Transportes Loja operates buses throughout Ecuador. Loja is 45 minutes from Malacatos and less than one hour from Vilcabamba and the Podocarpus National Park. To the east is Zamora which bus will cost about $3 for a 90 minute trip - these are popular tourist destinations.
If coming from Cuenca, Ejecutivo San Luis buses are cheaper ($8) and much faster (just over 4 hours) than Viajeros buses. The bus might take some time to leave the city, but then it goes straight to Loja.
La Toma airport in the valley of Catamayo, is about 40 minutes by bus from Loja.
The bus from Piura, Peru leaves at 10pm from a new terminal in north Piura that most buses do not frequent but supposedly will in the future. The bus from Loja leaves from the main station in the morning to Peru. The bus costs $12 as of March 2014 and takes 7-9 hours depending on border formalities. Be sure to stamp out of Peru as the driver does not always remember that foreigners need exit stamps. If the driver forgets, you will get to run for 500 meters each way across the border at approximately 1am.
There are about 2,000 taxis (los amarillos) in Loja. Within the city centre taxis cost $1; a journey elsewhere around town will cost $1.50 to $2. A regular bus service operates and costs only 25c. Buses also travel to nearby towns.
Loja is located at 2100 metres 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 25°C (80°F), with an average daily temperature of 17°C (63°F). February through May is wetter than the rest of the year. Layering is necessary because the equatorial sun often makes days hot and nights can be cool.
There are many beautiful squares and churches, with arcades to protect you from the rain. Plaza de la Independencia (San Sebastian) and Plaza San Francisco are particularly nice.
• El Chiringuito de Los Chavales (Parque Lineal la Tebaida) is great fun: David and Doris Hernandez are charming hosts. David, a madrileňo, has mementoes of his city in the bar. It is the perfect place to start your night with a few drinks and to then proceed elsewhere. They offer Spanish tapas like Spanish tortillas and croquetas, but they also offer typical Ecuadorian food as well. Their tinto de verano is delicious, and is the real deal! The restaurant is a gazebo that sits along the river and has a view of the surrounding foothills. Bring a light sweater as all the seating is outdoors. Telephone: (+ 593) 9 8081 8541
• Zarza Brewing Co. (Puerto Bolívar and Esmeraladas in 'El Valle'.) Zarza is a brewery that was started by an American/Ecuadorian couple, Gregory and Elita, along with another American, Eric. They brew and sell several different types of craft beer. A 12 oz. beer is $3 and a 16 oz. beer is $3.75. They also offer a variety of food, such as pizza, tacos, hamburgers, nachos, french fries, chicken wings and more. Additionally, they have cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages.
The restaurant is really nice with seating in and out doors. There are TVs that are usually tuned in to sports, but it's not intrusive as the volume is typically off (unless otherwise requested). The staff is attentive and friendly. The owners Gregory and Eric and at least one bar tender, Pablo, speaks English. It's suitable to take your family there for dinner, or to go out with friends. It's a 'must see' if you like craft beer.
They are located in "El Valle" on the corner of (en la esquina de) Puerto Bolívar y Esmeraldas. Their phone number is (07) 257-1413. Look for them on Facebook to see their full menu or go to their website (http://www.zarzabrewing.com/home.html) to find out more.
In general Loja is one of the safer cities in Ecuador, however try to stay within the city limits, where there are police on patrol.
A specific spot to avoid, even during the day (and especially at night) is parque Pucara and its surrounding area. Tourists may want to go and see views of the city from the tower at the top of the hill, however it is not safe. The tower (Mirador Teleferico) is abandoned and is a hot spot for crime.
Vilcabamba can be reached by minibuses that leave hourly from the bus terminal or for similar prices, go to the shared taxi stand 11 de Mayo to take a faster cab that leaves as soon as they have four passengers. Ask a cab to take you to the "Taxi Rutas" or it's near Mercadillo on the second street away from the river on the not centro side. Not on a corner, but the nearby taxi drivers will be happy to point you at the taxi rutas.
Podocarpus National Park has much biodiversity. There are walking tracks to lakes and waterfalls. The park has a micro-climate and much rainfall which has stimulated plant growth - unique flora includes Podocarpus, the only indigenous Andean conifer and the famous Cinchona plant from which quinine was obtained to combat malaria. The fauna is equally exotic and plentiful.
Cuenca: the bus journey can take as long as 7 hours on Viajeros International. This bus company may make some stops, and it is a slow trip. (Loja to Cuenca $8, 5 to 7 hours, and no toilet) San Luis buses (with a toilet) travel from Loja to Cuenca using the national park route and take 4 1/2 hours, $8. Regular departures every day.
Piura, Peru (Loja International 8$, 8.5 hours). Departures at 6am, 1pm and 11pm. The bus stops at both border posts for immigration formalities and you have to walk across a small bridge (try not to be last in the queue). Although an international service, it does stop in each of the small towns along the way and some people travel standing up. No working bathroom / air-conditioning.