A weekend in Riobamba
Riobamba is the capital of the province Chimborazo. It is named after the highest volcano in Ecuador. The Chimborazo reaches a proud height of 6.268. meters! Many Ecuadorian travellers are therefore motivated to work towards their goal of being able to climb the country’s highest peak once in their lifetime. But without good preparation this is completely impossible! To Riobamba, on the other hand, there are only a few tourists and also few locals on their journey through Ecuador. The city does not have a very good reputation and people considere it to be not very beautiful and also not worth seeing – a prejudice which I would like to refute after my stay with this blog article!
Riobamba, an underestimated destination
“Riobamba? What are you doing in Riobamba?” was the general reaction to my decision to spend a weekend there. What I wanted to do there was, above all, to climb Chimborazo. And I think the majority of tourists who stray in Riobamba come here for the same reason. Or because the station in Riobamba is a starting point for the popular ride on the Ecuadorian railway. However, almost nobody comes to Riobamba with the aim of getting to know a “nice little town”. And also I came to Riobamba because of this reaction of many people with rather low expectations.
The city center of Riobamba
That´s why Riobamba surprised me even more positive the further I moved away from the bus terminal in Riobamba and approached my hostal in the city centre. The description of Riobamba as a “nice little town” can be quite correct, whereby the city centre is not even that small. There are numerous streets with traditional shops, cafés and specially numerous bakeries and fruit and vegetable shops. If you want to buy any kind of food, you can also do so at the big market, the Mercado San Alfonso, which is held every Saturday. It is especially abundant in magnificent orchards, but also cereals, cheese, meat and a large area with tables where the locals meet for almuerzo (lunch).
You can find another market on Saturdays at the Plaza Roja. Instead of food, however, people sell bags decorated with the typical indigenous, colourful patterns, various ponchos and other clothes here.
Several seamstresses also sit between the stands and work on their sewing machines. In this plaza you will also find the Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción, which you can already recognise a few streets away by its castle-like towers.
Parks in the city centre
The place where the local people relax in the week-ends is the Plaza Sucre that looks park-like. Around the big fountain in its centre, playing children jump around. And on the benchs beside it, adults read the newspaper or a book during the time. At one side of the park there is the pastel-green building of the Colegio National Maldonado. On the other side, locals sell handmade jewelry and goodies under a corridor of elaborately decorated archways.
Riobambas station: starting point for spectacular train journeys
From the city centre in the direction of the bus station you will pass one of the rare real train stations in Ecuador. Old steam locomotives drive from here to Alausí and on to Nariz del Diablo. Many people describe the trip as a unique experience. At the station are not only the trains themselves, which are worth seeing. Because there is also a small courtyard outside the station with stalls selling snacks and where sometimes street musicians play. Inside the station there is a small hall with numerous small shops. Here you can buy all kinds of jewellery. In the same building, railway enthusiasts can also visit the Railway Museum.
Behind the train station, past the adjacent Plaza Eloy Alfaro, continue along the road in the direction of the bus terminal and you will come to a more modern part of Riobamba. The contrast to the city centre is clear. And this, even if one recognizes the modernity mainly by the numerous restaurants, their facades, interior decoration and their international cuisine. Here, even vegetarians will find something for themselves.
Excursions from Riobamba
A breathtaking experience, which you have the opportunity to do in Riobamba and which you should definitely take advantage of, is the ascent to Ecuador’s highest volcano, the Chimborazo! An experience that I will never forget and about which I therefore report in detail in this separate blog post!
Another destination near Riobamba is also the small town of Guano. It is especially famous for the traditional shoe production. However, people also praise it very often because it seems to be a very safe town. In Guano’s centre there is a small, pretty park with a small market behind it with mainly leather goods. From here, a small road leads to a hill at one end of Guano, on which a nice path leads up past monoliths to a view point.
So Riobamba is much more than just a practical starting point for the Chimborazo or an exciting train ride! It is a pretty, lively city with a lot of culture, many cafés, restaurants and markets!
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