Riobamba, Ecuador: Our 2020 detailed guide from how to get there, where to stay, what to do and much much more!
Below, we have created our extensive guide to Riobamba based on our expert local knowledge and experience transporting countless people in Ecuador each year
The best way to get to Riobamba is by bus. The closest airports are the Cuenca airport located 140 km away, the Guayaquil airport (147.4 km), or the Quito airport (179.9 km). Therefore, the best option to get to Riobamba is by riding a bus from any of these cities.
Also, Riobamba is 2764 meters (9068 feet) above sea level, so a bus ride can alleviate the effects of altitude sickness (or soroche as it’s known in the Andes).
If you travel from Quito to Riobamba with Ecuador Hop you will be able to see incredible places like Cotopaxi, the Quilotoa Lagoon, and the town of Baños.
Ecuador Hop is a unique Hop On/Hop Off service that allows travelers to explore the hidden treasures of this country with total itinerary flexibility and safety.
Check out all of our available passes here.
Very close to Riobamba you’ll find the city of Colta, the first city in Ecuador founded by the Spanish. One of its main attractions is the vivid Church of Balbanera, the first catholic church built in the entire country–a beautiful building that preserves its colonial charm untouched. You can also visit the traditional market on Sundays.
This park is one of the most important areas of the country and, thanks to its variety of species and ecological zones, was named a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 1983.
The park is divided into two areas: the high zone and the low zone. In the high zone you’ll find snowy volcanoes, meadows and rivers that flow into the páramo (a type of high-altitude grassland ecosystem native to the Andes).
In the low zone, the landscape loses altitude and transforms itself into a wet tropical forest where you can appreciate species like tapirs, ocelots, pumas, and giant otters.
Do you dare to explore the place on Earth that is closest to the sun? This tour for adventurous travelers is full of snowy landscapes, low temperatures, and incredible wildlife.
You can trek up to the Condorcocha Lagoon, visit and photograph the Chimborazo Volcano up close, or visit the Chimborazo Fauna Production Reserve.
If you want to climb to the summit of the mountain, it’s a completely different adventure. A lot of alpinists who have conquered world famous peaks like Mount Everest come to Riobamba with the goal of visiting the farthest spot from the center of the planet as their next conquest.
It’s one of the least known train routes in Ecuador (even though the train is actual a truck on rails). The landscapes that can be observed on this journey, the stories that are told and the people you will meet are all spectacular. It is completely worth the 4-four hour trip for this unique opportunity for cultural immersion.
During the tour, there are also stops in Colta to appreciate its historical church (the first one built in Ecuador) and its mysterious lagoon.
19 kilometers from Riobamba, you’ll find the charming Colta Lagoon (also known as “Duck Lagoon”). This place is home to various types of birds such as herons, seagulls, coot birds and what is known in Ecuador as the praderito canelo, a small shorebird that feeds off insects and crustaceans.
The lagoon is also surrounded by domestic animals like cows and sheep. On your visit to the lake, you can spend some time navigating around it in small boats.
A few minutes from Riobamba is the town of Guano, the “Artisanal Capital of Ecuador.” The quality of their weaving is world-famous, so it’s the ideal place to acquire blankets or embroidered clothes. You can also find well-made handicrafts fashioned from leather here.
The Urbina Train Station is also a great place to visit in Guano. When you get there, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet Baltazar Ushca, the last of the “hieleros”. This older gentleman is dedicated to “gathering” ice from the top of the Chimborazo in an artisanal way, for use in fruit juices and in the preparations at traditional markets like La Merced or San Francisco.
Maldonado Park is the heart of the city. Riobamba being a planned city, the Maldonado park was conceptualized as the hub from which the avenues and streets would radiate out. It’s located in front of the Cathedral and holds a set of fountains and monuments of high artistic value.
Unlike in other Latin American cities where the most prominent monuments are dedicated to military heroes, the main monument of this major square is dedicated to a civilian: the scientist Pedro Vicente Maldonado, one of the main contributors in the French Geodesic Mission that measured the equatorial zone.
This is one of the most vibrant squares in the city thanks to the nearby Riobamba train station. To see it coming and going is a spectacle in itself. In the square, there are also stands of handicrafts made with wood, ceramic or straw.
In this traditional market of Riobamba, you can find fresh ingredients and typical foods like the hornado riobambeño (wood-fired pork) and some truly special fruit juices made with ice from the Chimborazo.
You can also taste some “pickles”: a homemade vinegared vegetable salad, sausages and bread (called “pickles” even in Spanish). Some other traditional dishes are yaguarlocro (soup with entrails) and jugo de sal (coriander, onion, fried eggs, and meat juice).
The name of this plaza does not come from the famous kremlin in Moscow, but rather from the red color of the plaza’s floor tiles.
This is the best place in the city to buy traditional artisanal handicrafts, especially woven textiles, embroidery, Andean clothes and leatherworks.
Besides appreciating its collection of more than 200 religious objects dating from the sixteenth century, you can also walk through the dorms and cloisters of the Conceptas nuns and visit other rooms of this place which hold important stories from the colonial and republican history of Ecuador.
Built for the first time in 1835 and made with white calcareous stone, it features a baroque architectural style and a structure of three levels: the socle, the moldings, and three towers. The cathedral is dedicated to San Pedro, the patron saint of Riobamba.
This museum is located in one of the most unique architectural complexes of Riobamba, featuring a well-preserved colonial style.
Inside the museum, you can appreciate a large sampling of contemporary paintings and a permanent gallery of exhibitions, workshops, conferences, and theater.
Just half an hour away from Riobamba you can take part in a local celebration of the Inca festival of the sun, known as Inti Raymi. The populations with Puruhá – Inca roots and other indigenous communities of the province of Chimborazo celebrate the arrival of the Summer Solstice on the 21st of June of every year during this festival.
Most bars and clubs in Riobamba are centered around Daniel León Borja avenue. Lots of places offer food, appetizers, drinks, and great parties. Also, the karaokes of the city deserve a special mention for how fun and popular they are.
Baltimore Bar – Website– Adress: Av. Daniel León Borja / Phone: +593 3-296-3954.
Factory 593 – Website – Adress: Av. Primeras Olimpiadas between Alfredo Costales y Luis Alfonso Falconi / Phone: +593 99 919 4206.
Rincón del Gato – Website – Adress: José de Orozco 32-21 / Phone: +593 98 483 4100.
Volcano Bar Karaoke – Website – Adress: Bolivar Bonilla & San José / Phone: +593 98 402 2474.
We recommend the Hotel Zeus located on Daniel León Borja Avenue 41-29 and Duchicela. This quality hotel is located in the center of the city, near all shops, banks, and tourist attractions. It also has a great on-site bar and restaurant.
Its location inside one of the tallest buildings in Riobamba means that from its terrace you have a magnificent view of all the volcanoes surrounding the city.