<Where to go, What to do <Routes
ROUTE santa rosa - zaruma

This route stretches from the narrow strip of coastal plain, up into the mountains. A paved road takes you as far as Zaruma, an old mining town with an interesting history and some beautiful buildings.

The road begins at a junction with the Panamericana a few kilometres south of Santa Rosa, which is a fairly uninteresting town but with several hotels and restaurants as well as good transport connections. For the first part you follow the valley carved by the River Santa Rosa, which rushes past some way below the road. On either side the slopes are forested. Along the route are several balnearios or complejos turisticos which generally consist of access to bathe in the river, a restaurant and maybe also a swimming pool and some sports facilities. They get very popular at weekends and holidays.

At Zapote there is a clearly signed fork - turn left for Piñas and Zaruma. You now follow the River Arenillas but quickly climb and leave it below you. The landscape is still largely forested but some patches of hillside have been cleared for agriculture. The road is winding but in good condition. It skirts the Buenaventura reserve, owned by the Jocotoco foundation who have a particular interest in protecting bird habitats. The reserve is open to visitors. You can read more information on the Piñas page.

Pñas is 5km further uphill. There´s a confusing junction. If you go right you´ll end up in Moromoro (go left!). The road then goes through Piñas, looping underneath the centre (it´s all on a slope) and continuing along the valley floor to Portovelo.

Actually you can take a left turn a few kilometres further on and and avoid Portovelo which is a poor, somewhat depressing town which seems a bit forgotten. The road is in bad condition and the mining activities alongside the River Amarillo are causing a lot of pollution (the Ministerio del Ambiente is currently trying to finish a project which will allow mining to continue with some environmental control). A few years ago I read in the paper how the municipality was picking up the town´s rubbish and then dumping it straight in the river. The mayor justified this by saying there was nowhere else! I didn´t see the new site in 2011 but I hope it exists.

After Portovelo you start to catch glimpses of Zaruma perched on the hillside. The road snakes up there. Gradually it becomes lined with houses, then shops, bus offices, a few hotels and then you are in the centre, a confusing maze of narrow one-way streets lined with attractive wooden buildings. If you´re driving you´ll need good cluch control here. Read more information about Zaruma here.

It´s possible to follow scenic roads north-west to Malvas and eventually Paccha or north-east to Salvías where there is a waterfall. The former is well-paved and actually leads all the way back down to the coast though it´s a long drive (see my blog entry) . The latter is unpaved and quite isolated. It´s possibly better to organise a tour to explore - contact the tourist office on the main square for more information.

Journey Times

Santa Rosa - Piñas  40 minutes
Santa Rosa - Zaruma 1 hour


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