Not a lot happens in Guaranda but I quite like it anyway. One good reason is all the roads to get there are beautiful and dramatic. Another is that it seems a quiet, peaceful city and enjoys an attractive setting, surrounded by hills.
The best (and worst) time to visit Guaranda is during the carnival celebrations when there are parades, water fights and live music on the street but also a shortage of accommodation and, by about 9pm, a serious amount of (harmless) drunks.
At other times you can visit the central square (parque Libertador Simón Bolívar) and the cathedral, with its two stone towers. Many buildings around the square have wooden balconies. Then you can wander the narrow cobbled streets which slope in all directions and admire many attractive two-storey buildings, mainly dating from the 19th or early 20th century.
In the evening the square is illuminated and quite lively as people play in the water fountains. The cathedral is also open at this time.
The helpful i-tur office provides an array of maps, leaflets and tourist information about the local area. It’s located on Convención de 1884 and Garcia Moreno.
There are several other squares and churches. I think the towers of the Iglesia Santa Marianita de Jesús are quite interesting, with touches of a medieval castle.
Guaranda is surrounded by seven hills (although that’s where the similarities to Rome end). You can climb these hills to enjoy wonderful views. One of the closest and easiest is Cruz Loma. At the top you can visit the statue of “El Indio Guaraní” and also a museum with cultural and historical exhibits. It’s open Wednesday – Sunday 09:00 – 17:00.
The markets are quite interesting to see the local produce and people. They take place every day in the Plaza 15 de Mayo in the north and the Mercado 10 de Noviembre in the south. Further south another market sprawls downhill to the highway. The best day is Saturday when more people tend to come in from the surrounding area to buy and sell.
After that for most visitors it’s really just more walking around or sitting around, talking to people and waiting to see if anything interesting happens. Give it a day before you head off to Salinas or further afield to the Chimborazo Reserve.
There is a lot of natural beauty in the surrounding area if you’re willing to explore. A popular local excursion is to the Laguna de las Cochas (5km down a side road from the town of Guanujo, on the main highway 1km north (uphill from Guaranda) where you can fish, and eat cuy. There is further information about rivers, forests and waterfalls on the website www.guaranda.gob.ec or ask in the tourist office.
WHERE TO STAY
There are some nice hotels in Guaranda but the accommodation is a bit of a mixed bag. We stayed in the Hotel Colonial and you can read my opinion here. Hostal de las Flores looked nice but was full as was Mansion de la Plaza. Hotel Bolívar has recently been renovated and has a nice open area but small bedrooms. We also went in and quickly out of Hotel Ejecutivo (dark, depressing rooms) and Cochabamba (communal area and super wide corridors but everything looked old, worn and torn).
Outside the centre there are a couple of larger and more expensive hotels with restaurants and conference facilities. They are called La Colina and El Tambo del Libertador and both are located on hillsides to the north with great views of the city.
Click here to find out more details about where to stay in Guaranda.
WHERE TO EAT
Guaranda is not inundated with great restaurants but there are a few nice places to eat.
La Bohemia is on the central square. We had a nice meal there years ago. It is open at lunchtime and at night but on our 2011 we passed by twice in the early evening and it was closed.
We ate in Biongiorno Pizzeria which had a nice atmosphere and good service. It´s popular and the pizza was very good but the family option (the largest of four sizes) didn’t last long between 5 of us. In any case the sizes are illustrated on the wall. A medium pizza costs between $8-$12 and there are also pasta options.
Next door is a Chinese restaurant and there are several others on the surrounding streets.
We tried to eat in La Tortilla but after sitting at a a table for five minutes, the waiter came and told us they couldn´t serve us because they had a prior reservation (the restaurant was empty). It looked quite nice inside albeit with an eclectic selection of photos filling the walls.
Broasted chicken is always a popular option –the restaurant next to Hotel Ejecutivo was full all afternoon every day we were in the city.