Although Latacunga has a cathedral it is really best described a town. It has a population of just over 52,000 and for most of the year there is not a huge amount going on, though the centre is interesting and attractive enough to warrant a visit.
The town’s existence is a testament to resilience (or foolhardiness) – the town was destroyed several times by eruptions from Cotapaxi, which lies just 29km to the north-east. Latacunga is also on the Panamericana and an access point for the Quilotoa circuit so you’ll quite likely pass through even if you don’t stay.
The Cutuchi river runs from north to south. The Panamericana and bus station is on the west bank. The centre is to the east. The area around the bus station is dirty, unattractive and chaotic, urging you to move on. Things get much better if you cross the river. There are several bridges and it is a 10 minute walk or short taxi ride to the centre.
The cathedral is quite attractive. In front is the main square, named Parque Vicente Leon. It has palm trees and is a nice place to sit. A road runs around the square but this being Latacunga, the traffic won’t often distract you too much. The buildings retain a degree of harmony.
There are several other parks in the town which you can reach by walking down quiet and fairly clean streets. There is a bit more commerce in the blocks to the north and west of the main plaza. Here you can also find most hotels and tour agencies.
On Avenida Amazonas and Calle 5 de junio you find the Plaza El Salto where there is a big fruit and vegetable market on Saturdays.
There are two nice buildings you can visit. Firstly, the Casa de los Marqueses de Miraflores, which is a restored colonial mansion partly converted into a museum. Secondly, the Casa de la Cultura which was built in 1993 around the remains of a Jesuit monastery and watermill. There is another museum here.
Click here to find out Where to Stay or Where to Eat in Latacunga.
Most of Latacunga seems to be in bed by 8pm. There is no-one on the street. Maybe it’s the cold which drives them indoors. Don’t leave it too late to eat. There are a few bars and discos, though I didn’t get a chance to go to any.
The city really comes alive during the festivals of Mama Negra, so good they happen twice. The main event has a religious element and is held from 23-25 September. There is a also a more secular reprise which takes place the weekend before 11 November to coincide with the celebration for the anniversary of Latacunga’s foundation.