This route connects Ecuador´s southernmost city with the coast and makes for a long journey passing through many different terrains.
The landscape around Loja is quite lush, with grassy hillsides and lots of trees, which is one of the main things I like about the area. As you travel east away from the city this changes and when you drop into the next valley towards Catamayo, about 25km away you´ll witness a much drier, sandier landscape with hues of yellow, orange and brown.
Catamayo is a fair sized town with some hotels but not much reason to stay. “Loja´s” airport is located here – presumably it was the only place they could find a flat strip of land.
Further on is El Cisne, site of a basilica commemorating a famous vision of the Virgin Mary. There is a festival in August when the statue of the Virgin is carried from El Cisne to Loja (and back again a few months later).
Continuing downwards, you reach a clearly signed junction where you have to go right towards Machala (not straight on to Macará and the Peruvian border). The road then descends steadily for hours. The landscape remains dry until you cross a river to leave Loja province and enter El Oro. Gradually there is more vegetation and green leaves start to dominate the colour spectrum.
You pass through Balsas, a modern sized town with some hotels and swimming pools. It is surrounded by hillsides, some still forested, others cleared for agriculture. From there it continues to drop , passing the turning for Piñas and Zaruma, running alongside another river and finally emerging on the coastal plain just south of Santa Rosa.
ROUTE IN REVERSE (SANTA ROSA – LOJA)
This long road connects the southern coastal plain with Loja, a clean conservative city in an lush Andean valley.
The route begins a few kilometers south of Santa Rosa and follows the river of the same name (for more information see Santa Rosa – Zaruma ) . The road climbs gradually to Balsas, a medium-sized town with some hotels and swimming pools.
It then climbs steadily for hours, crossing the river to leave El Oro and then entering a drier, sandier landscape – more yellows and oranges than dark green.
You join up with the main highway linking Loja and Macará on the Peruvian border – keep left for Loja. Finally you pass El Cisne, site of a basilica commemorating a famous vision of the Virgin Mary. There is a festival in August when the statue of the Virgin is carried from El Cisne to Loja (and back again a few months later).
Further on you pass through Catamayo. “Loja´s” airport is located here, about 25 kilometres outside the city. It´s a fair sized town in a dry, arid valley with some hotels but not much reason to stay. When you climb away and drop into the next valley towards Loja there is a big change in the landscape – it becomes much greener with fields of grass and many trees. This is one of the main things I like about the area.