The city of Loja is a moderately quiet, laid back spot in the south of Ecuador. Sitting at 2060 meters above sea level, it is home to a mild climate – ranging from 16 – 30 ºC – which cools off at night.
With a population of 180,000, life doesn’t feel too hectic when walking the streets of Loja. I was struck at how recently renovated ALL the city squares appeared, as each of them include modern churches and intricate artwork.
Frankly, I was rather shocked at how nice this small, non-touristy city was. On multiple occasions I was advised to skip Loja altogether, as this is a city generally ignored by travellers … I’m definitely glad I ignored that advice!
Loja is the cultural capital of Ecuador, known for its strong art and music scene. It’s home to two Universities and was also the first city in Ecuador to be wired for electric power (1890s) from a nearby hydro-electric dam.
The city is full of large tiled murals (the one below depicts Simon Bolivar driving Ecuadorian independence) and even the bridges display a level of artwork unseen in most South American cities.
About 4 hours south of Cuenca ($7.50 USD bus), Loja is quite close to the Peruvian border. The main crossing will take you to Piura, Peru and this overnight bus takes about 8 hours and costs $14 USD.
While not on the tourist trail, Loja is well worth a stop if you have some time to spare. While there isn’t a particular site drawing people to the area, its overall level of charm makes Loja a nice city to spend a day or two.
Keep in mind that there aren’t any traditional hostels available in Loja, as you won’t find any listings on hostelworld or other hostel websites. However, there are plenty of private room options available in small hotels for $10 USD / night.
Unfortunately, as of May 2017, large portions of the downtown area are under serious construction.
While not overly ideal for travellers in 2017, the improved infrastructure will undoubtedly add to the charm of Loja in the future! I can definitely see this up-and-coming city forcing itself onto the tourist radar before long!
Hasta Pronto : ) (see you soon)