Earth : South America : Ecuador : Andean Highlands (Ecuador) : Loja
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. For much of 2012 the airport has been under repair but it should open for domestic services to Cuenca or Guayaquil by December.
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.
• Las Chavelas esq. Bolivar y 10 de Agosto is great fun with David and Doris Hernandez 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. Telephone: (+ 593) 9 8081 8541
• Grand Victoria, Bernardo Valdivieso 06-50 y José Antonio Eguiguren, an historic boutique hotel, close to Central Park. 33 rooms and 4 suites. Breakfast is included, Wifi is free, and they also have swimming pool, spa. Restaurant, café & bar. $90 to $160 plus taxes. www.grandvictoriabh.com Telephone: (+ 593) 7 258 3500.
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.