(full form: Ciudad de la Inmaculada Concepción de Loja
) is the capital of Ecuador's Loja Province
. It is located in the Cuxibamba valley in the south of the country, sharing borders with the provinces of Zamora-Chinchipe
and El Oro
, and withPeru
in the south. Loja holds a rich tradition in the arts, and for this reason is known as the Music and Cultural Capital of Ecuador. The city is home to two major universities.
The city has a population of about 200,000, and is situated 2060 m (6758 ft) above sea level. It has a mild Andean climate, ranging between 16 and 30°C.
The city of Loja was founded by Field Marshal Alonso de Mercadillo in 1548, and it is named for his hometown of Loja inSpain
. Originally located near La Toma in the Catamayo
canyon, the city was relocated to its present location (about 35 km east) after a devastating earthquake. At nearly 500 years, it is one of the oldest cities in Ecuador. The city was also visited by Simón Bolívar
in his campaign to unite Gran Colombia
Loja was a departure point for the Amazon Basin
and the El Dorado region for Spanish Conquistadors. It declared its independence from Spain on November 18, 1820.
The city of Loja has the distinction of being the first city in Ecuador to be wired for electric power provided by a hydroelectric dam
that was completed in the 1890s.
Loja is in the bottom of the broad glacial Cuxibamba valley. It lies between the humid Amazon Basin
and the Peruviansechura
, and is composed mainly of paramo, cloud-forest, and jungle. The valley borders the Podocarpus National Park, which is a massive cloud-forest reserve accessible through the Cajanuma gates just minutes outside the city. The Rio Zamora
and Rio Malacatos
flow through the city of Loja.
Loja has a mild Andean climate, generally warm during the days and colder and often wetter at night. The average temperature is 16 °C (61 °F). June and July brings an eastern drizzle with the trade winds, and is referred to as the "windy season." Due to its valley location, the city is often misty in the morning with general absence of sunshine, clearing off towards the afternoon.