Known locally as the land of waterfalls and birds (La tierra de cascadas y aves), Zamora is the second most populous city in Zamora-Chinchipe after Yantzaza. It is located in the foothills of the Andes mountains at 970 m above sea level, on the convergence of the Zamora, Bombuscaro and Jamboé rivers. The vegetation around Zamora is jungle-like and is located very close the Podocarpus National park. Zamora has experienced a boom in growth in recent years, attributed to the discovery of gold in the surrounding region. Zamora was originally a colonial town founded by the Spanish but was attacked by the Indians and reclaimed by the indigenous Indian groups that include the Shuar and Saraguro Indians whom you'll see from time to time milling around the neighborhood in their distinguishable black shorts.
The closest major airport is Mariscal Sucre International Airport, located in Quito, 274 miles away. Once landed, visitors can take a bus to Zamora, or take a internal flight to Cuenca or Loja from Quito and then a bus to Zamora.
You can walk pretty much everywhere in the center of Zamora. If you want to take a taxi to the Podocarpus park you can find one at the bus terminal. If you want to go to Timbarra you can take an open bus (it has no windows but it does have a roof) which you can hail down on the bridge (via bombuscaro). bang the side of the bus to get off and pay :)
Zamora is a small, peaceful town, a place to relax. If you know where to go it can be a very pleasant and interesting place to be.
Swim in the Bombuscaro River
If you find yourself in Zamora on a sunny day you should put on some swimming shorts and head to the Bombuscaro river. There are a number of places to access the river - the most popular is just over the bridge on Via Bombuscaro. If you walk along the road you will see a pleasantly green and wild looking park (there are some small paths that access the river) on your right. Walk further still and you arrive at an slightly tired looking public pool. just a bit further and there is another great spot to jump in the river.
Tzanka Refuico Locates on José Luis Tamayo y Pasaje S/N. Tzanka is a small but beautiful animal refuge. There are a number of different species of birds including Macaws there are also Turtles that roam free in the area along the walkways, squirrel monkeys, a small caiman and snakes. It is also a great place to sit and watch some of the local birds in the many variety of trees that are present in the refuge. You can see tanagers, casiques, oropendolas, hummingbirds and even woodpeckers on a good day. but you do need to be patient! The best places to sit are in the hammock next to the pool table or up on the walkway. the owners are friendly and speak a tiny bit of English. press the buzzer on the left of the entrance to be let in.
Antoher interesting part of Zamora is its (relatively small) main indoor market (located just south of the terminal terrestre). Here you will find a fair selection of fruit & Veg being sold (granadillas (4 for $1), Maracuyas and chirimoyas ($3 for 1) is just a short list of some of the fruit that you should try!). You will also find some stands dedicated to natural beverages, jugos naturales, i recommend to you to try the horchata con savila, a sort of herbal tea made of 5 different medicinal plants mixed with aloe. Definitely one of the healthiest breakfast you can serve ever. There is also a bigger and slightly more animated market located just off Av Alonso Mercadillo next to the Rio Zamora
Podocarpus National Park
Zamora is home to a large section of the Podocarpus National Park. This park possess one of the highest bio-diversity areas on earth, contributing to the amazing beauty of this place. Happily the park is easily accessible from Zamora, simply take a 10 minute taxi from the terminal terrestre (about $5). You will be dropped off at the entrance (it doesnt look very official), walk a further 30 minutes along dirt track to reach the visitors center. The center is manned by a number of knowledgeable and helpful rangers.From here you can do a number of walks to waterfalls (bring your Bikini!), rivers, some very strenuous walks up the mountain side and others on the flat along by the river. You can also organise to camp in the park or stay in one of the cabins they have there ($3 a night, the cabins are very simple). Be sure to bring all that you need with you (water / food / mosquito spray) as there is no shop in the park.
The area itself is cut up into two main areas, an upper pre-montane section which has sensational walking routes, the tropical cloud forest that is superb for birdwatching and the lower subtropical section, with remoter areas including virgin forest and endemic species of flora and fauna. Recently the government in Ecuador has said that all national parks in this area are free, so no charge to enter :) . On the way back from the Podocarpus, you can hope that there is a taxi at the entrance waiting for people to come out or if you want to be sure, ask one of the rangers at the visitors center to call you a taxi. They are very helpful and will ring one for you.
if you like walking you can try the Yamila trekking. Yamila is the name of one of the small hills that surrounds Zamora. This like light backpacking trek is located in the Yaguarzongo neighborhood. At the end of the trek you will be able to see one of the most complete views of Zamora and its surroundings.
Tour Companies / Guides
If you walk around at lunch time in Zamora you are bound to find a number of places to eat a cheap "almuerzo" for $2.50. First you will be served a soup, then a main course: this is almost always rice, with a little salad, some yuka or beans and your choice of chicken (pollo), beef (carne) or fish (pescado). The meal will usually come with a drink of some kind too. There are some places to eat atillas de rana (frogs legs) in town. And although not next to the sea, there is one pescaderia that serves encebollados. A coveted Ecuadorian dish. In terms of foods from around the world Zamora is lacking, however it does have one or two good pizzarias and some chifas (chinese restaurants).
Like any of the twenty something provinces in Ecuador, Zamora has a distinctive and typical drink, its name is chicha, a homemade alcoholic beverage made of manioc or chonta, sort of a nut. Natives of this region, shuar or ashuar like to drink large quantities of this chicha. This traditional drink is offered to all newcomers specially in mingas, when people in the community gathers to work in group. Chicha of chonta or chicha of yuca both of them have a very characteristic flavor. they are completely tasteless. This is because natives don't use any sugar nor other substances to provoke fermentation and they don't use salt to condiment their traditional recipes either.
The majority of Zamora's hotels are in the center of town, which is a stones throw from the bus terminal - no need for a taxi to get the those in the center.
There are plenty of other hotels and hostals in Zamora like the Gymifa Hotel or Torres Internacional Hotel ($10 per night for a single room).
For better accommodation try the Orillas del Zamora Hotel near the Zamora river or the Wuampushcar Hotel.
If you are looking for a bustling night life town, then Zamora is not the place to be, although there are a number of Karaoke bars in town. During the evenings you will find that the main square (Parque Central de Zamora) a relatively lively place to be. Many families and young groups use this as a place to meet and chat with friends. You could also go down to the Malecon, the Zamora river is lit up in a green glow from lights by the river.
There is a small English school in the town, Fine Tuned English , it employs around 10 teachers (including a number of foreign teachers) and 350 students attend the school. It is part of a larger company, with the headquarters in Loja.
Most journeys from Zamora include going first to Loja. About 4 hrs away (via Loja), just south of Zamora, is Vilcabamba. Vilcabamba is a small, fairly touristy town surrounded by stunning views and walks. North along the road out of Zamora there are many small towns. These include Zumbi, Yanzatza (the largest town in Zamora - Chinchipe province) and Gualaquiza. Gualaquiza is a nice town, relatively undiscovered by tourists.