Deemed ‘the Sultan of the Andes, ’ Riobamba is a traditional, old-fashioned city that both bores and delights travelers. It’s sedate yet handsome, with wide avenues and random mismatched shops tucked into imposing 18th- and 19th-century stone buildings. It lies at the heart of an extensive scenic road network and is the starting point for the spectacular train ride down the Nariz del Diablo. Thanks to Riobamba’s proximity to Chimborazo, the country’s highest peak, the city is home to some of the country’s best climbing operators.
Riobamba is also an important commercial center for the central highlands. Except on Sundays – when it seems you could easily starve searching for somewhere to buy food – the city hums with activity. Saturday is market day, when indigenous people pour into town. The trading that goes on, in everything from bootleg CDs and bloomers to donkey butter, grain mills and chickens, easily rivals the markets at Saquisilí and Machachi, making Saturday one of the best days to be in town.