26 Best Things to Do in Loja, Ecuador

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How much do you do when you travel to a place? I assure you the less you do, the less satisfied you will feel. How much you do also depends on how well conversant you are to a place. Sometimes you may be new to a site, but your expectations are so high.

It is possible to familiarize with a place even before being there. Loja is a great business or holiday destination, whether you are a local or a foreigner. There is a long list of to-do. As you go through it, make sure when you visit Loja (one of Ecuador’s oldest cities) you make more than half of the list. If possible, do everything on this list.

These are the best things to do in Loja:

1. Eat Traditional Cuisine

Local cuisine is among the things that define a place. It makes your stay memorable. Loja’s delicious local food is one of your taste buds will never forget. There are several food types you will find in Loja.

To start with is bollos. This is a bread baked with pork and sugarcane syrup. It is a typical dish in Loja. Another food available is Molloco. Molloco is green plantain that is cooked with peanuts, toasted corn, onions, and fried with pork rind. It is a must-eat cuisine. Locals love it and so should you.

Molloco
Credit wikicommon

Ecuadorian Ceviche is the staple food in the country. Therefore, you will not miss it in Loja. This cuisine is made of shrimp, lemon, and tomato sauce. Before, you come out of Loja ensure you have eaten this food. Other dishes include fanesca, cuy (guinea pig), hornado, patacones and Seco de chivo (a stew made from goat).

There is a variety of food choices to settle for. Your stay in Loja may be limited. Therefore, eat as little as possible of every dish. This will allow you to eat as many meals as possible.

But where do you find these foods?

There are several restaurants in Loja you will enjoy eating the most excellent local cuisines. Dumas Trattoria & Restaurant is first on my list. Other places to visit are Forno di Fango Pizzeria, Riscomar, Mama Lola (highly recommended by locals), Lecka Bistro Aleman and VidaVentura grill & sports. There is also a KFC in Loja just in case you want food you are used to.

Eating is a must to survive, so I am sure you will have to eat. But, for the days you will be in Loja make use of them and eat as much as possible from as many joints as possible. Don’t forget to take selfies for memories.

2. Get involved in local festivals and events

Loja is also referred to as Ecuador’s cultural capital. Many cultural events take place in Loja. Some are annual, while others are done once in a while.

Being a hub of music, arts, and culture; Loja is a great place to go and participate in events and festivals. For instance, you can plan and go to Loja between September and November. Between these times, the famous Fiesta de la Mama Negra takes place. It is a Christian event featuring processions, street dancing, fireworks, costumes, and Andean music. Another Catholic festival is the El Dia de La Virgen del Cisne event. Loja is home to a cathedral. It is located in Central Square. In addition to this, there are some churches, including the church of San Francisco, San Domingo, and San Sebastian. These are places you can go to worship or praise. You can do anything religious in these places.

Fiesta de la Mama Negra
Credit wikicommon

February and March also host several events including Carnaval and Semana Santa. Loja’s independence is celebrated on  November 18 while the International Festival of Live Arts comes in the last half of November. Also, the Founding of Loja is commemorated on December 18. All these are dates you can time and be part of Loja’s busy festive calendar year.

When the world is celebrating New Year’s Eve, Loja is not left behind. This is the perfect time to be in Loja to have a memorable experience. Throughout the year, there are several events you can visit Loja to be involved.

3. Go on Adventure Trips

Are you in love with nature? Loja is the place to be. You may go caving, camping or even hiking. But, to make it more adventurous, you need to be accompanied by the locals. They know the best places to camp and which mountains to climb.

zip lining
Credit flickr

You may also be involved in zip lining, bird watching among other nature engagements like nature walks. Being the world’s 74th highest city in terms of altitude, you expect exciting natural features.

Amazon travel, Alfamar Travel Cia. Ltda and Agencia de Viajes Alvarez Travel – lata are among the travel agencies you may sign up with to organize successful adventures.

4. Road Trips and Tours

The first thing you want to remember when new in place is the road that leads to the hotel you stay in. But when in Loja make sure you know where each road leads to. That is why you have to go on a road trip.

