Many travelers end up passing through Latacunga to access either the Quilotoa Loop or Parque Nacional Cotopaxi. But for those who stick around, Latacunga also offers a quiet and congenial historic center that has partially survived several Cotopaxi eruptions. You’d never know that such a charming city lies behind the loud and polluted section that greets visitors on the Panamericana.

Volcán Cotopaxi, which dominates the town on a clear day, erupted violently in 1742 and 1768, destroying much of the city both times. The indomitable survivors rebuilt, only to have an immense eruption in 1877 wreak havoc a third time. In 2015 Latacunga was once again coated in ash from Cotopaxi; luckily, no lava flows damaged the town this time.

To celebrate their rich indigenous and Catholic history, the people of Latacunga put on one of the most famous and magnificent parties in all of Ecuador, the Mama Negra festival.