Heading to Riobamba? Get ready for a leisurely exploration! This charming city offers a blend of history, culture, and mouth-watering local flavours.
This Riobamba Travel Guide will explore charming churches like Basilica and Iglesia La Merced. Dive into Sucre Park’s tribute and controversy. Immerse yourself in the City and Religious Art Museums. catch breathtaking views at Parque 21 de Abril, and embark on day trips to Chimborazo, Guano, or Guamote.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Riobamba.
Best Things To Do in Riobamba Ecuador
|| FUN FACT: Riobamba’s name stems from a fusion of linguistic roots. “Rio,” the Spanish term for “river,” merges with “rispampa,” the Quechua word signifying “plain.”
Discover Riobamba Cathedral
Riobamba Cathedral‘s relocation from Plaza Mayor to Parque Maldonado followed the devastating earthquake of 1797. The baroque facade, meticulously reconstructed from fragments, showcases white limestone adorned with intricate reliefs depicting passages from the Old and New Testaments, with indigenous and Spanish imagery. This fusion symbolises cultural amalgamation, and the push towards Catholicism.
Riobamba Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, was never open when walking past, and locals were not aware of any specific mass times, so the interior remained a mystery.
Wander around the rutas de las iglesias
Aside from Riobamba Cathedral, the city has an abundance of churches of different styles and eras. Follow the ‘Rutas de las Iglesias‘ to see 11 churches around Riobamba, dating from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Relax in Parque Sucre
Sucre Park (Parque Sucre) is situated in the Plaza de Santo Domingo and pays tribute to independence hero Antonio José de Sucre. The park’s central fountain, featuring Neptune surrounded by cherubs, marked the initiation of Riobamba’s potable water in 1913.
Adjacent to Colegio Nacional Maldonado, this park stands as a historical landmark. Despite controversy over the ornate lion sculptures on its benches, that were replaced by cheaper versions, Sucre Park is worth visiting!
Sucre Park (Parque Sucre) in Plaza de Santo Domingo
Visit the City Museum (Museo de la Cuidad)
Explore Riobamba’s City Museum, an early 1900s architectural marvel built by the Costales-Dávalos family. Take a look at the eclectic mix of vintage city photographs, temporary art exhibits, and historical artefacts within this beautifully restored mansion.
While lacking comprehensive information, the museum offers a fascinating afternoon break. Admire ornate ceilings, classic furniture, and captivating art left by the mansion’s former owner.
|| LOCATION: Edge of Parque Maldonado || OPENING HOURS: Tues to Saturday 8am-6pm (Closes from 12:30-2:30pm for lunch) || ENTRANCE: $FREE
City Museum (Museo de la Cuidad)
Visit the Religious Art Museum (Museo de Arte Religioso)
Museo del Convento de La Concepción stands as a cultural gem, showcasing the intertwined history and religious heritage of Riobamba. With 15 exposition and photography rooms, this museum within an impeccably restored 18th-century convent boasts a remarkable 200-piece collection of 17th- and 18th-century religious art.
Whilst I am not big on religion, it was a great place to visit to delve into an important part of the culture in the city. The information and tours are in Spanish but visitors are free to wander around independently.
|| LOCATION: Argentinos || OPENING HOURS: Tues to Saturday 9am-5.30pm (Closes from 12.30-3pm for lunch) || ENTRANCE: $3
Museo del Convento de La Concepción
Enjoy the views from Parque Abril de 21
Perched just north of downtown, Parque 21 de Abril boasts an observation platform with panoramic views of Riobamba and the surrounding volcanoes, El Altar, Tungurahua, and Chimborazo. It’s not surprising that this is a popular sunset spot and one of the top things to do in Riobamba.
Known as “Loma de Quito“, due to its similarity to El Panecillo in the capital, this early 20th-century park houses the Pyramid honouring the heroes of the Battle of Tapi on April 21, 1822. The park also features a statue of Simon Bolivar and Eloy Narea’s, Mural of the History of Riobamba detailing the fight for Spanish independence.
