On this page: Introduction | History | Facts & Statistics |Climate | What to do in Riobamba | How to Get There & Away


An ideal starting point for many mountain excursions, Riobamba is a small, charming Andean city with colonial architecture, cobble-stone streets, impressive plazas, and a fascinating market. The Monasterio de las Conceptas, Parque Maldonado, the Riobamba Cathedral, and the Municipio are lovely places to spend a day or two exploring. The capital city of Chimborazo province also lends itself to day trips including Chimborazo Volcano.

Riobamba History

In 1923, a fossilized human skull was found in the town of Punin, just outside Riobamba. A relic of Ecuador’s pre-Colombian history, the “Punin Man” skull is assumed to be from one of the indigenous groups that inhabited the area before the Inca Expansion. Within approximately 100 years after the Inca conquest, Spanish conquistadors arrived in Ecuador. As the conquistadors established Spanish colonies throughout South America, Diego de Almagro founded the city of Riobamba on August 15, 1534, on the site of the preexisting city of Liribamba. It was the first city founded by Europeans in what is today known as Ecuador. Colonial Riobamba was stately and attractive until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1797. On August 14, 1830, during Ecuador’s early stages of independence, the Constitutional Assembly convened in Riobamba to draw up Ecuador’s first constitution. There, Juan José Flores was selected as the first president of the republic.

Riobamba Facts & Statistics

Full name: San Pedro de Riobamba
Capital city of Chimborazo Province
Population: 150,000 inhabitants
Main Festivals: Fiesta del Niño Rey de Reyes (starts in December and ends January 6)
Primary economic sector: Agriculture

Riobamba Climate

The climate in Riobamba is generally cold and has two seasons: a wet season (the Northern Hemisphere’s winter) and a dry season (summer in the Northern Hemisphere). At a high altitude in Ecuador’s central Andean highlands, it’s not surprising that temperatures in Riobamba can reach almost 0ºC, including wind chill. During the dry season, temperatures can reach up to 20ºC or 25ºC. See our packing list for packing advice.

What to do in Riobamba


Cordoba Roman Historical Museum
This collection of artistic, archaeological, and household objects from the Cordoba Roman family illustrates the lifestyle of local aristocrats from the Colonial Era to the present.

Museum of the City
The Museum of the City is in a neighborhood designed according to the strictest Republican-Ecuadorian architectural standards from the 1920s. Parque Maldonado and its other surroundngs share similarly stately architecture.

Museum of Natural Sciences
This is a fairly comprehensive museum of natural history. Its exhibits consist of elements from the Andes and artifacts of the Tuncahuán, San Sebastián and Macaji cultures.

Museum of Religious Art of the Contraception
This museum of religious art represents the artistic and cultural traditions of Riobamba’s strongly Catholic history. An impressive volume of work from the Colonial Era and 17th an 18th Centuries.

Riobamba Central Bank Museum and Cultural Center
This museum features more archaeological and historical works. Artifacts from the Andean Highlands show much about life in the Andes both before and after the Spanish arrival.

Other Activities
La Nariz del Diablo Train Ride
One of Riobamba’s most attractive activities for visitors, this train ride through the mountains allows passengers to ride on the roof of the train. One of the most appealing things about the train is that during the four or five hour journey, it goes through every climate zone in continental Ecuador: starting in the Andean highlands, passing through the cloud forest, and arriving in the jungle-climate on the coast, either in Alausi or Sibambe. Other perks of the ride include breathtaking views of Chimborazo Volcano and a 45-degree descent down the Devil’s Nose. The train usually departs three days a week. Check with local sources in Riobamba for the most up-to-date information.

Animal Market
This is a fascinating place to experience a bit of traditional Andean commerce. People buy, sell and trade animals in an open-air market in the mornings.

Climbing and Hiking
Riobamba is the perfect starting point for hikes, treks and climbs in several surrounding national parks. The most popular are Carihuairazo, Chimborazo, Sangay and Altar.

How to Get There & Away

From Quito, a number of bus companies leave throughout the day from Terminal Terrestre Cumandá. Buses also leave from most other Andean cities for Riobamba at least once or twice daily. The same is true for buses leaving from Riobamba to Quito and other Andean cities.