Located in the heart of the country, quaint Guaranda is the smallest provincial capital in the highlands. Its pleasant climate (22 to 25 degrees centigrade in the tropical regions) make it very popular with visitors, who are also attracted the area’s cool paramo. The Carnaval festivities of the area have gained fame throughout Ecuador.
Surrounded by the peaks of San Jacinto, Loma de Guaranda, San Bartolo, Cruzloma, Tililac, Talalac, and el Mirador, Guaranda is known as the City of the Seven Hills. At 2650m, this highland city is the smallest provincial capital in Ecuador. The Carnival festivities are very traditional and last for several days. Visitors are offered chicha (a local, maize-based alcoholic drink) and the popular firewater known as Pájaro Azul (Blue bird) which help them get into the spirit of the festivities.
By Bus: The bus station is located towards Riobamba and Babahoyo at Eliza Mariño Carvajal. Bus service to: Guayaquil, 4 1/2 hours, ticket value around US$4.50. To Quito, 3 different cooperatives every few minutes, 5 to 6 hours, ticket value around US$5.00. To Riobamba, 2 hours, ticket value around US$1.60. To Ambato, 2 hours, ticket value around US$1.60. There are also daily buses from San Luis de Pambil.
Tourist information: Address: Garcia Moreno between 7 de Mayo and Convención de 1884.
Over shadowing the whole town 3 Km in the distance is the impressive 5 meter high sculptured statue of the El Indio Guaranga in the northwest, who sits perched on a main hill opposite. From here a magnificent view of the area may be enjoyed along with the snow crested peaks of Chimborazo Volcano. Take a taxi for around $1 or enjoy a hike, the statue is next to a Cultural center and also has a history museum in addition to the ethnographic history region by region.
The main market days are always colorful with the locals fully clothed in their typical dress and are open on Fridays and Saturdays (the main one) on Plaza 15 de Mayo while the best days for strolling the town and soaking up its atmosphere of old Colonial bygone days is best done around these days when it is less hectic.
Parque Simón Bolivar is worth strolling around in and is frequented by many local residents in the evening from 6-9pm. In the center is a statue of Simón Bolivar that the inhabitants have informed us has had nestled under its right armpit a bees nest for many years. The park is surrounded by colonial houses and municipal buildings with panoramic views from the towers and a nice courtyard. On 7 de Mayo and Olmedo, there is an anthropology museum with pre-Inca at the Escuela de Educación de la Cultura Andina.
There are also some interesting paintings by local artists in Salón de la Ciudad. Opposite the park is a Cathedral constructed in stone surrounds and inside has an impressive marble altar complete with stained glass windows and wooden ceiling.
Two kilometers up from the statue Guarango is El Troje on the road to Salinas de Guaranda, a chance to see another set of nature’s wonders. Here you can walk 2 hours along a canyon to view a splendid 8 m high waterfall called El Infiernillo.
Carnival time is teeming with visitors from the whole province as well as neighboring ones also and has a dazzling combination of parades, dancers, strolling poets and masked partiers who roam the streets at random. A group of local musicians also meanders in and out of various houses through the day often receiving alcoholic beverages or the locals drink called Pajaro Azul (Blue Bird) which is a twist on the national drink aguardiente and mixed with local herbs.
The carnival is actually opened by a large landowner who is warmly referred to as Taita Carnaval (Father Carnival) who finances the party himself and officially opens the festival upon entering the town.
Dating back centuries, the Guaranda Fair is a well known local celebration during which locals parade through 15 de Mayo Plaza on mules and on horseback, dressed up in gold ponchos, black hats, and masks.
Carnaval: The Carnival in Guaranda is celebrated as in every other part of the country. But, additionally this town celebrates this holiday with festivities; masks, parades, guitars, poetry and dances all over the place. Considered one of the best carnivals of Ecuador.
Taita Carnaval (Father Carnival), is a grand celebration opening in which the sponsor of the party makes his grand entrance into town. After this opening, the party starts. Celebrations last for about 8 days.
Note: Carnaval is celebrated with water throwing in the whole country (except in Ambato).
Fritada (fried pork), mashed plaintains (known as bollos), Salty hornado (roasted pork), and empanadas (pastries filled with meat and cheese) are traditional fare in Guaranda.
All of the following offer varied music.
La Colina: Address: Av. Guayaquil 117. Set on a hill north of the entrance coming from Ambato. Reservations: Tel & Fax: 980666. Cochabamba: Address: García Moreno and 7 de Mayo, Tel. 2981958, Fax: 2982125. Bolívar: Address: Sucre 704 and Rocafuerte. Reservations: Tel. 980547. Hostel Flores: lovely place, nice rooms with balconies out onto the street $16