In Ecuador this part of the south of Ecuador, is the least known by the same Ecuadorians and also by foreigners, but most definetely you have to visit it and see it for yourself. People from Loja have a saying which goes something like this “If you have not visited Loja…then you don´t know my “country” (referring as this part of Ecuado that is so different than the rest of country)” This province has some many types of climate, people, altitude, food, traditions, festivities, microclimates, even slang and the “pure” Spanish that retains much of the authenticity due isolation throughtout the centuries.
The Andes here are so different than the rest of Ecuador, as it´s older, more eroded, drier to the south as we approach to the Peruvian desert, are lower, but not less beautiful, with smaller valleys, villages and towns in between…but the capital of the province of the same name, Loja a wonderful city that still retains some colonial buildings, churches, squares, markets, museums, parks, Lourdes Street, Jipiro park, botanical garden, etc etc but also makes it so special are the people, well know as musicians that there´s a museum dedicated to it, Loja citizens are warm, friendly, proud of their city and customs. You can spend several days to see this city and then travel to other unique areas, and I´ll try to summarize the some many places to see, visit and why:
1 Vilcabamba a unique valley south of Loja city, was a sacred valley, famous for its inhabitants for their longevity, produce and the mystical hill of Mandango.
2 Malacatos valley another wonderful valley and town with its sugar-cane mills, colorful wooden houses, the molassas production.
3 Podocarpus Nationak Park just few kilometers south of Loja City, with over 362,000 acres or 1,463 square kilometers, with a large number of 600 birds, mammals, reptiles, frogs, bears, etc etc, takes the name from a coniferous or type of Andean pine.
4 Tapichalaca Reserve another unique natural protected that borders Podocarpus Park.
5 El Cisne Sanctuary one of the largest neogothic churches and highly visited once a year for a a huge pilgrimage.
6 Saraguro the only native ethnic group that still retains their language, customs, traditions, dresses, handcrafts.
But Loja province has much more, places and areas to be seen, like Celica, Macará, Zapotillo, Catamayo, Catacocha, Alamor, Yangana, each one of them very known for its nature, landscape, vegetation, forests, etc etc
Come to Loja and see a deeper Ecuador…