Riobamba is a city in the Andean highlands of Ecuador. It is known locally as the "Sultan of the Andes". Riobamba sits in a valley surrounded by several large hills and snowcapped mountains. It's perhaps best known as the former starting point of the train ride to Nariz del Diablo, which now leaves from Alausi. Though it has a population of around 150,000 people, it is a rather sleepy place, and now mostly serves as a base for outdoor recreation activities in the surrounding area.
There aren't regular scheduled passenger trains to Riobamba anymore, however Tren Ecuador runs excursion trains from Quito and Guayaquil, and the Tren del Hielo I from Quito to Riobamba. The Naríz del Diablo train no longer runs from Riobamba. The railway station 1 Estación Riobamba is centrally located at Av Daniel León Borja.
A bus costs 30 cents. Taxis are plentiful; most trips within town should be $1.50. Minimum fares are $1.20 until 19:00 and $1.30 after 19:00.
The main tourist area is very walkable - ask for a map at the tourist information center at the corner of Av. Daniel León Borja and Brasil.
- On a clear day don't miss the view of the surrounding mountains. The best views in the city are from Parque 21 de Abril, close to the train station.
- Museo de la Ciudad is free and has an eclectic mix of art styles and content - paintings, sculpture, photography, furniture, etc.
- Iglesia San Antonio is next to Parque 21 de Abril. Like many of Riobamba's churches, it seems to open only for services and not for tourism. However, it has glass doors, so you can at least see the inside of the church even though you can't enter.
- Teatro Leon across from Parque Sucre - notable architecture!
- La Catedral (the Cathedral), along one side of Parque Maldonado. Appears to only open for services, but also has glass doors so you can see inside without entering. A side chapel to the left of the main door seems to be open more frequently.
- 1Climb or hike Chimborazo. Riobamba is the nearest city to Chimborazo, Ecuador's highest mountain at just about 6,263 m (20,548 ft). $5-600.
- Riobamba used to be the terminus for the most famous train route in Ecuador, the Nariz del Diablo (Devil's nose). It now operates from Alausi, a two-hour bus trip from Riobamba, to Sibambe.
- Riobamba is close to Sangay National Park, which contains several mountains and volcanoes including Tungurahua, Sangay and El Altar.
- Stroll through the markets. Riobamba has 7 daily markets, 3 of which (San Alfonso, San Francisco, and La Merced) are in the main tourist area. All are authentic local markets, with some mix of vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy, and more. There's also a weekly market on Saturdays in Plaza Roja.
- Explore the parks. There are at least 6 parks scattered through town (Parque 21 de Abril, Parque Guayaquil, Parque Sucre, Parque Maldonado, Parque La Libertad, Parque La Madre). Some have sculptures, others are notable for the architecture of the buildings surrounding them. And as of Jan 2023, most if not all have free WiFi - connect to RiobambaDigital network to get online.
The official Riobamba tourism website may also give additional ideas, including the Inca trail trek (2-3 days): https://riobamba.com.ec/
On Saturdays there is a small artisan market. It seems to be mainly aimed at locals rather than tourists, and is certainly more authentic than Otavalo.
Between Pinchincha street and España you can find the best boutiques for people of any age. Or if you like malls, check out El Mall Del Centro locate on Leon Borja and la circumbalacion by La Plaza de Toros
Riobamba does not lack for restaurants. No matter what your tastes, check out Calle 10 de Agosto/Calle Daniel Leon Borja (Riobamba's main avenue) for all your dining needs. Lunch costs around $2-5, and dinner is normally from $3-6.
- Cake at the Cafeteria Londres on García Moreno between 10 de Agosto and Primera Constituyente.
- D’Baggio (Miguel A León y 10 de Agosto) A pizza joint, attempting to look like a quaint Italian eatery, but endearing. The pizzas are completely homemade in an area in the front of the restaurant. As you sit and wait for you meal, you can watch the chef flipping the dough in the air, and whipping pizzas in and out of the wood oven. The pizzas, all made with fresh ingredients, will run you between $6 and 12. Family size are more expensive. The restaurant also has a selection of pastas and salads.
- San Valentin Club, bar/diner at Leon Borja and Vargas Torres with a nice burrito and lasagna and something to wet your whistle. Prices are fairly standard, $4-5 for a dinner.
- Pollo Ejecutivo, located on Calle Daniel Leon Borja across from Parque Guayaquil, is the best of the myriad fried chicken places in town. It's greasy, crispy, and delicious. Meals cost from $2-$3.
- Hornado (roasted pork) is a specialty of Riobamba. There are many good restaurants specializing in this dish, though hygiene standards may vary. Usually offered in several portion sizes (~$3.5-5), with some standard offering of sides.
- If you’re about to take a bus at the terminal, there is a food court (patio de comida) 100m west of the entrance. You may find dozens of options for very decent prices. There seems to be no vegetarian options on menu, but it can easily be arranged.
"La Avenida" is the teens' favorite spot to relax and de-stress from the week's work. Parties start around sundown and go from El Parque Infantil all the way to La Estación del Tren. And if you're lucky to be around Las Fiestas del Abril, or Riobamba's independence day week, they hold a lot of activities and parades all that week just to celebrate another year of freedom.
Drinking and partying in Rio (as the natives call Riobamba) isn't so hard to do. There are many places where you can go and enjoy a good drink. There is the bar El Tentadero and for the younger generation, Las Pipas. Both are across Plaza de Toros on 10 de Agosto.
- Hotel Metro, Av. León Borja y Lavalle, 03-961-714 (next to the train station). Basic rooms have a tiny private bathroom. The shower takes ages to warm up, if at all. Rooms at the front are noisy, especially in weekends. $5 per person.
- Hotel Gran Imperial, Rocafuerte 22-15 (corner of 10 de Agosto), ☏ . One of the cheapest decent hotels in town. Most rooms are shared bathrooms, balconies and large windows. $5.
- 1 Hotel Tren Dorado, Carabobo 22-35 (half a block from the train station), ☏ . Modern hotel with a variety of different rooms. Most of cable TV. Good hot water. Nice beds. Wi-Fi. On-site veggie-optional restaurant offers early breakfasts for those catching the train. $12/night.
- 2 Hotel Boutique San Pedro de Riobamba, Av. Daniel León Borja 29-50 (Across the street from the railway station), ☏ . Small boutique hotel in an renovated 19th century house, includes a very nice courtyard with restaurant.
- 3 Hotel Glamour, 1ra Constituyente 37-85 y Brasil (near the bus terminal), ☏ . Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. More than 40 bedrooms, a restaurant, lobby and conference hall, internet, free breakfast, cable TV, bilingual front desk, online booking, hot water. Somewhat rundown and loud. From $15.
- Hotel el Zeus, 10 de Agosto (after the bus terminal and before el Parque Infantil). Sometimes hosts celebrities and athletes. Rooms start from $40 a night.
- Hotel Velanez Suite, Juan Lavalle 17-52. Very good value for the price. Rooms are clean and comfy (and the kitsch decoration is lovely). The staff is very kind and willing to help. Breakfasts are huge and good. $15-30.