Salinas de Guaranda
Famous for its brand of cheeses called Salinerito (considered the country's premium range) as well as wool spinning and dye mills Salinas de Guaranda is just 90 minutes by car from Guaranda. The area is surrounded by interesting salt formations left over from salt mining, in addition, it is also home to a major sweets industry and has beautiful walks and fishing areas along with horse riding facilities. The entry cost into Salinas is US$2.00 and US$5.00 for the various community cooperative based projects accompanied with guides.
The province of Bolivar is around 70% Subtropical covered by western cloud forest while the lower section is more agricultural producing citrus and sugar cane.
There is a frequent bus service to Salinas de Guaranda with Transportes Cándido Rada leaving from Plaza Roja in Guaranda. Or, take a bus from Cuatro Esquinas, located on the road to Ambato (10 km north of Guaranda). From there, take a truck to Salinas (20 km). A taxi costs around US$15. To go back to Guaranda take any bus from Salinas' main plaza (all of them go to Guaranda). From San Luis de Pambil take the ocational ranchero - be warned: these trucks are scarce
Salinas de Guaranda style of projects acted as a catalyst and spread to other areas during the 1980s through a group from the town who transplanted their ideas to other towns. For example near La Palma in an easterly direction a native cloud forest reserve called Bosque Peña Blanca was procured along with a 300m waterfall, which has a lodge facility with 16 bunk beds, baths and cooking facilities just an hour's walk away in Echeandía (Tel. 03-970307), along with hotels and restaurants.
Also, of interest is Chimbo 25km from Guaranda which as well as producing guitars and various firework models it posses a Vatican-style square built around a church called, Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la Natividad which houses interesting pre-Spanish antiquities.
San Miguel further up the road is also worth a visit as is the old colonial town of Santiago which houses some interesting local art paintings in its church. If you continue on you'll pass San José de las Palmas to Bilován there are a set of worthwhile caves to explore called Las Guardias (west) which then leads on to a waterfall and river type beach in Balsapamba. The road then loops back to the aforementioned Babahoyo.
Hike down 3000m into the sub-tropical to the community of Chazojuan. This is an amazing 6h descend from the rim of the paramo at approx. 3700m down to the village of Chazojuan, which is part of the Salinas communities. They produce sugar cane and all kinds of tropical fruit and transport them to Salinas. You walk on the partly still used horse and mule trails through cloudforest passing by a waterfall. Ask for a local guide in the oficina de turismo as the treks are almost impossible to find on your own.
There are a few restaurants around the main plaza. Some of them are communitary run, some are not. One of the places locals opt for a filling almuerzo is Anita Lopez, set in the second flor of the building to the left of the oficina de turismo (where you'll also find a store). In the building left to it is Di Fiorentino - please avoid it: we were ripped off there ($12 for two below average almuerzos).
Great pizzas are made by local Santiago Lopez in his pizzeria "La V-Ka" which is situated just off the main plaza. Using all local ingredients, this is a great place to try the local cheeses and meats. Starting at just $4 for a generous small pizza or $2.50 for a calzone, this place is open every night from about 6.
There is a bar called "Blue Bird" which opens on Friday and Saturday nights.