Loja is a city in the south of the Andean Highlands region of Ecuador.
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.
- Pio Jaramillo Alvarado Museum of Music of the Central Culture (Museo de la Música del Centro Cultural Pio Jaramillo Alvarado), Bernardo Valdiviezo (between Rocafuerte and Miguel Riofrío). Inaugurated in 2004, it contains permanent exhibits on lojano music and composers, a concert hall, an area for temporary exhibits, a cafeteria, and a small music shop.
- Madres Conceptas Museum (Museo de las Madres Conceptas), 10 de Agosto at Bernardo Valdiviezo. Museum housed in the Hermanas Concepcionistas Monastery, the second oldest in the country. It was constructed at the end of the 16th century.
- Museum of the Central Bank of Ecuador (Museo del Banco Central del Ecuador), 10 de Agosto (between Bernardo Valdiviezo and Bolívar). This archeological museum focuses on the colonial history of the area.
- Lojanidad Archeological Museum (Museo Arqueológica y Lojanidad), Barrio San Cayetano (on the campus of Loja Technical University - UTPL), .
- Door of the City Museum (Museo de la Puerta de la Ciudad). This museum seeks to recreate the history of the city, but also has exhibits showcasing local painting, sculpture, and photography.
- Located opposite the Botanical Gardens about 5 km south of central Loja on 90ha.; There are hiking trails, camping areas and classrooms for environmental education
- Jardín Botánico Reinaldo Espinosa. Across the road from University Park is the botanical garden open to the public which is the oldest in Ecuador created in 1949. There are over 800 native and exotic species. It is a living laboratory for scientific research and environmental education. It covers an area of 7ha divided into 5 sections for viewing. Closed between 12:30 - 3 daily and closes early on weekends.
- Roma Pizza, Av. Cuxibamba y Gran Colombia (frente al puente de Lea), ☎ 072583520. Very good pizzas and pastas. The salads are amazing. Open until late. Pizzas / pastas 5-7$. Drinks 0.5$ - 2$.
- Salon Lolita, Near Parque El Valle (Ask a cab to take you to Parque El Valle, $1 from centro). Good place to try cuy (guinea pig), cecina, or chicken cooked in cuy spices in a pleasant multi-room and garden courtyard setting. There's even a swing for kids. Go up behind the hedges in the back to order from the counter before sitting. Cuy $8-$12. Drinks $0.5.
- El Tamal Lorano, 18 de Noviembre on the plaza. A Loja institution serving large portions of local foods like tamales, borons, humitas and quimbolitos in a clean, modern restuarant. $1 per item. Drinks $0.6-$1.
• 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
- Hotel Londrès, loja. Probably the cheapest option in Loja. $5 per night or $100 per month. Nice place. $5.00usd.
- Hotel Metropolitano, Colon between Sucre and Eguiguren. Business hotel with worn but clean surroundings. Staff are happy to help with questions but don't always give correct answers. Has wifi and parking. $12 for single, private bathroom in low season/weekdays.
- Hostal Aguilera Internacional, Sucre 01-08 y Av. Emiliano Ortega (esquina), ☎ Tel: (593) 7 258 4660. furnsihed rooms includes cable TV, internet and breakfast. Off street parking available with restaurant-cafe, lounge and sauna. Starting at $25.
- Hostal America, 18 de Noviembre entre Imbabura y Quito (1$ by taxi from bus station). checkout: 14:00. Modern and very clean hotel in the town centre. Huge rooms with 2 double beds, private bathroom, cable TV and free Wifi internet. Price includes breakfast. $30 for double room with private bathroom. Tel: (593) 7 256 2887
- Hotel Libertador, Colón 14-30 y Bolívar, ☎ (+ 593) 7 257 8278, . a historic boutique hotel, near Central Park. Breakfast is included, Wifi is free, and pool, spa. Restaurant, cafetería. $$51 to $61 plus taxes..
- Grand Victoria, Bernardo Valdivieso 06-50 y José Antonio Eguiguren, ☎ (+ 593) 7 258 3500, . a 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..
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.
- Peruvian Consulate, Avda Zolio Rodriguez, ☎ 072 579 068. 9am-13h, 1530-1730. A tourist visa costs 30$ if you need one (check at visahq.com). You need to take your bus ticket, proof of sufficient funds (such as a credit card) and to make a deposit at the Banco de Guayaquil.