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Retreating into the Andes – Riobamba

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Once a hub of connectivity, Riobamba is nestled away in the middle of Ecuador in the Andean corridor. Due to its central location in the middle of Ecuador, the city once served as a key location on the railway between Quito and the port city of Guayaquil. For decades, this was the easiest and fastest route connecting Quito to the southern coast. Today the train no longer runs, but its legacy is commemorated by a museum in the centre of the city.

Despite that the people can no longer make their way through the Andes on rail in the same way, Riobamba’s central location in the country still makes it an often visited place. Today, the city is a tranquil spot which colonial heritage is visible throughout the area. Eye-catching squares are spread out throughout the city, colonial houses are scattered throughout its many alleys and beautiful churches are never far apart. Riobamba was one of the first cities to be founded by the European colonisers in Ecuador, although the area had been inhabited for centuries before the Spanish arrived. As is a reoccurring theme in the Andes, the city is framed by sleek mountains and, on a clear day, the Chimborazo volcano towers over the peaceful city.

To Ecuadorians, Riobamba is known as Friobamba due to its reputation for being colder than most of Ecuador (Frio means cold in Spanish). The city is located at the edge of the Chimborazo national park, home of the Chimborazo volcano. For decades, Chimborazo was thought to be the highest mountain on earth. While it was later established that Mount Everest is highest mountain in the world, the once common belief about the Chimborazo is not strictly untrue. The Earth is not completely round. It is, in fact, a bit flatter on the poles and a bit thicker around the equator.  And as it happens, Chimborazo is located exactly on the equatorial bulge, thus making it the mountain furthest from the centre of the earth. Due to this, the mountain is the de facto highest mountain on Earth; had we measured height based on the core of the earth rather than the level of the sea. But despite not being able to claim the title of the highest mountain in the world, the volcano offers a picturesque sight and the natural park with the same name presents nature at its purest.

Riobamba often serves as a stop for travellers making their way through the Andean corridor, either if they are heading north to Quito or south to Cuenca. Only a couple of hours away you will find the very popular train ride Nariz del Diablo (nose of the devil in Spanish). The train will take you on an intimate journey through Andean peaks and its green valleys, letting you experience the famous mountain chain up close.

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For our travellers to get the most out of their Andean stay, we have them reside either in Hacienda Abraspungo or Hotel Mansion St Isabella. Located outside the city itself, Abraspungo offers the traveller a taste of the past. With synergies between stone, wood, open spaces and large gardens, the hacienda has kept its classical look and feel, providing colonial architecture and design with all the comforts of a First Class hotel. Mansion St Isabella is conveniently located in the centre of Riobamba, only a 5-10 minute walk from the railway museum. Due to its central location, it doesn’t offer the same outside amenities as Abraspungo, however, the hotel has made up for that by what it has to show to indoors. Having recently expanded into a newly refurbished neighbouring building, also of a colonial origin, Mansion St Isabella offer both a classical and modern take on colonial design. The old part is decorated by burgundy red, white and dark wood, giving you a warm and homely feel. The modern part enjoys the uplifting unity of yellow and white. After a long day of sightseeing the Andes, St Isabella will soon offer a spa in their basement. Depending on your preference, both Hacienda Abraspungo and Mansion St Isabella are waiting to make your experience of the Andes just a little bit more complete.

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Picture taken from Hacienda Abraspungo’s website.

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