Gaze upon Iglesia San Antonio de Padua, a 19th-century marvel crafted in neoclassical style guided by Father Toribio López and architect Aulestia. Sadly, the church was closed on my visit but the interior of the grand gold altar was visible through the glass doors.
|| LOCATION: Parque 21 de Abril
Mural of Independence by Eloy Narea
Wander down the Riobamba train line
From Riobamba, the spectacular journey took travellers southward through small Andean towns before reaching Alausí to begin a thrilling descent to the iconic Nariz del Diablo, or “Devil’s Nose”. Once a must-do in Ecuador, financial challenges led to bankruptcy in 2020.
The Devil’s Nose train, celebrated for its historical importance and impressive engineering, was a pivotal component of the Guayaquil–Quito railway project. Completed in 1908, it aimed to connect Guayaquil and Quito.
Today, the old ‘Ferrocariles Ecuatorianos’ train stands frozen in time. Trace the rail tracks through the city to Riobamba Train Station, now transformed into Plaza Artesanal de Tren, hosting artists and local handicraft stalls.
Try Riobamba’s local food specialties
Ecuador boasts a plethora of traditional dishes, yet Riobamba’s local culinary scene unveils unique specialties.
Eat in Tortilla de la Chile
Established in 1938, Tortilla de la Chile is a Riobamba institution on Calle Chile, celebrated for its traditional cuisine. Specialising in flavourful bowls of caucara stew with mote and optional lettuce, the meals come with delectable corn tortillas stuffed with cheese.
Despite its small size, the cozy restaurant provides an intimate setting, serving pre-prepared dishes from the entrance kitchen. If you are looking for an authentic dining experience in Riobamba, I recommend heading to Tortilla de la Chile.
|| LOCATION: Calle Chile
Eat the famous Hornado
Having tried the famous Ecuadorian hornado in Banos and Cuenca, I was ready for the Riobamba version. Traditionally, Riobamba’s hornado, slow-cooked over coals and eucalyptus leaves, gives it a smoky twist and a one-of-a-kind texture. For the ultimate hornado experience, hit up Mercado La Merced—it’s where the best in town is sizzling and the ladies are tempting you over with free samples.
|| LOCATION: Mercado La Merced
Drink a Rompenuncas with Chimborazo ice
At La Merced Market in Riobamba, Rosita Almachi’s juice stand has a storied history. Mr. Ushca, the son-in-law of the legendary “Ice merchant” Baltazar Ushca, descends from Chimborazo, delivering ice blocks to Rosita, continuing a tradition dating back to 1860. As the last ice merchant, Mr. Ushca’s dedication preserves a unique connection between generations and thirsty customers savouring the fruity batidos, known locally as “rompenuncas”.
Try the Ceviche de Chochos
Ceviche de Chochos, locally known as “cevichocho,” is a quintessential dish in Riobamba, Ecuador, renowned for its simplicity, healthiness, and exquisite taste. Originating over two decades ago, this traditional delicacy combines chochos (lupine beans), tomato juice, pork skin, onions, and minced meat.
Accompanied by a potent chili and canguil, it reflects the culinary creativity of the region. Rich in proteins, vitamins, calcium, and minerals, chocho enhances the dish’s nutritional value. Cevichocho is typically garnished with tomatoes, onion slices, and boiled pork skin, it is served with popcorn and banana chips.
Notable establishments like Villa María borough and Coliseo de Ceviche uphold Riobamba’s flavourful traditions. My “cevichocho” experience in Doña Mary Coliseo de Ceviche did not disappoint. With a choice of traditional cevichocho de cuero (leather), pollo (chicken), oreja (ear), but I opted for the camaron (prawn), and it was delicious!
Take a Day trip from Riobamba
Visiting Chimborazo offers a breathtaking experience in Ecuador and is one of the top things to include on your Riobamba itinerary. The majestic stratovolcano at 6,263 m is the Earth’s closest point to the moon and captivates adventurers with its snow-capped peaks.
How to experience Chimborazo
Summiting Chimborazo varies, typically taking 2 to 3 days, depending on the chosen route and acclimatisation. >> BOOK 2 DAY CHIMBORAZO PRIVATE TOUR
Embark on a scenic hike to Condor Cocha lagoon, then bike downhill from Carrel Refuge to San Juan village. BOOK YOUR CHIMBORAZO BIKE TOUR
Take a self-guided Chimborazo hike to take the volcano at your own pace. The bus leaves from Guaranda Riobamba and passes by the entrance to Chimborazo National Park. I trekked to Whymper Refuge and Condor Cocha lagoon.
