Around Riobamba

(population 14,600, atitude 2700 m) is a quiet sisal-working, leather and carpet-weaving town, 8 km north of Riobamba. There are lovely views of El Altar from the well-kept main park. Chimborazo and Tungurahua can also be seen from a nearby hilltop. Behind the El Rosario church, by the children's playground, are the ruins of the colonial Iglesia
de la Asunción, where some fading frescoes can be seen. Here too is the
Museo de la Ciudad
, with a small collection of
ceramics of the San Sebastián culture found near town and a mummy of a monk, found in the ruins of La Asunción. Rugs have been produced in Guano since colonial times when, under the
system, local indigenous slaves were trained in this art. You can have rugs made to your own design. There are a number of shops selling rugs, leather goods, and other crafts. You can see how the rugs are made on Calle Asunción, the access from Riobamba; at times five people synchronize their work across a large loom, quite impressive. There are a couple of basic places to stay and simple eateries.

Santa Cruz
, just outside Riobamba to the southwest, an agro-tourism project accepts volunteers who assist several communities in a medicinal plants project,
. Just after is
. From the hills above town there are lovely views of Riobamba. Beyond is
, a small indigenous town, where textiles and excellent honey are sold in the Sunday market and at their shop in Riobamba .

To the south, 11 km from Riobamba, is the town of
. In a nearby gully archaeologists uncovered a human skull and animal fossils from the Pliocene. About 30 minutes by car west of Punín is the village of
with a small, but very authentic Friday market, worth a visit.

The Devil's Nose train ride

Riding the rails from Riobamba over the Devil's Nose (
La Nariz del Diablo
) is very popular with tourists and, increasingly, with Ecuadorean families. It makes a great day trip, the views are lovely, especially between Riobamba and Alausí. Seats are not numbered, so it's best to arrive early. Riding on the roof is exciting but usually not allowed any more, if you do then hang on tight and and never stand. Also it gets cold early in the morning. The best views are on the right. On the days when the train is not running, you can walk along the tracks down from Alausí; a pleasant day trip.

The train service has frequent disruptions and timetables often change; it's important to enquire locally about current schedules. Do so at the
railway administration office
, or at the
Depending on the state of the line, a single motorized railcar (
, smaller and faster) frequently substitutes for the longer train, or service may only operate from Alausí (not Riobamba) to Sibambe and back. Derailments sometimes take place and the overall length of the journey is upredictable. All these factors as well as the weather will affect the quality of your experience, but on a good day it can be a lot of fun.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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