From Guaranda, a serpentine dirt road leads 61km east to Riobamba, the liveliest and most attractive city in the central sierra, sitting on the Panamericana 52km south of Ambato. With an appealing blend of fast-paced buzz and old colonial charm, Riobamba easily merits a visit in its own right, but can also be combined with worthwhile excursions. Most famously, it’s the start of the Devil’s Nose train ride and is also a popular base for visiting Volcán Chimborazo; nearby Guano, a rug-manufacturing centre, and Zalarón, with its authentic highland market, are somewhat less demanding targets. East of Riobamba, the northern stretch of Parque Nacional Sangay offers some great trekking opportunities, in particular to the volcanic crater of El Altar, approached from the community of Candelaria, and to El Placer hot springs and Volcán Sangay, both reached from the village of Alao.

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