Casa de los Marqueses de Miraflores
Casa de los Marqueses de Miraflores is an old colonial mansion from the middle of the 18th century. In the building there is a small museum of religious art and antique furniture. I have read there are also exhibition of archaeological artefacts and the Mama Negra festival, but I didn’t see that (maybe those rooms were closed when I visited). However, I saw Mama Negra in one of the courtyards. They were taking photos for the coming festival which is in September.
Casa de los Marqueses de Miraflores is open between 8-12 and 14-18 on Monday - Friday.
Admission is free.
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Museum and Casa de la Cultura
The Casa de la Cultura in Latacunga is built over the old Jesuit watermill Molinos de Monserrat and part of the mill is incorporated in the new building. In Casa de la Cultura an Ethnographic Museum is housed and I came here to see those exhibitions.
When I arrived the staff hadn’t returned from their lunch yet, so I sat down on the old stone steps to wait. Soon they came and I paid the admission which was $0.50 (July 2011). It turned out a guided tour, in Spanish, was included. I was shown around the museum and got things explained to me, which was good as there are not many labels. We started with the ethnographic exhibition where there costumes and masques used at festivals, weavings, small figurines and much more. Then we saw the room with pre-Colombian pottery and last we went upstairs where there is an art galley with temporary exhibitions.
The museum is open on Tuesday - Friday between 8 - 12 and 14 - 18.
In Casa de la Cultura there is also a theatre for plays and concerts.
- Arts and Culture
- Museum Visits
Mirador de la Virgen del Calvario
About 500-600 metres east of Parque Vicente León ther is a lookout from the statue of the Virgen, from where you have a nice view over the city and also some mountain peaks if it is clear.
A girl went to get the key when she heard I wanted to climb the stairs up the tower. She locked the door after us and we went up. When we were at the balcony she pointed out different places in town and where the mountain peaks were situated. When I asked her how much the admission was she said I could pay whatever I liked. I told her I had paid $0.50 at the museum (admission and longer guided tour) so I gave her the same.
Though Latacunga was named to the World Heritage List there is very little information about the town in English guidebooks or on the Internet. There were a few nice churches but I cannot find any real information on when they were built or by whom. Of course, with Latacunga's history of being destroyed by Cotopaxi's eruptions (four times in a 100 year span!)on numerous occasions this information might not be entirely relevant! So, I'll post some photos of them and if anyone knows anything about them please feel free to drop me a line.
- Religious Travel
- Castles and Palaces
Parque Vincente Leon
Aside from wandering the timeless streets and popping into a couple of churches, Latacunga doesn’t offer much in the way of tourist sights compared to its impressive surroundings like Cotopaxi National Park. Most tend to congregate in the main square where the pretty Parque Vincente Leon would be a perfect place to while away an afternoon if it weren’t for a few stray shoe shine boys. Oddly enough they were more aggressive than those in Quito though certainly not as bothersome as their Peruvian counterparts in Cuzco. There is some very nice landscaping and the adjoining cathedral while not spectacular still gleans all white and shiny in the bright Ecuadorian sun. For a bit more peace and quiet head up a small adjacent street next to the town hall to Parque Bolivar. In fact, we passed this on our way to the chugchucaras restaurants and thought it was the main park before stumbling on the real one later in the day. We actually liked Bolivar more as no one bothered you and it offered more shade.
- Budget Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Molinos de Monserrat
Molinos de Monserrat is a former Jesuit watermill that now houses the Casa de la Cultura. The small art/ethnology museum is only of minimal interest but it's inexpensive (.50 cents) and worth checking out if you have the time. The stone complex is perhaps the most interesting and is a great place to while away an hour away from the sometimes noisy streets of Latacunga.
- Museum Visits
- Arts and Culture
- Budget Travel
LAGUNA QUILOTOA II
The return up is truly very very very tough indeed. I felt like I was dying of breath! Naturally, I could only hear my own panting, but when I stopped breathing for a moment (just an experiment), I could actually hear my heart beating as well!! Very loudly indeed!
