Altitude: 2,754 m (9,035 ft)
Phone Code: 03
Broad streets and aging, but still-charming colonial buildings characterize this buzzing town, situated in the heart of the central Andes. The capital of Chimborazo Province, Riobamba is a commercial hub and cultural center for both nearby indigenous communities and the city's more European-styled constituents. Originally located 20 kilometers south â€” until an earthquake leveled it in 1797 â€” todayâ€™s Riobamba features several attractive cathedrals, plazas and parks, including the noteworthy Parque Maldonado, Parque Sucre, Parque Guayaquil and Santa BĂˇrbara Cathedral.
On clear days, the city boasts unparalleled views of five of the regionâ€™s volcanic peaks: Chimborazo, Altar, Tungurahua, Carihuairazo and Sangay. (Find a hotel with a rooftop terrace and spend the morning savoring the stunning view). Saturday is market day, when indigenous people from across the region come to sell their wares.
While the market in Plaza de la ConcepciĂłn (Orozco y ColĂłn, south of the Convento de la ConcepciĂłn) is geared towards tourists, the San Alfonso (Argentinos y 5 de Junio) and La Condamine (Carabobo y Colombia) markets are also worthwhile browsing-stops, especially if youâ€™re looking for fresh fruit or traditional textiles. Despite its agreeable, laidback-but-busy atmosphere, Riobamba is probably more known as a gateway to nearby sites than as a destination in and of itself. You can go off-the-rails with the famous Nariz del Diablo (Devilâ€™s Nose) train ride, venture into the wilds of nearby Chimborazo, or trail-blaze through the northern stretch of Parque Nacional Sangay.