So what does Latacunga have to offer apart from the natural beauty of the area?
There is a tiny but cute museum known as Casa de la Maquesas where a little old man un-padlocked each of the doors for me, switched on lights and proudly showed me around. I never quite fathomed out whether I was visiting outside of the opening hours or whether he had just not bothered to open up that afternoon, but it housed a few interesting objects in a lovely old building.
The gentleman tinkled the keys on the various pianos and organs and opened doors and drawers of the exhibits and talked at me the entire time in Quichua. I didn’t understand a word he said!
There are numerous churches, pretty parks and squares, a lovely ice cream parlour and when the clouds lift, the Cotopaxi volcano can be seen on the horizon. The streets in the old town are narrow and most have cobbles and the buildings are made of stone. At night the old fashioned lamps glow with warm shades of yellow, green or orange and look so inviting. I was out walking after dark and felt completely safe in the surrounding streets. The Hostal Endamo is situated a block or two from the main square and is very close to a cute little park.
After some initial confusion at check-in I was shown to my room. The room was small but neat and tidy with a flat screen TV on the wall and somebody had done some towel art, which I always appreciate. There was a nice wood effect parquet floor, thoughtfully placed electric sockets and lights and a tasteful picture. The bathroom fittings looked new and it all smelt really clean and fresh.
Access to the hotel was through a restaurant and once I was settled in, the ladies on reception were keen to find out why and how I was travelling. Or maybe they weren’t but I was keen to practice my Spanish and I told them anyway. And they were very polite considering I had just turned up on the doorstep and they asked me lots of questions and practised their English.
I was offered lunch in the restaurant which was really very tasty. I had soup, a main course and a little pastry as well as a juice. It was busy at lunchtime with many business people dressed in suits dropping in to eat. The owner and manager, Enrique Naranjo told me the following day that the restaurant can seat thirty people but will also double up as a conference suite suitable for up to fifty people. It was long and narrow but with the roses and tablecloths it was welcoming and it was certainly popular.
The following day at breakfast, the owner and manager sat with me and explained about the history of the hotel. He has been here for five years and has been doing a lot of work to the building. He very kindly gave me a tour of many of the rooms which are situated within two blocks. The front of the hotel containing the garage (parking for guests is VERY useful in these narrow streets) and the restaurant with some rooms above is a modern addition to the structure. Behind the restaurant, the reception can be found in a roofed courtyard close to the kitchen. A large water-feature plays here and stairways lead up to the much older part of the hotel.
There are twenty three rooms which range from the smaller once such as the one that I was in, through to some family rooms and some suites. Enrique is also converting a room to a self-contained unit with a small kitchen for guests who want to stay longer. All of the rooms have new bathroom fittings and are tastefully decorated and all have natural light and ventilation. There are no nasty fans in the bathrooms – they all have windows to the outside or to the central atrium. And they have shower gel dispensers too which is always a nice touch.
At the top of the hotel there is a peaceful seating area with panoramic windows and views to the surrounding mountains and the Cotopaxi volcano. There is also a ping-pong table here should you wish to get active. The whole area is enclosed with light plastic roofing which keeps the place warm. At the top of the front building of the hotel is an open roof terrace with a 360 degree view of the town and the volcano.
I read somewhere that Latacunga has the highest concentration of barber shops per capita in Ecuador. That is very possibly true – they are everywhere, but it also appears to be the hub for embroidery shops – you know the ones – places that will embroider your tracksuit or polo-shirt with your business name. There are banks of these shops here with machines busy whirring away and shiny tracksuits and trophies in their windows.
Latacunga also has an airport and I was told that the only planes which fly in and out transport flowers or broccoli. The surrounding hills house poly-tunnels growing mainly roses which the region is famous for. I expected to see little cargo planes using a small runway, but walking around the old town I actually ducked as a huge plane, one step down from a jumbo took off, its undercarriage still down as it appeared to just miss the rooftops. The blast from it set off all the car alarms. They must grow one hell of a lot of roses here.
What Latacunga doesn’t have – take note any entrepreneur – is decent coffee shops. I found just one and that one was disguised as a bar – but the town does have some very nice ice cream outlets and I felt it was my duty to sample as many of the flavours that I could on several occasions.
Half the population here are wearing the latest fashions – the other half (the women) wear traditional dress of coloured skirts, knee-high white socks, green trilby hats and fringed shawls. These clothes are not confined to the older generation either – I have seen many teenager girls draped around their boyfriends sporting white socks and hats – but maybe I am simply ignorant and it is these girls who are the height of fashion.
Latacunga is a traditional town with few tourists but I liked it. It is a perfect town away from the craziness of Quito but close to Cotopaxi and Quilotoa.
- If you want to relax, head up to the roof of the Hostal Endamo with its comfy seats and great views – take your camera at sunset
- Lunch at the Hostal Endamo is great
- Enrique and his wife are a lovely couple – very friendly and smiley
- Try an ice cream or three at Nice on the corner of Santo Domingo square
- Just wander and relax.