The handsome, tree-filled Parque Maldonado is flanked by Riobamba’s cathedral on the northeastern side. A few blocks southeast, Parque La Libertad is anchored, near Alvarado, by its neoclassical basilica, famous for being the only round church in Ecuador. It’s often closed, but try Sundays and evenings after 6pm. Just north of downtown, the Parque 21 de Abril has an observation platform with views of the surrounding mountains.
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 and mountain guides. Two-day summit trips start from around $260 per person and include guides, gear, transportation and meals.
One-day mountain-biking trips start at $45 per person. Descents from the refuge on Chimborazo – an exhilarating way to take in the views – are very popular.
Festivals & Events
Riobamba’s annual fiesta celebrates the Independence Battle of Tapi of April 21, 1822. On and around April 21, there is a large agricultural fair with the usual highland events: street parades, dancing and plenty of traditional food and drink.
Drinking & Nightlife
Riobamba's nightlife has picked up in recent years. A new complex of US-style sports bars and fast food outlets called Gas Plaza has opened, and – like elsewhere in Ecuador – craft beer is becoming popular. The stretch along Avenida Borja near the train station is teeming with karaoke bars and other nightlife with copycat English names like Baltimore, Heart Rock Cafe, and Abbey Rd.
The Saturday market in Plaza de la Concepción is an excellent place to shop for handicrafts. As you’re walking around, keep your eyes peeled for locally made shigras (small string bags), tagua nut carvings, and totora baskets and mats woven by the indigenous Colta from the reeds lining the shores of nearby Laguna de Colta.
Riobamba is not known for its foodie scene, but there are plenty of places to get a decent meal nonetheless. Head to the Mercado La Merced to sample the local specialty, hornado (whole roast pork).
Riobamba's hotels and hostels make a good base for exploring the surrounding area. A new opportunity to live closer to the people is staying at the indigenous La Moya village of Calpi just 12 kilometers outside of Riobamba.