188km (117 miles) S of Quito; 55km (34 miles) S of BaƱos; 233km (145 miles) N of Guayaquil

Shadowed by five spectacular snowcapped peaks in the heart of the Ecuadorean central highlands, Riobamba is an enchanting small city, with attractive 18th-century architecture, pretty peaceful parks, interesting museums, and charming churches. At an altitude of 2,750m (9,022 ft.), the town enjoys a principally springlike climate, similar to that of Quito, with plenty of cloudless days perfect for taking in the stunning views of the surrounding landscape. As capital of Chimborazo province and a commercial hub, Riobamba boasts a fair amount of hustle and bustle, particularly on weekends, when the town comes alive with street traders and indigenous market sellers arriving from surrounding villages to hawk their goods and produce.

Founded in 1534 and known, perhaps a tad pompously, as "The Sultan of the Andes," Riobamba was the original Ecuadorean capital under Spanish rule before suffering a devastating earthquake in 1797. The earthquake almost completely destroyed the town and led to its relocation to the current site. Popular among tourists who principally come here to experience the exhilarating Nariz del Diablo (Devil's Nose) train ride, which famously zigzags up a solid rock face, Riobamba also serves as the perfect base from which to embark on climbing and trekking tours and trips to the beautiful lakes nearby.

Situated close to several towering peaks, including the country's tallest, Chimborazo (6,310m/20,702 ft.), Riobamba is a bit of a mini-mecca for serious mountain and rock climbers.