Podocarpus National Park

Southern Highlands

This national park fills in much of the triangle between Loja, Zamora and Vilcabamba, as well as a huge swath to the southeast. Because altitude ranges so greatly within the park borders – from around 900m in the lowland sector to over 3600m in the highland sector – Podocarpus has some of the greatest plant and animal diversity in the world.

Perhaps 40% of its estimated 3000 plant species are endemic, and close to 600 bird species have been recorded. Rare mammals include foxes, deer, puma, mountain tapirs and spectacled bears.

Access to the highland sector of the park is through Cajanuma control, about 10km south of Loja, whilst the main access to the lowland sector is the Bombuscaro control, 6km south of Zamora by a dirt road that follows the Río Bombuscaro.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Southern Highlands attractions

1. Lagunas de los Compadres

5.04 MILES

Branching off from the Los Miradores Loop Trail is the challenging but enticing 14.5km trail to the two dozen or more lakes that make up the remote…

2. Parque Universitario PUEAR

8.57 MILES

Almost 5km south of the center, the 90-hectare reserve has excellent trails. You’ll need to cab it here ($1.25).

4. Refugio Ecológico Tzanka

9.45 MILES

Head a block southwest of the main plaza and hang a right on the dead-end lane to find this wildlife rescue center. Housing colorful parrots, coatis (big,…

5. Clock

9.76 MILES

Zamora's most famous landmark is the huge clock on the hill above the bus station, attractively decorated with flowers. The minute hand is 11.34m long…

6. Mirador Teléferico

9.79 MILES

Loja's best viewpoint is at the top of the cable car from Parque Pucará, 1km south of Plaza de la Independencia up Olmedo. Walk or get a taxi ($1) to the…

7. Plaza de la Independencia

10.18 MILES

The plaza is hemmed in by the Church of San Sebastián and colonial-era buildings with pillared overhangs and shuttered wooden balconies. A brightly tiled…

8. Calle Lourdes

10.27 MILES

This narrow lane is the oldest colonial street in Loja. There are some nice art galleries here (if only the street were pedestrianized, they would be much…