Being a foreigner can be a headache sometimes — no knowledge of streets and roads. Imagine wanting to go somewhere, but you don’t know the direction nor the local language so you may ask around. It may even ruin your stay in that place. But for Loja, it is quite different.

There is a high-level organization in terms of roads and their naming. Loja roads are well outlaid on a grid system. They are named after Ecuadorian household names. The fame in the names makes it easy to ask and get the directions right. Google maps may also come in handy in leading you to the right places.

Driving in Loja at night
Credit flickr

There are paved walkways that make navigation easy. In fact, the rivers in the city only make it more fun to move around. The North and South are easily accessible. There are buses and taxis always ready to pick you up and drop you at your desired endpoint. Uber is international and will help you a big deal. Local taxi services available include Ktaxi, Taxi Loja Taxopel S.A., Cooperativa Once De Mayo among many others.

Well, for travelers, your touring can only be memorable if the transport is top-notch. In Loja, Ecuador transport is sorted, and you don’t have to worry about that. This gives you even more time to tour and familiarize with more roads and streets in a single day.

5. Visit Podocarpus National Park

This is one of the world’s most biodiverse places. With over 550 different bird species, you already know what your visit to this park is all about. You will be going to bird watch.

It will set you back around $15 to catch a taxi to the park’s trailhead. At the park be assured of seeing all species of birds in this world.

6. Education

Apart from vacations and beautiful sites, Loja offers excellence in education. You can go to Loja to study. There are many significant Universities in Loja and Colleges too. Imagine studying in a beautiful city with a rich culture like Loja. Sounds great. But it doesn’t end at formal education.

Some Universities still offer exceptional recreational facilities and sporting opportunities. For instance, Parque Universitario de Educación Ambiental y Recreación. You will find it opposite the Botanical Gardens. This is about five kilometers south of Central Loja. A perfect match isn’t it?

It sends this message: refresh after and before studies. This is a success secret only Loja has mastered. This is a unique environmental education offered by Loja’s finest. Also present are hiking trails. You may camp too if you want.

7. Visit Botanical Gardens

At the Botanical gardens, there is another activity you may be involved in. As Scientist or Researcher or even an Environmentalist, this is the place to be. The lab has several native and exotic species. This is a hub for research and environmental learning.

Botanical Gardens
Credit flickr

Apart from studies, there are many orchids you will see here, and beautiful flowers too.

8. Take a walk along Malacatos River from Parque Lineal Sur “La Tebaida.”

This is a trail going south along the river, about 40-kilometer stretch. It is also an excellent place to go hiking. This trail uniquely follows the river on both sides.

Malacatos River
Credit wikicommon

9.  Go drinking at Loja’s First Craft Brewery

Zarza Brewery makes fantastic craft beer. This is a great place to get a little bit tipsy. Apart from the brew, there is soothing music available to make your experience memorable.

10. Visit Parque Jipiro

There are so many places to visit in Loja. For locals, you may spend most of your weekends here. Foreigners too may visit this place. Among the activities you may get involved in include: walking, horse riding, and paddle boating.

26 Best Things to Do in Loja, Ecuador 1
Credit wikicommons

11. Visit Teatro Nacional Benjamin Carrion

If you love theatrics, this is the place to be. Loja’s Symphony Orchestra frequently brings their performances here. You will have a taste of the big talent available in Loja. There are also live performances you will get to enjoy.

Teatro Nacional Benjamin Carrion
Credit wikicommons

12. Shopping

Loja is a hub of shopping centers. You can go there to shop. The shopping centers include Plaza Del Valle, Multiplaza La Pradera, Marcimex Loja Gran Colombia, and Centro Commercial among many other shopping centers. In a nutshell, you will find anything you want in Loja. Anything from home appliances, to fashion designs to foods and snacks, machinery to anything you may think about. Loja hosts all kinds of businesses and service providers. You may also go to Loja to sell your goods and services.

Shopping in Loja
Credit flickr

13. Media and Photography

I would go to Kenya to see Jeff Koinange or go to England only to hear Natalie Sawyer make the news. I mean, no place is complete if there are no media. For a journalist, this may be a great place to work. A place is full of news and media houses that I employ you. There are several notable media houses available in Loja.

