Ecuador // The central sierra //

Guided tours and climbs around Riobamba

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A number of outfits and independent guides offer a range of tours around Riobamba. For day visitors, the most popular target is the refuge at 4800m on the slopes of Volcán Chimborazo, from where you can take a strenuous half-hour hour walk up to the second refuge (5000m) for details. Several hotels in Riobamba offer good-value day-trips here, including the Tren Dorado and the Imperial, though these aren’t recommended for any serious mountaineering. Dedicated climbing companies and guides concentrate on guided ascents of Chimborazo (6268m), the highest peak in Ecuador and the most popular volcano climb after Cotopaxi; most also offer climbs up neighbouring Carihuairazo and other central sierra volcanoes. Some also do multi-day hiking programmes around the sierra, providing tents, sleeping bags, food and transport. All prices quoted below are per person for a group of two people, including a guide and equipment rental.

Riobamba is also a great place to arrange mountain-bike tours, ranging from riding down the slopes of Chimborazo to outings around rural villages along backroads or multi-day tours of the Atillo or Ozogoche lakes. There are two excellent dedicated operators, who use good bikes, protective equipment and a support vehicle: Biking Spirit, at Alta Montaña, offers rides for all levels; and Probici, Primera Constituyente 23-51 and Larrea (t03/2941880 or t2961759, whttp://www.probici.com; if there’s no one there, ask in the fabric shop opposite).

If you’re interested in supporting community tourism initiatives in Chimborazo, get in touch with the Corporación de Desarrollo Comunitario y Turismo de Chimborazo, Veloz 22-28 between Colón and Espejo, CC High Fashion, Office 106 (t03/2951996, whttp://www.cordtuch.org.ec), which coordinates fifteen local projects, mostly in remote indigenous villages. Generally, for a modest charge, you’ll have the pleasure of being the guests of these communities, experiencing rural highland life first hand and get the chance to be taken on hikes, horse rides, mountain-bike trips or climbing expeditions by people who have spent all their lives in these hills.

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