Altitude: 2,800 meters (9,186 ft) Population: 63,842 Phone Code: 03
A medium-sized city about an hour south of Quito, and the capital of the Cotopaxi province, Latacunga appeals to the traveler interested in visiting an authentic Ecuadorian city, where tourism isn't the be-all and end-all. It's also a good base for visiting Cotopaxi, the Quilotoa Loop, and the nearby SaquisilĂ market. Many people, however, bypass the city on the dusty Panamericana highway on the edge of town, thereby missing out on the other side of Latacunga: a surprisingly charming historic center, with cobbled streets, tranquil plazas and a sprinkling of intimate cafĂ©s. Despite its low numbers of visitors, Latacunga still has a decent tourism infrastructure.
Latacunga was destroyed by earthquakes and eruptions of Cotopaxi on three occasions: in 1742, 1768 and 1877. In spite of the repeated destruction, it has a well-preserved colonial downtown. Once a somewhat grungy city, Latacunga municipality has done a great deal in recent years to beautify itself, improving gardens in the town squares and adding ornate metalwork to the bridges that connect the city to the highway.
Latacunga's biggest claim to fame is its biannual festival, La Fiesta de la Mama Negra, held in both September and October, attracting huge crowds and featuring parades, fireworks, and dancing.