This town nestles half-way down a steep hillside in a spectacular and vertiginous landscape where the western ridge of the Andes falls away to reveal a series of cloud-coated valleys and a road dropping away towards the coast.
It is probably most famous as the point from which the train line also descends, in a series of switchbacks down a hill known as La Nariz del Diablo (the Devil’s Nose). Before that it crosses a deep ravine to enter town over a simple metal bridge known as El Puente Negro. When the train isn’t running you can walk over it as the locals who live on the other side do. It’s completely open at the top. Then you can follow the line which passes along a main street to the station where there might be a spare locomotive or repair vehicle to climb about on. The line recently closed for repairs and safety improvements and reopened in early 2011.
The train isn’t Alausí’s only charm. It is a small, compact town with many narrow cobbled streets to wander around admiring the wooden buildings with balconies. The main square is tranquil and pleasant. There is a bit more action on the main street, 5 de junio, where most hotels, restaurants and bus offices are located. It’s especially lively on Sunday mornings when many people come into town to visit the market which also dominates the adjoining streets. You can see many indigenous Quichua people in traditional dress, especially the women who wear bright shawls and dresses. Even younger women dress traditionally here.
If you’re feeling energetic you can walk up to the large statue of Saint Peter for a good view over the town. It’s easy to locate it just south of 5 de junio. Alausí is also the easiest place to get transport to Achupallas to start the trek along the Inca road to Ingapirca.
It’s well worth staying a night to enjoy the relaxed and friendly feel of the town. If you do, don’t leave it too late to eat because places close early.
Where to Stay
There are several hotels of a similar standard (basic) along 5 de junio.
A better but more expensive option is La Quinta, up the hill past the train station and before the bridge.
Read more about my impression of La Quinta.
Consult details of hotels in Alausí in the accommodation listing.
Where to Eat
There are several cheap and simple restaurants along 5 de junio. Several are connected to the hotels.
There are a couple of nice little cafés which also serve meals in La Casona – a renovated building close to the train station.
At the end of the road which goes down the side of La Casona is El Rincon del Tren, a larger and attractive restaurant more set up for the tour groups which flood in on market and train days. The service is friendly and the food is reasonable.
If you’re feeling brave you can get an early fritada upstairs in the market on Sundays.
Click here to find out Where to Eat in Alausí.
It is possible to travel between Alausí and Riobamba. The only other stop is Guamote. You can take your bags on board.
There are also frequent buses heading north along the Panamericana (two hours) to Riobamba and slightly less frequently south to Cañar (two hours) and Cuenca (four hours). Buses also run to Guayaquil (four hours) via Huigra.
Read more about the routes to Alausi : 1. Cuenca – Riobamba, 2. El Triunfo (the nearest coastal town) - Alausi