|Ambato calls itself the city of flowers and fruit. It is located at the southern point of the “Avenue of the Volcanoes” and is in the middle of Ecuador. Arriving from the south you can see how the valley floor widens a little here and also branches off to the Oriente. Therefore it is a crossroads and a central point for transport in the country. However the continued expansion of the city is quite constrained by geography- the land is built up to the edge of the steep slopes that guard access to the western cordillera. To the east the land either rises up towards Tungurahua or falls away into ravines. The same occurs to the north east.
I have passed through Ambato twice and stayed there once:
1. On a bus from Cuenca to Baños, we entered the city in darkness, stopped the the bus station for 5 minutes which was just enough time to buy some rum and coke to get through the rest of the journey. Returning from Baños a week later we again opted not to stop, instead heading for Zumbuahua. I only recall a sense of snarling traffic and general disaster in Ambato.
2. On the way from Guaranda to Latacunga I gained a more favourable impression, probably because we stayed well away from the bus station area. The road from Guaranda drops down and winds through smart, affluent district of Atillo, along a street lined with trees and restaurants, then climbs up north past La Quinta de Montalvo. At the top of the hill there is a cheap Petrocommercial gas station and a tyre guy who can fix a puncture at the side of the road in 5 minutes.
3. One Christmas holiday we stopped in Ambato on the way back to Guayaquil from Quito. We toured the suburbs and found the hotel prices a bit steep for us, so we found our way into the centre and ended up staying at the Hotel Tungurahua, on a busy street filled with pharmacies and shops selling white goods or junk. We found an inexpensive restaurant to eat near the south end. The next day we walked around the centre and found the squares quite pleasant, but otherwise a lot of commercial activity but a distinct lack of flowers and fruit, or anything very uplifting.
That said, there are a few nice places to visit in town if you venture out of the centre a little. Firstly there are the homes of some of Ambato’s favourite sons, all poets or writers. The Quinta de Montalvo is in the district of Ficoa and you can also visit his house on the main square. The Quinta de Mera is in Atocha and the grounds run down to the river. Nearby is the Quinta de Liria, home to Nicolas Martinez.
Click here to find out Where to Stay or Where to Eat in Ambato
Ambato’s location means there are regular buses running to most areas of Ecuador. The bus station is at the north end of the city centre but it’s easier to get a taxi than try to walk to most of the hotels listed.
Read more about the Routes to Ambato: 1. Quito – Ambato, 2. Riobamba – Ambato, 3. Babahoyo – Ambato, 4. Ambato – Baños.