As for the trip back, although I was told by the bus-guy that there would be a bus at 3pm, the locals told me only if there were passengers from that bus who wanted to come all the way to Laguna Quilotoa, would there be such a bus. Otherwise, the bus would turn back from the village Quilotoa, which was some distance off. I didn't know whether to trust them as I suspect they were trying to make me stay at their 'hostel'. But in the end, when there was a passing truck, I paid US$2 for a ride back to Zumbahua where there were frequent buses to Latacunga.
LAGUNA QUILOTOA I
There is a 10am bus to Laguna Quilotoa. Ask at the Terminal Terrestre a day beforehand to confirm the time. Check also that the bus takes you all the way to Laguna Quilotoa, and not just to the village of Quilotoa.
The journey goes through TRULY SPECTACULAR RURAL LANDSCAPES, lined with numerous squares of farms, no matter how steep the mountain looked. We passed through tiny villages and 'paramo' bushes. There were llamas and cows with villagers herding them. Everywhere was a picture-perfect scene representative of rural Ecuador with hardworking farmers and herders against the soothing grasslands and stunning snowy mountains.
We reached Laguna Quilotoa at around 12:45pm. There is a narrow gap between the rocks and you will emerge to see the crater lake with BRILLIANT turqoise-emerald water.
The guy at my hostel had told me it would take 45 minutes to go down, and 1 hour and 30 minutes to come up (the altitude is 3880m).
The path is rather sandy due to the volcanic ash. At certain points, you walk between the rocks in tiny gaps. Sometimes, the path is rather steep, and that makes walking down very tricky as you cannot grab hold along the walls as they disintegrate into dust. There is definitely a way down, but without a guide, as the path petered out flat, and with an impending storm, I did not reach the bottom. Still, I was happy to have gone down halfway and had great views at every spot.
There is a N-day route called the Quilotoa loop, a journey through spectacular indigenous villages like Zumbahua, Quilotoa, Chugchilan and a crater lake at Laguna Quilotoa. You can do this by somehow taking a series of buses over a few days. You need to check the schedules of these buses carefully because these places are very remote and buses infrequent. Also, bear in mind that any information obtained is probably not cast in stone either as life up here in the Andean mountains are definitely not run by clockwork.
The other thing to note is that the altitude here is very high and hence, the weather can get very cold. There are basic accommodations in the villages. I did not stay over, so I cannot vouch if you would be warm enough. So, come very prepared.
On the other hand, if you are travelling alone like me and do not feel very secure about doing this high-altitude loop with an inadequate sleeping bag, you can still make a day-trip to visit Volcan Quilotoa from Latacunga. Of course, there are organised tours from Latacunga (US$25)but I do not find it necessary.
See next tip.
SAQUISILI THURSDAY MARKET
Latacunga is a good place to base yourself for visits to nearby sights.
If you are here on a Thursday, you can easily catch a bus from the Terminal Terrestre to Saquisili. Try to be there between 9am and 12pm for the market, and even earlier at 7am for the livestock market.
Saquisili is an important market town. On Thursday, you will see many local Indians cramming into buses and trucks with empty baskets and containers, arriving at the town with anticipation. To market to market to buy the fat pig indeed.
There are several plazas and side streets busy with activities. Personally, I love the produce market. Once off the bus, I supposed if you follow the local Indians who are carrying sacks of goods, you should find yourself at the produce market soon.
The most distinct thing worn by both men and women is the clever little pinched hat, with the short-brim and occasionally, a feather.
The men are mostly in regular modern clothes, but quite a number of them wear striped ponchos that are like rainbows.
The women are mostly in traditional attire. The tops can be anything, usually regular blouses with regular sweaters. But the skirts, wow… OK, some wear dull-coloured old-fashioned skirts that came up to the knees. But, many others wear pleated skirts, some velvet, many with amazing embroideries or glittering effect. They usually wear white or dull-coloured socks that came up to the knees. Then, they wrap themselves up in the brightest and most colourful knitted shawls - lime green, bright orange, fuchsia, purple, yellow, hot pink, etc… It was such a delight to see the amazing clash of contrasting colours, worn so casually by the locals.
They are mostly from the Andean region to the west of Lataguna, from villages like Zumbahua, Quilotoa, Chugchilan, etc… But today, they were all converged here for the Saquisili market.
Meanwhile, there is ANOTHER market at the other end of the town which caters to tourists, selling mainly artisan products like woolly sweaters, carpets, bags, etc...