Loja is the only city in Ecuador to have a city gate, la Puerta de la Ciudad. The castle-like edifice, built in the late 1990s, is also home to a small museum, café, and the metal sculptures of Don Quijote and his faithful companion, Sancho.
The Río Malacatos runs through the city of Loja, providing several opportunities to walk trails and explore lovely parks along its banks.
The heart of Loja revolves around Central Park, a huge plaza with well-designed gardens, relaxing places to people-watch, and historic monuments. Some of the most important historic buildings in the city stand beside this colorful plaza.
A short distance outside of town lies the University of Loja’s botanical garden, a collection of native and non-native flowering plants and trees. The extensive grounds are home to meticulously designed gardens, an excellent collection of native orchids, a working farm, and examples of the only native species of pine tree in Ecuador, the Podocarpus.
Jardín Botánico Reinaldo Espinosa, Loja, Ecuador, +593 7-254-7275
The narrowest street in Loja provides a great opportunity to photograph picturesque Spanish colonial homes and an example of a traditional filigree metal gate.
Many Ecuadorians make an annual pilgrimage to the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de El Cisne, located a couple of hours outside of Loja. Don Diego de Robles carved by hand the Statue of the Virgin del Cisne in the 16th century. For six weeks beginning in May and culminating in July, local Lojanos celebrate the Virgin with festivals and special masses.
Vilcabamba has long been on the list of favorite expat destinations in Ecuador. Located in a green valley with access to many hiking trails, Vilcabamba makes a great home base for exploring the Southern Andes.