GPS Track Details
Difficulty: 3/5 - Medium
Track length: 262.49 Kilometers
Total Ascent: 6269 Meters
Total Descent: 6235 Meters

C-2.1  Loop Vilca-Gonzanama-El Cisne-Vilca, 265 km


Distance                     265 km

Time                           10 hours

Altitude min/max     1210 m – 3050 m

Ascent                        6700 m

Descent                      6670 m

Rating                         Moderate 3/5

Start                           Vilcabamba tourist office

End                             Vilcabamba tourist office


This beautiful ride takes you on a big loop high on the western cordilleras with spectacular views on every corner. It leads through small country towns and secluded indigenes communities and passes the famous pilgrim town of el Cisne and the well-known pottery village of Cera. The route alternates fine tar roads with rough gravel pists.

To really enjoy this 10 hour drive, it would be best to split it in two leisurely days with a night spent in the Pilgrim village of El Cisne


Route:             Follow the Loja-highway to the north across the Cararango-pass to Malacatos. In Malacatos turn left at the second traffic light onto the Malacatos-Tambo-Catamayo road. Past Malacatos you pass the Barrio Ceibopamba and the new leisure park Valle Ceibopamba. At km 17 from Vilcabamba, leave the sealed road and turn left onto the gravel road to Purunuma at San Jose. Descending 4.5 km to the Rio Catamayo, you cross the river, then a 16 km climb past the Barrio Chiquil brings you up to the pass & Shrine Huacaca at 2’335 m. 2.5 km later, you reach the secluded village of Purunuma. In Purunuma turn right to the Gonzanama road. 6.5 km uphill you reach the Colambo pass at 2670 m. Here you can do the side trip to the antennas of Cerro Colambo at 3100m, but the views from the top are obstructed by a dense reforestation and don’t really merit he effort. From the pass, the country town of Gonzanama, known for its milk products, is some 14 km’s below. The 36 km stretch of road down to the Sugarcane plain of Ingenio /Catamayo is at the moment being upgraded and is somewhat tiring to drive, but the finished sections in between gives us an idea for the smooth future rides. On the way to Catamayo, you pass the Tambo/Malacatos turnoff, then after some km through the sea of sugarcane, the La Toma airport. The center of Catamayo town can be bypassed. Fill your tank at the petrol station at the traffic roundabout of the coastal highway, since we enter now the rural section of the trip where you can’t readily find petrol on the way.

Up we continue on the broad coastal highway to the El Cisne turnoff 12 km away at San Pedro de Bendita. “La via es tuyo” (the road is yours) states a sign on the El Cisne road. And indeed, during weekdays and out of the pilgrim season, you’ll encounter hardly any traffic on this new, smooth and winding road; a bikers dream! The climb from Catamayo to El Cisne at 2300m, is a thousand meters, and for the big part of the reminder of the trip you stay well above this altitude.

El Cisne is dominated by its huge Cathedral which houses the famous Virgin del Cisne. Here you find a number of cheap accommodation and restaurants, normally catering for the pilgrims.

Our gravel road winds along the mountains in a north easterly direction with many spectacular views, to the secluded town of Gualel, 20 km away. Here, from the northern most point, the road switches south to the indigenes center of Chuquiribamba. During daytime, the town is pretty empty, for, the hardworking people are all busy in their distant fields.

Another 20 km brings us closer to civilization to the town of Taquil another small agricultural center. The next town, well known for its pottery & earthen ware, Cera, is just another 5 km away. Here, in almost every house yard, half-finished pottery is dried in the sun, before being burned in the numerous kilns. At the road passing the village, a huge oversize concrete pot indicates what Cera is all about. The last 10 km corrugated gravel road, get us back onto the coastal Loja-Catamayo highway.

Turning left, we descend the 8 km to the roundabout of the new Via Lateral, which detours the town of Loja altogether. Via the roundabouts of Chonta de la Cruz and University, we eventually join the well-known Loja-Vilcabamba Highway at El Capuli.



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