called "The Sentinal of the South". This city is the capital of
the Loja Province, situated some 270 miles S.S.W. of Quito, in the
valley of Cuxibamba. Loja was founded by the Spanish captain Alonso de
Mercadillo on December 8 of 1548, meaning it's one of the oldest towns
in Ecuador. Although few of its original buildings survive, the city
has some lovely 18th century architecture.
Loja is well known among locals, for the Virgen del Cisne religious
festivals it organizes in September, which attract pilgrims from all
over the country and from abroad. Other churches worth a visit are San
Francisco, San Agustin, Santo Domingo, San Sebastian, and Fatima. They
all contain important religious works of art.
The highland route to Peru through Loja and Macara is slower and
rougher, but more scenic than the more traveled route through the
towns of Machala and Huaquillas.
Loja is a prime example of smart economic development. Lojanos have
managed to succeed financially without destroying their cultural
heritage and natural resources. This is exemplified in the conscious
construction of buildings designed to harmonize with older ones.
Loja's effort to preserve its architecture and colonial roots
represents a forward thinking approach to development that the rest of
Ecuador's cities should follow.
The pure air that is breathed in this city is another fact that
attract visitors, the city enjoys a temperate spring-like climate all
year round, although evenings are cooler. Loja counts with many parks,
that gives fifteen square meters of green space to each inhabitant of
this city, for this reason it has been declared as an ecological model
to the World. Loja is both an important provincial capital and a
college town, two important universities, one national (founded 1943)
and the other private (Catholic).
Podocarpus National Park
is located in Loja and Zamora provinces, its 361,341 acres are
equipped with basic infrastructure. The main reason for such
bio-diversity is mainly attributable to the areas topographical
alignment and merging of the Amazonian and Andean weather which has
resulted in the melding of a one off micro climate and much rainfall
which has stimulated further 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: woolly mountain tapirs, spectacled bears, cock
of the rock, parrots and mountain toucans are common. Within
Podocarpus is a beautiful collection of over one hundred glacial lakes
and torrential waterfalls, which make up the lake complex. continues...