The province of Loja is a land of irregular topography, where the two distinct cordilleras further north give way to a maze of smaller ranges which barely reach 3000 m. Many warm valleys lie between these hills. Beautiful Parque Nacional Podocarpus is the ideal place to visit the cloud forests, which have made Loja famous since colonial days when chinchona, the bark from which quinine is extracted, was first described here.
Long isolated from the rest of the country, the far south developed its own unique character. Loja is functionally and culturally self sufficient, home to important universities and cultural centres. The Saraguros, proud people who maintain their traditions, are today the only indigenous group in the province. The Malacatus and Palta natives disappeared long ago and many Lojanos are of European stock, dating back to early colonial times.
Vilcabamba, once an isolated village, although it is only 38 km south of the city of Loja, is today the pot of gold at the end of Ecuador’s gringo trail. It has an ideal climate and idyllic surroundings which combine to create a special feeling of tranquillity. The town and surroundings are equally popular with Lojanos out on a weekend excursion, with travellers en route from Ecuador to Peru or vice versa, and with expatriate residents.
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