Bolivar mural
Credit flickr

These include; Cronica, Quito, Guayaquil dailies, and the famous La Hora newspaper. These are news sources that create and spice up Loja stories. They break the news as they arise and make Loja more famous and known. You may, therefore, go to Loja for employment as a paparazzi, journalist or news writer. Other forms of work are available in the multicultural Loja city and province of the great country of Ecuador.

With myriads of beautiful sceneries, photography would be an excellent course to undertake in Loja You may pursue photography for fun/freelance.   

14. Arts, Music, and Culture

They say save the best for the last. That is precisely what I did because nothing else is as identical to Loja more than art, music, and culture. A local paraphrased saying says there must be something musical for any someone. Why? Because the residents believe if you can’t sing, you can either play the guitar or write a song. In short, it is thought that everybody must have something to offer or contribute when it comes to music and arts.

You may go to Loja to be entertained or entertain. Entertainment is a standout activity in Loja. If you go to Loja, expect a fun, enjoyable time and memories. You will also learn of the city and province’s deep history and culture. This is the home of creativity. The monuments and architectural artifacts prove the high levels of creativity in the area. The diversity points to the top attraction levels the city gives.

Loja produces one of the best musicians and music tunes in the world. Therefore, it hosts the best. Loja is the place to be for musicians and art lovers and everyone.

15. Puerta de la Ciudad

This highly-rated tourist attraction is the right place for kids to have fun. Also referred to as the Gates of the city, Puerta de la Ciudad was constructed in 1998. The building’s design was shaped after the city’s Coat of Arms. By 1571 Spanish King Felipe 2 had completed the construction’s presentation.

So, what does the place has to offer?

This beautiful place gives you a chance to go on a self-guided tour. Inside, there are four galleries displaying the most beautiful local artworks. Also present is a cafeteria and a gift shop. Here, self-service is the order of the day. In addition, you may climb the clock tower. This will give you a lovely view of the city in all directions. 

Sculptures of Don Quixote and Sancho are just a few meters away from the gates. Being a self-guided tour, the place has so much to offer. The castle-shaped building is a perfect place to take pictures. It is also safe and maintained well. 

Other activities you and your loved ones may engage in are horseback riding and water rides.

Puerta de Loja
Credit flickr

16. Loja zoo

It is surrounded by significant hotels like Sonesta, Casben, Libertador, Prado Internacional, among others. This makes it a prime location for easy visits to and from the hotels. Therefore, you don’t have any reason not to go to Loja zoo.

The zoo has a variety of animal species. You may opt to hire a tour guide to take you through the experience. Here, you will get a chance to see Ecuador’s endangered species, rare to find from the rest of the world.

This is a must-do!

Animal in Loja Zoo
Credit flickr

17. Cathedral de Loja

It is also referred to as a miraculous icon. Loja’s throng of churches makes it home to devout residents. But, out of the many churches, none compares to the cathedral. In terms of size and people, it is among the highest in Ecuador.

Its location also sets it above the rest. That is why you have zero excuses for not visiting this place. The cathedral sits on Central Square. It was initially constructed in the 16th century, but earthquakes caused massive destruction in the building. As a result, the construction had to be redone in 1838.

Inside the cathedral is a statue of the Virgin of Cisne made of wood and gold gleam. Diego de Robles (a Spanish sculptor) did the curving in 1594. Visiting the cathedral gives you an opportunity to see Catholics carrying this sculpture on the backs of pious all the way from where it is kept in Cisnes.

Cathedral de Loja
Credit wikicommon

18. Recreacional Jipiro Park

This is another highly rated destination. Many people that have been here having given positive reviews about the place. The niche is also suitable for kids. Many activities take place here. These include horseback riding, boat rowing, and water riding.

They have excellent amenities that give children an avenue to have fun. They also have a basketball court. Other pull factors in the park include architectural artifacts, statutes, good viewpoints, bird viewing, among others. In a nutshell, the place boasts of a variety of recreational options. It is an excellent place to make memories and take photos.

Recreacional Jipiro Park
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19. Central Park in Loja

Sometimes all you need is a place to sit and watch life go on. Central Park is the best place to do so. The park is so busy because of the cathedral but safe. In the surroundings, there is a number of museums. Museum of Music and Museum of Religious Artefacts are some of the museums around.