If you don’t feel confident about doing a self-guided hike, you can take a PRIVATE HIKING TOUR OF CHIMBORAZO.
Day Trip to Guano
A day trip to Guano from Riobamba promises a rich experience. Explore the Ruins of the Monastery of the Assumption, showcasing historical Franciscan Church remnants. Visit the City Museum, known as the “Mummy Museum,” revealing indigenous burial practices and the region’s history.
Ascend 327 stairs to the Mirador de la Colina Lluishig for unique stone sculptures by Luis F. Reinoso, offering cultural insights. Enjoy panoramic views of Guano and the Chimborazo volcano.
Indulge in cholas, a sweet bread with a rich history, at Panadería Ricas Cholas. Savor Fritada, traditional fried pork, at Restaurante Rica Fritada. Explore local shops, witnessing the town’s craftsmanship, including handmade rugs with a fading tradition but upheld by passionate weavers.
|| HOW TO REACH GUANO: The bus takes 20 minutes from Riobamba. For more details, read my blog on how to take a day trip to Guano from Riobamba
Guano Day Trip from Riobamba
Visit Guamote and Palmira Desert
Located in Guamote, south of Ecuador between Quito and Cuenca, the Guamote market thrives every Thursday from 8 am. A vibrant food and craft market offers traditional clothing, fabrics, and hats, creating a colourful spectacle reflecting the region’s indigenous culture.
The Palmira Desert is a semi-arid area, not a typical desert, shaped by wind, dryness, and grazing. Indigenous communities combat desertification by planting pine trees, creating a unique experience for tourists to try duneboarding, horseriding, or wandering amidst the pine trees.
|| HOW TO REACH GUAMOTE + PALMIRA DESERT: The bus takes 1 hour to Guamote from Riobambato to visit the market. Take a taxi for $5 from the Pan American highway to the Palmira Desert.
Visit Palmira Desert
FAQs + trip Planning for Riobamba
Where To Stay In Riobamba?
There are lots of hostels and hotels in Riobamba, here is a list of recommended sustainable places to stay.
(£) VILLA BONITA HOSTEL
I stayed in Villa Bonita Hostel, a sustainable bed and breakfast with a fantastic location. Quirky decor, social courtyard, great breakfast, and very helpful owners. READ REVIEWS OF VILLA BONITA + CHECK PRICES + AVAILABILITY
(££) QUINDELOMA ART HOTEL + GALLERY
Located close to Riobamba Cathedral and Maldonado Park, Quindeloma Art Hotel And Gallery provides a free breakfast buffet, a poolside and swim-up bar, and a poolside bar. READ REVIEWS OF UINDELOMA ART HOTEL + CHECK PRICES & AVAILABILITY
(£££) HOTEL SPA MANSION SANTA ISABELLA
Hotel Spa Mansion Santa Isabella offers stylish 4-star accommodation in an Ecuadorian colonial-style house with free WiFi and parking. READ REVIEWS OF HOTEL SPA MANSION SANTAI SABELLA + CHECK PRICES & AVAILABILITY
How to get to Riobamba?
To reach Riobamba, use frequent bus services from Quito (3h 15m), Guayaquil (3h 45m), and Cuenca (6 hours) all with international flights.
The Quito to Cuenca overland journey is a popular route taking in handy stops including Baños de Agua Santa, Latacunga, Riobamba and Alausi.
For my Ecuador travels, I chose Riobamba as this was just a 2-hour bus journey from Baños, which served as an ideal stop city between Baños and Cuenca.
Is Riobamba worth visiting?
It is absolutely worth it! Riobamba’s history, tasty cuisine, and breathtaking views are a delight. Laid-back vibes and unique experiences make it a must-visit in Ecuador. Plus, it’s a perfect stop on your backpacking route to Cuenca, with Chimborazo volcano close by.
Useful Links For Your Riobamba Trip
Ready to get planning your trip to Riobamba? Here are some useful links to get you started.
Tours + Transport + Accommodation
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