About two hours after leaving Ambato, you wind your way down to GUARANDA (2670m), which sits in a shallow basin surrounded by hills. It’s hard to believe this is the provincial capital of Bolívar, what with its physical isolation and sleepy, small-town air. The centre of town is marked by the charming Parque Bolívar, lined with old adobe houses with painted wooden balconies and sloping, red-tiled roofs flecked with lichen. The square also houses a grand, twin-towered church, a striking mixture of bare stone and white stucco, and the gleaming, white-walled Municipio, looming over the mature palms that give this place a more tropical look than its climate warrants.

The town’s narrow, cobbled streets see relatively little traffic, and it’s not unusual to spot someone leading his horse down the road, or a couple of hens clucking around the pavement. After you’ve nosed around the square, and checked out the Museo Escuela Cultura Andina in an old hospital on 7 de Mayo and Rocafuerte – a building at least as interesting as its displays on archeology, local culture and medicine – the only real “sight” to head for is the towering stone statue of “El Indio Guaranga”, the sixteenth-century indigenous chief after whom the town is said to have been named. It’s up on one of the nearby hills ($1 by taxi; 45min walk), with sweeping views down to the town and across to Chimborazo, and a modest museum of history (variable hours; free) alongside it. Otherwise, there’s a colourful Friday or (bigger) Saturday market on the Plaza 15 de Mayo, where you’ll see campesinos from local villages trading wheat, barley and maize for fruit brought up from the coast.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Ecuador features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a…

02 Mar 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
19 places for a digital detox

19 places for a digital detox

Find peace at Buddhist monastery, Nepal Trim out the religious and/or mystical connotations and Buddhism boils down to something quite simple – brain trai…

14 Nov 2014 • Neil McQuillian camera_alt Gallery
Things to do in Ecuador beyond the Galápagos

Things to do in Ecuador beyond the Galápagos

There's so much more to Ecuador than just the Galápagos. Chitra Ramaswamy went on her own voyage of discovery to find the best things to do in Ecuador, beyond …

07 Nov 2014 • Chitra Ramaswamy insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook