Rail Journey Along the Avenue of the Volcanoes
The old market town of Riobamba, four hours south of Quito, is itself a destination worthy of a trip, but the rail ride that begins there continues on to Guayaquil or Cuenca quadruples the fun. Travel on antique refitted trains is an option, though perhaps not as memorable as the autoferro bus-on-rails, where you can sit on top of the train to take in the dramatic view of the highlands, the active Cotopaxi volcano, and Mount Chimborazo. The rails follow the Avenue of the Volcanoes before reaching the legendary Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose), a hair-raising engineering marvel that follows a series of switchback turns before delivering you to Riobamba safe and sound.
Riobamba’s important Saturday Indian market sprawls across the town’s eleven squares; you can identify the various communities of Indians who converge here by the different hats the women wear. The city’s unrivaled Museo de Arte Religioso displays a remarkable collection of art and gold objects in a restored convent and cloisters.