The central park is an excellent place to go shopping, touring, or just sitting and seeing things happen. Therefore, make sure you visit this place, day or night.

Central Park in Loja
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20. Church of El Valle

It is the oldest church in Loja. This place has a unique architecture and has a perfect mix of traditional and contemporary designs. Aside from the building itself, the Church of El Valle is a great place to connect with God and his people.

The church is located next to a gazebo and archaic houses. Not far away is a food joint where you may eat as you experience the church’s originality. It is also good to note the place is a great place to go with family. Apart from worship, visiting the place allows you to see some of the oldest and most significant architectural works in the world.

21. Yacuri National Park

A taxi may cost around $80 dollars to take you to Yacuri National Park. Another option is taking a bus to Amaluza. From there a “ranchera” will help you get to the park. Rancheras are used instead of buses during rainy seasons. But, the transport setback is insignificant compared to the fun you’ll experience at the park.

At the park, you will go hiking. Enthusiasts may go as high as the rocks overlooking the lagoons. If you find that impossible, you should try getting to Lagunas Negras. Being a night owl, I find it enjoyable doing overnight backpacking. Try it at Yacuri.

Yacuri National Park
Credit flickr

22. Vilcabamba

Vilcabamba Valley is located 45km from Loja city. It hosts arguably one of the oldest people in the world. The plain village faces Mt. Mandago and the sleeping Inca. The beauty of this valley is the Mountain View, the residents, and culture. The natural features paint pictures in mind nothing can repaint or remove.

There is also a church on Vilcabamba’s main square. The architecture used to make this building is one you cannot miss out on. Go to this place and view these features. I assure you great memories.

23. Calle Lourdes (narrow street)

It will cost you zero cents to walk here. The newly painted shops, decorated walls, and renovated buildings make this place look great. Your eyes will be fed with beautifully painted buildings.

The narrow street is also a host of craft shops, galleries, restaurants, sewing businesses, and many more. You may also get a room and spend a night or two around. It is cheap and fast.

Calle Lourdes
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24. Music Museum

This is home to a number of fine art, culture and music works. At night the buildings are well lit and look so appealing. You must visit this place and have a first-hand experience of Loja’s richness in culture and music. 

The music museum has a number of different musical instruments like pianos, guitars, trumpets, etc. Some of these are as old as the museum and were used by ancient Ecuadorian artists. There are also carvings you can’t miss glimpsing.

25. Colinas del Pucara Park

The park is open for 24 hours. The park has a nature trail that gives you a perfect chance for a nature walk. I find these excursions refreshing that is why I think visiting this park is a must.

Boat riding is also available. In addition, there is a viewpoint from where you can well see the plains and valleys in Loja. Also, there are excellent amenities for children to play in. This makes it a perfect place to visit with your family.

Colinas del Pucara Park
Credit flickr

26. Lineal La Tebaida Park

This is another destination suitable for both children and grown-ups. Lineal La Tebaida is located South of Loja city. Activities you may engage in are hiking, pedal boating, enjoying local cuisines, camping, boating, and sporting (football, volleyball, BMX). The place is also right for environmental education and awareness programs.

Visiting this place also gives you a chance to see rare species of trees, animals, and part of the river Malacatos. To add to that, you will see waterfalls and beautiful landscapes. Therefore, make sure you stop over at Lineal La Tebaida when in Loja.

Lineal La Tebaida Park
Credit flickr

Conclusion

There are many places to visit in the world, and Loja is one of them. It is an excellent place with myriads of destinations. While security has always been a concern for first-time visitors, your stay in Loja is secured. The security teams are hawk-eyed and awake. The culture, music, and traditions make Loja a great place. Also, the high number of churches available makes the place highly religious. Always remember the more familiar a place is, the more likely you will enjoy your stay. Therefore, you can use the list above to familiarize with Loja and make your visit memorable.

See Also: 20 Places to visit in the Caribbean

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You deserve to relax and enjoy your vacation. Being stressed in the process is not part of it. This is why I decided to create this blog to guide the new savvy travelers. It will guide you on where to go and provide more information about the holiday destination of your choice.

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