from the Plaza Centreal to see whats going on
- Jueves Cultural – Music & dance performances every Thursday from 8-10 pm in Plaza San Sebastian
- The Symphony Orchestra
- Botanical Garden
- Parque Jipiro
- Parque Eólico
- Podocarpus National Park
Visit some nearby towns
- Saraguro $2 each way from Loja. Stay with an indigenous family for 24 hours! Arrange through the tourist office or book directly with the family we stayed with (vegetarian friendly!)
- El Cisne Visit El Santuario de El Cisne – the Cathedral where the pilgrimage of the Virgin of El Cisne begins each August. See the cathedral and the museum. There are also lots (LOTS!) of souvenir shops. $2.50 each way from Loja.
- Zamora $3 each way from Loja. East of Loja on the edge of the Amazon region. There is another entrance to Podocarpus National Park here. Take a taxi from the bus station to the trailhead ($4).
- Amaluza Maybe a 4-hour bus ride, $6 each way. Virtually untouched by foreign tourists, great hiking destination. From Amaluza there is no bus that goes farther south, so you’ll likely need to fork out some $$ to get a taxi to take you to Yacuri National Park and wait for you for a few hours while you do some hiking. At least do the easy hike to the Lagunas Negras, and if you’re in good shape hike up to the rocks that overlook the lagoons. Stunningly beautiful. If you’re a backcountry hiker with your hiking gear, you could do some overnight backpacking in the park. In Amaluza, also hike to the Cascada La Cofradía. Here’s a FB page for the region.
- Vilcabamba This small town an hour south of Loja ($1.25 each way) has a large international expat population and you’ll hear lots of English being spoken around town! There are some great restaurants (I like El Colibrí Mexican restaurant and Murano, which serves several different kinds of ethnic food). There are many vegan- and vegetarian-friendly spots. For a unique lodging experience, stay at one of the river cabins at Rumi Wilco (pack light; you have to walk about 10 minutes on a path to get to the cabins). Even if you don’t stay at the cabins, the Rumi Wilco reserve is a great place to go hiking and birdwatching.
- From Parque Jipiro north of downtown, you can walk several kilometers north along the river. There are trails on either side. Flat, easy hiking.
- From Parque La Tebaida in the south part of town (across from the Supermaxi store) there’s a trail that goes south along the river. The trail goes all the way to Vilcabamba (almost 40 kilometers)! The trail follows the river on both sides for a few kilometers, so it makes a nice loop hike. Mostly flat, easy hiking inside the city. Once outside the city you’ll start to climb up the pass toward Podocarpus National Park.
- Parque Universitario de Educación Ambiental y Recreación (PUEAR) – a nice natural area with trails that take you up to the ridge for some great views of the city and the whole valley. $1 entrance fee. The entrance is across the road from the Botanical Garden. Trails are well maintained by the university, which owns the park. Steep in some places.
- Explore! Ride a city bus (30 cents per ride) to a turnaround point and explore on foot to see what treasures you find. Enjoy amazing views of Loja and the surrounding mountains as you ride up the hillsides. Some of my favorite trails are all the way north (walk from the northern turnaround point of bus L-2) and all the way south (walk from the southern turnaround point of bus L-7). Note: I would skip the L-8 to Ciudad Victoria which looked like a rougher neighborhood.
- Podocarpus National Park – One of the most biodiverse places in the world and popular with birdwatchers. The Loja entrance is actually the most challenging to get to. The cheap way is to take a south-bound bus (toward Vilcabamba) out of town and get off at the entrance right there on the highway. The ride will probably be about 50 cents. But then you have to walk 6 km uphill on a dirt road to reach the visitor’s center and trailhead. The other option is to take a taxi all the way from Loja to the trailhead, probably $15-$20. When you’re ready to come back down you could have someone in the visitor’s center call a taxi for you, or walk back down the road and catch the bus on the highway.
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