Showing posts from 2019

Las Noches del Peregrino or “The Pilgrim's Nights”

The Lojano traditional festival of Las Noches del Peregrino or “The Pilgrim's Nights” continues in September 2019, Including the popular La Quema de Castillos: The Pyrotechnical Burning of Castles.

For a number of years, the Municipality and the Provincial Government of Loja have coordinated in organizing the "Pilgrim's Nights." The cultural event is held in the first week of September, typically in the Central Square in the evening, as a token of thanks to pilgrims and devotees who come to the City of Loja to renew their devotion and faith in Cisne, the iconic Virgin of the Swan during her residence in Loja every year.

Those who attend the events over several nights in Loja’s Park Central will witness the customary fireworks displays known as la quema de castillos or the burning of castles.  Burning castles are artistically varied structures of flammable materials and fireworks of different heights, some (in Mexico) reaching as tall as 40 meters. They are made in s…

Feria de Loja - let's all go to the fair!

This year (2019) marks 190 continuous years of this binational event that was initiated by Simón Bolívar. Bolívar had a vision for promoting economic development in southern Ecuador and, one year before his death, he decreed the creation of this, the first fair in South America.

The international atmosphere of the fair derives from the opportunity for people of southern Ecuador and northern Peru to make commercial transactions while also having exchanges of culture. In addition, the fair coincides with the presence of the Virgin of El Cisne in Loja and so the timing allows travelers to also pay homage to Our Lady of the Swan.

The fair is a gathering point for both entrepreneurs and consumers from two countries. The numbers are impressive. This year there will be 1350 exhibitors, over 200 musicians, and 130 events are scheduled. The main area for the special shows is capable of seating 30,000 spectators. Last year saw over 700,000 people attend during the fair's run.

What can one …



High above Loja on the mountain ridge to the west is the picturesque Villonaco Windfarm. The giant turbines have become one of the most well-known landmarks and symbols of the city’s determined move towards a green ecological future.  Villonaco is also one of the most interesting and frequently requested day trips in the area.  

Although visible from almost anywhere in Loja, the turbine grid is still a remote destination which requires some assistance getting to because there is no scheduled public transportation to the site at the moment.  There are attendants and often an engineer available to take you through the site’s visitors center, but an English interpreter will almost always be necessary for those who do not speak and read Spanish.
Free Walks Loja custom tours division will take your private tour or group tour to this impressive engineering feat high in the Southern Andes mountains to see the breath-taking vistas, and learn how this eco-friendly city produces cl…



Every coffee lover should take the opportunity to enjoy Loja’s original urban coffee tour.  The premier coffee growing region in Loja Province is one of the world’s best-kept secrets.  Not for long, however, because Lojano arabica coffee is about to receive a protected designation of origin (PDO) similar to other fine products of special geographic locations, such as Bordeaux wines from France.

What better way to sample this fine coffee than to visit the best coffee shops in Loja and have the most skilled baristas in town tailor make you a cup?  The tour details the growing and production of Lojano coffee and showcases the best brewing processes for each variety of bean.  This includes old-school styles of brewing along with the latest modern infusion and steeping methods.  You will be an Andean coffee expert after taking this superlative tour!
This walking tour is 2:30 hours long, costs $15 per person, and is available in both English and Spanish. If you would like more info…



Vilcabamba, located south of the Equator, has been known for many years as "The Valley of Longevity." Throughout its history, many of Vilcabamba’s inhabitants have lived for more than one hundred years.  The small town has always been one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in Southern Ecuador. This is why our private tours division has decided to take visitors to see this alluring valley.

Our tours to Vilcabamba leave from the city of Loja. Within an hour’s drive we will make our first stop on the way to taste a traditional sugarcane drink, Guarapo, hand made by the local farmers. While we sample the drink, we will enjoy the green valley views that surround us. We then make a stop at one of the best viewpoints in the region to observe the famous "Mandango" Hill which resembles the face of an Inca lying down. We will also taste craft beer made with water from the “Spring of Longevity,” and see village squares and heritage houses made of adobe wh…

The Ecuadorian Robin Hood

El Robin Hood lojano

The Province of Loja has always been full of interesting characters who have amazed people from all over Ecuador and the world.  That's why we want to tell you a little bit about the history of our own Robin Hood: Naún Briones.

Naún Briones, a native of Cangonamá in Paltas Cantón, was a man of very humble origins who became one of the greatest bandits in Ecuador and Northern Peru.  According to the writer Eduardo Pucha Sivisaca, Naún Briones was alternately the most loved and hated person in the country.  However, to this day in the bandit's hometown of Cangonamá, his name is remembered with a feeling of pride and respect.  He became known as the Ecuadorian Robin Hood because between 1912 - 1935 he stole the belongings of the wealthy to give to the poor.

