A city with many charms
Photos: Ministerio de Turismo
Zaruma is a seductive and enchanting destination: the evidence for this is boundless. The cradle of history and tradition, among its crown jewels are the colonial style architecture and the natural biodiversity of its surrounding areas. The warmth and openness of its people makes every type of visitor feel instantly at home, with its varied cuisine that is sure to delight even the most demanding of palates. All this combines to make Zaruma important cultural patrimony of Ecuador.
To fully understand the enchanting nature of Zaruma, it helps to have a little background. The city was previously known as “Villa Real de San Antonio del Cerro de Oro de Zaruma”, a name that was officially given to it by King Felipe II of Spain. Today it is better known as “La sultana de el oro” due to the great quantities of gold and silver it is said to be still hiding. Gold mining was an important economic driver for the region and constituted an important extra source of income for Spain. However, little did they know, this mining activity was going on well before the Spanish arrived.
Zaruma canton is located in the south of Ecuador, in the El Oro Province. The weather is temperate during most of the year, however if you should choose to visit in summer, between May and December, make sure you pack light clothing, a hat, sunglasses and sunblock, as this is the hottest time of the year.
With first rate highways, Zaruma is accessible from anywhere in the country. That said, the easiest way to get there is to take a flight to the Santa Rosa airport, and from there hire transport to Zaruma, which is just a quick 78km hop away.
Once you arrive, the first thing to do is plan your itinerary: an essential step to make sure you don’t miss anything during your stay! You could start by wandering through the steep narrow streets of the historical town center, while admiring the brightly colored facades of the 19th and early 20th century buildings. Balconies adorned with planters, windows with intricate wooden detailing and terracotta roofs – these are the predominant characteristics that set these ancient buildings apart.
At the top of an endless climb you will find the Sanctuary of the Virgin del Carmen, located in the Independence Plaza. A visit to this church is a must-do for your itinerary. From outside, you can appreciate the huge neo-classic style facade, with its grand tower that is lit up blue and green each evening as the sun goes down. The intense turquoise color of the walls catches the eye as soon as you step inside, with the baroque style of the church displayed through the imposing arches that run the length of the central nave and the greater altar.
Before continuing with your activities, at this stage we recommend taking a break to try some of the typical cuisine. Zaruma is famous for its delicious tigrillo, as well as the unique aroma and flavor of the locally produced coffee.
With your batteries recharged, the next stop has to be the Municipal Museum, with its various different exhibitions. Here you can learn more about the mining activities that are so important in the region, as well as Zaruma’s role in the transition from colonialism to the republic.
Later, a quick 15 minute trip from the center of town, you can make your way to the famous gold mine “El Sexmo”. The mine is one of the most popular tourist attractions in town, and opens its gates to the public from 8am to 5pm, everyday, offering 30 minute free guided tours.
If all this hasn’t satisfied your inner adventurer, the canton itself is also a stunning natural paradise, accessible by public or private transport. On the outskirts of Zaruma you will find the spectacular Chaca Capac, Churro Blanco and Huayaquichuma waterfalls, all within a couple of hours of the city.
The canton is known for its varied and delicious cuisine; its diverse ingredients, recipes and flavor combinations guarantee a unique taste experience for visitors. A great place to start is with the local delicacy Repe, a soup traditionally prepared with a base of sweet plantain and milk. To complete the culinary adventure, it is essential that you save space for dessert: carmelitas, doughnuts, sweet breads, cider sweets, dulce de leche and coconut are just some of the many sugary delicacies available for you to try.
If you are looking for a unique, one of a kind experience, with family or friends, Zaruma has a bit of everything. Each corner of the city reveals a new hidden treasure, guaranteed to make you fall in love with this historical paradise. Zaruma is yours to discover!