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Loja is one of the most appealing cities for many travelers to Ecuador and is a welcome jaunt off the familiar tourist trail. The Province of Loja offers a unique combination of paramo, cloud forest, and jungle. Moreover, Loja’s capital city of the same name and the area’s natural wonders remain unsullied and largely undiscovered by travelers because they are tucked away in the southern most portion of the country. Travelers willing to make the trip can look forward to breathtaking vistas, indigenous markets, an amazing National Park, colonial architecture, and unparalleled hospitality. Its also just a short trip to Vilcabamba, Podocarpus National Park, and other sites of interest.
The city of Loja was initially founded in the valley of Catamayo, an area now occupied by the La Toma airport. Loja was moved from this valley to its current location due to a high incidence of malaria and a devastating earthquake. The city was rebuilt in the majestic green mountains of the southern Andes several years after its destruction and was officially founded on December 8th, 1548 by Spanish Captain Alonso de Mercadillo. At nearly 500 years, Loja is one of the oldest cities in Ecuador. Its age is evident in its rich colonial
The southern highlands.
Photo by Lojanos.com.
architecture, narrow streets, and in the remaining 18th century homes.
In addition to being one of the first Ecuadorian cities, Loja is also one of the nation’s most pioneering. In 1897, Loja became the first city in Ecuador to use electric energy, catapulting the country into the Age of Electricity. Since then, careful industrialization and modernization has allowed Loja to retain its charm. Loja is a prime example of smart economic development. Lojanos have managed to succeed financially without destroying their cultural heritage and natural resources. This is exemplified in the conscious construction of buildings designed to harmonize with older ones. Loja’s effort to preserve its architecture and colonial roots represents a forward thinking approach to development that the rest of Ecuador’s cities should follow.
Loja is located at 2100 meters above sea level in the Cuxibamba valley and enjoys a temperate spring-like climate all year long, though the weather is best from October through January. Temperatures fluctuate between 16° C (60° F) and 21° C (70° F), with an average daily temperature of 17° C (63° F). February through May is wetter than the rest of the year but for many the guarantee of afternoon rainbows makes up for it. Layering is necessary because the equatorial sun often makes days hot and mountain nights are always cool.