Everything is just so green and lush around Zamora. This small town is nestled amongst huge high rising mountains covered in dense vegetation. It is known as the ‘City of birds and waterfalls’. Through it runs the Rio Zamora and the Rio Bombuscaro, which offer a perfect place to cool down when the sun is beating down.
The town itself is a very quiet peaceful town with little in the way of tourist attractions. Although they do claim to have the world’s biggest illuminated clock, which rests on a hill side overlooking the town. Zamora is a typical working town, where the people from the local villages and countryside come to sell their fruit and veg at the market everyday. There are lots of small shops too, selling a not-so-wide variety of things. As is the case in a lot of towns in Ecuador, every street appears to have its own stationary shop, fabric shop, mini-market, lawyer, restaurant, hairdressers etc., which I guess makes things very convenient. With a population of only 16,000 people, there is no risk of having to queue or of an item running out. There are also lots of places to eat all offering a super cheap menu for lunch, or almuerzo, including soup, double-carbed main course and a drink. In some of the more ‘upmarket’ almuerzo spots where you pay $3-4, you may get a banana and a tiny dessert too.
The people here in Zamora are extremely friendly and welcoming, often saying ‘Buenos días’ to us as we walk around. We feel very safe and comfortable walking around, even at night when there are always people out and about.
Zamora has a pretty square in the centre of town, called El Parque Central, which is a popular spot for the locals. Particularly in the evening, you will find couples smooching, families and friends chatting and children running around. The evenings are lovely and mild here, so it’s the perfect place to sit out and relax. You will find the cathedral here too, where the locals gather for mass.
Along the Rio Zamora, there is a little promenade, el malecón, which is a pretty spot to sit and watch the birds. There are lots of hummingbirds here and sometimes you can see hawks hunting over the river. At the moment, they are redoing this area, so there is a lot of construction work going on.
On the other side of Zamora town, there is a small shaded park along the Rio Bombuscaro. This is perfect for sitting in the shade or going for a dip in the river. At the weekends, when the sun is out, everyone heads to the river to cool down. You’ll also see people having a wash, doing their laundry or cleaning their cars in the river. It’s a popular place!
Parque Nacional Podocarpus
One of the main entrances to Podocarpus National Park is a 10-15 minute taxi ride from Zamora. The taxi will drop you off at the carpark and you have to walk about 15-20 minutes to the visitors centre where you have to sign in and you can get information about the different walks available. Entry is now free for all visitors. They also have little cabins you can stay in for about $5 a night (there is no shop around, so make sure you take everything you need with you!).
All the walks start from the visitors centre and are clearly signposted. There are walks to a number of waterfalls, trails along the river and hikes up steep mountain sides to some very impressive viewpoints. It’s really beautiful here and definitely worth a visit! Walking around the rainforest, the sounds of the birds and insects are amazing, and incredibly noisy. There is supposed to be a diverse range of animal and plant species, many endemic to the region, however, we found it very difficult to see much through the thick vegetation. So if you’re amateurs like us, my advice would be to take your binoculars with you!
Where to stay in Zamora
If you are looking for a place to stay, there are a few hotels dotted around town. You won’t find much information on the internet, so booking ahead is difficult, but you shouldn’t have a problem finding a room once you’re there. Below is a list of hotels we recommend:
Tzanka Refugio Ecologico – José Luis Tamayo y Pasaje S/N. This is where we lived, but you can book rooms by the night. It’s a great little zoo to stay in with a small number of animals including monkeys, parrots, turtles, a caiman and a sloth! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tzanka-Refugio-Ecol%C3%B3gico/563164010394779?fref=ts
Hotel Betania (really nice hotel and worth paying the extra couple of dollars!) – Calle Francisco de Orellana, entre Diego de Vaca y Amazonas.
La Chonta Dorada – Calle Pio Jaramilo y Diego de vaca.
Copalingua – 3km out of town on the road to Podocarpus National Park. Set in its own private grounds next to the park and has its own walking routes. Make sure you book in advance though: www.copalingua.com
Recommended places to eat and drink in Zamora:
La Choza (Jorge Mosquera y Pio Jaramilo Alvarado) – lunch menu $2. 75.
Civivheria Rinconcito del encebollado (by the bus station, Avenida Heroes de Paquisha y Diego de Vaca) – serves the best encebollado in Zamora. $3-4. Usually very busy and you need to fight your way to the till to order, but it’s worth it!
Buono Pizzeria – best pizza we’ve had in Ecuador! $11-13 for a medium.
Street vendors – you can find them around the parquet central and the main streets usually around early afternoon. Try the delicious cevichoco – lupine beans, plantain chips, toasted corn, tomatoes and onions topped with freshly squeezed lime juice.
There is a bar by the bridge over the Rio Bombuscaro, which is a lovely setting for a cold beer. Also serves food.