To give a broader context of what Loja was like in those years, we can say that it was the time of the  "arrimados" (residents or "hangers-on").  Rapprochement (an agreement) was a ter…

Loja and the Battle of Pichincha

Each year on May 24th, Ecuadorians celebrate the last battle for independence from Spain. The Liberation Army that fought on the slopes of Pichincha under Antonio José de Sucre was composed of, funded, and supplied by, many insurgents and counted among those were many Lojanos.

In February, the Southern Battalion was assembled in Saraguro for the march north to Quito with men from Guayaquil, Machala, Loja, and also troops from Peru who responded to a plea for assistance from General Sucre. As the troops passed through Loja the population was instructed to provide tens of thousands of pesos, 600 mules and 300 horses, and considerable numbers of men.

Even though these supplies and funds were a hardship for the people of Loja, they were given freely out of the strong desire for complete freedom from Spanish rule. Loja had already declared its independence from Spain a year and a half earlier, on November 18, 1820.

Following the surrender of Spanish forces, the land and inhabitants of wha…

We connect coffee, politics, and tourism in Loja

At Free Walks Loja we are committed to promoting tourism and Lojano culture. We want the best for our city because we love it very much and we are proud of our identity. That is why we offered our well-known #coffeetour in March to the 2019 candidates for mayor of Loja. We showed them our innovative work in the city and province. Read more about this special effort in our coffee tours blog.


COMUNICADO DE PRENSA - PARA PUBLICACIÓN INMEDIATA CONVENTO HISTÓRICO Y MUSEO EN LOJA RECIBE IMPORTANTE DONACIÓN DE OBRA DE ARTE El Museo de las Madres Concepcionistas de Loja, Ecuador, estrena una importante pintura del artista lojano de 21 años Augusto Arteaga. 4 de abril de 2019: El museo de Arte religioso de las Madres Conceptas de Loja, de casi 500 años de antigüedad de la ciudad, recibió una importante pintura al óleo del talentoso joven artista de Lojano, Augusto Eduardo Arteaga Galdeman. El museo no ha recibido una obra de esta talla desde hace más de 100 años cuando adquirió una pintura de otro talentoso artista lojano especializado en imágenes sagradas, Ángel Rubén Garrido. El trabajo se ha instalado en la galería del convento y ahora está disponible para que lo vea el público. Criado en Loja, Augusto Arteaga es hijo de un fabricante de instrumentos musicales llamado César Arteaga, y ha sido pintor desde la edad de 15 años. Actualmente Arteaga está completando su licenciatur…

Saraguro is the Tour You’ve Been Missing!

If authenticity and going off the beaten path are two of the highest priorities of today’s traveler, then the little Andean town of Saraguro in Southern Ecuador is not to be missed. Due south on the highway from Cuenca, and just north of Ecuador’s cultural capital of Loja, is the highland home of a proud indigenous group of Kichwa craftspeople.

While most Ecuadorian visitors will be directed to other more well-known craft markets, such as in Otavalo near Quito, Saraguro is nothing like that overcrowded tourist magnet. Unlike Otavalo, in the majority of cases in Saraguro, you will be interacting directly with the indigenous craftspeople recognizable by their black handwoven shawls held together with large sunburst silver brooches and topped off with the community’s unique black and white spotted hats.

Free Walks Loja’s custom tour division offers a one-day excursion to Saraguro that includes a visit to the indigenous craft market with many talented beaded jewelry makers, as well as si…

Quinine, Loja, and the tree that saved millions

Loja is one of Ecuador’s hidden treasures off the beaten path of most South American tourism promoters.  For travelers looking for unique and authentic travel experiences this is a definite plus.  The region remains unsullied by heavy-handed tourism and vacation developers.  Loja, one of the largest cities in Ecuador’s southern Andes, holds many surprises.  Probably one of the biggest surprises, and vastly under-reported like other issues covered in this blog (see our coffee and chocolate blogs), is that this is the birthplace of the first cure for malaria: quinine.

This staggering fact, so long buried, is almost hard to believe.  However, it is true and also foundational to the development of the area.  Loja’s quinine history is also a cautionary tale of how opportunity can slip away because of forward-thinking innovation elsewhere, along with more nefarious means, such as corporate crime.

All great discoveries accrue myths about their origins, given enough time, and quinine is no e…