Slightly outside of the main city of Quito lies Lloa, a humble little town surrounded by mountains and farms. This area makes for a lovely escape from the city, and hosts a few attractions to entertain travelers in Ecuador.
Lloa is very easily accessed from the south of Quito. Daily buses run every half hour for only $0.50, and these buses will drop you right in the middle of the town center. The main square is small but full of welcoming locals. All the little houses are painted bright colors, which contrast nicely against the rolling green hills in the distance. A few street vendors sit at some of the street corners selling cheap handmade goods like sweaters, bags, and other souvenirs, and a few grew authentic restaurants line the square selling fresh, homemade food.
Because the town is quite small, only a few local stores reside in the town square. Be sure to visit them during the day to buy food, since they close quite early (around 6 or 7 PM usually). But on Sundays, a wonderful food market takes place where little stalls and tents appear along the streets. Here you can buy fresh fruit juices, smoked meats, and other traditional Ecuadorian dishes.
Lloa is also perfect for taking long walks in nature. The area is exceptionally green, and full of farms with cows, llamas, and other friendly animals. The grass is thick, all the local people are friendly and make for great roadside conversation, and on sunny days, the sky is a refreshingly clear blue. The roads are not very busy, so strolling around the area can be quite peaceful. Because of Lloa’s high altitude and proximity to the mountains, however, mornings and evenings can be cold, especially when the sun is not out. So be sure to wear or bring warm clothing when visiting Lloa.
The main attraction bringing people to Lloa is the close proximity to the Pichincha Volcano. From anywhere in the town village, the massive, majestic peak of Pichincha reveals itself in the background, almost as if its watching over the village. Many hiking tours depart from Lloa and tour buses often run through the town to bring hikers up the mountain.
Walking the entire volcano can take an entire day, with roughly 6 hours to climb up and 6 hours to descend back down. But many tours offer a more convenient form of transportation. For example, La Antigua, a hysteria located a 5 minute walk from the town center, offers tours where you will be driven up the majority of the mountain. After reaching a certain point, you will walk 20 minutes to the peak in order to enjoy the stunning scenery. Some tours bring you to the top of Pichincha around 4:30AM, so you can watch the sunrise over the distant, glittering city lights of Quito. It is a beautiful experience not to be missed.
Though Lloa is small, it represents an easy and enriching experience. Only 20 minutes from south Quito, the cheap buses make transportation incredibly simple and affordable. The food is authentic and delicious, the scenery is rich with natural colors and a sense of serenity, and climbing the powerful Pichincha Volcano is unforgettable.