Comparing Climates: Loja is Paris, Vilcabamba is Cancun

Rainbows are a common sight over the city of Loja, as well as shelf clouds on the east ridge

Famously, people speak of Ecuador as being very diverse because it has four bio-climates: Coastal, Mountain, Amazonian, and the Galapagos (islands). But the truth is so much more complex than that.

Just within the province of Loja there exists eight different climates, according to the Köppen Climate Classification system. And can you imagine? They range all the way from hot desert to tundra!

According to Wikipedia, "The Köppen climate classification is one of the most widely used climate classification systems...[It] divides climates into five main climate groups, with each group being divided based on seasonal precipitation and temperature patterns." 

One of the useful aspects of this classification system is that allows quick and easy comparisons between one region to another anywhere in the world. So, for example, Loja city falls into the category of Oceanic (the Köppen designation is Cfb). This means that Loja's climate is similar to Paris, France or Vancouver, B.C. 

What are the characteristics of an Oceanic climate? We're talking about a warm/mild temperate zone where summers are generally cool (relative to the latitude) and winters are cool but not cold. Basically, there is a relatively narrow annual temperature range with few extremes of temperature.  Also, there is not a true dry season because precipitation is more or less evenly distributed throughout the year.

We've written about Loja's weather and climate before but thought this climate classification system might help give people a better idea of what to expect when visiting or moving to Loja. If you are familiar with Paris or Vancouver - or London, England or Berlin, Germany - then you will have an inkling of the climate in the valley of Loja (although there are actually many little microclimates throughout the valley). 

The eight different Köppen climates within the province are: Tropical savanna, Oceanic, Subtropical highland oceanic, Hot semi-arid, Warm-summer Mediterranean, Hot desert, Tundra, and Subpolar oceanic climate.


  • Vilcabamba (designated Aw) is Tropical savannah, which makes it comparable to Cancun, Mexico or Key West, Florida, or even to Guayaquil, Ecuador. 
  • Catamayo (where Loja's airport is located) is classed as BSh, which makes it Hot semi-arid. This climate is similar to Honolulu, Hawaii or Tripoli, Libya. 
  • Catacocha, a National Cultural Heritage Site, rates as Csb (Mediterranean) which puts it on a par with Salamanca, Spain or Portland, Oregon.
  • Mangahurco - location of the annually flowering guaycán trees - is BWh, or Hot desert. Similar climate conditions are found in Baghdad, Iraq or Death Valley, California.
  • El Naranjo (which boasts of having one of the best road bike trails in Ecuador) is Subtropical highland oceanic (Cwb), making it like Cusco, Peru or Mexico City.
  • With its high elevation, Salapa, located between Taquil and El Cisne, is classed as Subpolar oceanic. This compares to Reykjavík, Iceland or the Auckland Islands, New Zealand.
  • The Tundra climate is found, also in high elevations, north and west of Saraguro. This area is mostly inaccessible except by foot as there are no nearby roads. However, it is worth noting that our province marks the beginning of Tundra climate geography that runs northward through most of the Ecuadorian Andes.

The province of Loja has such amazing diversity because of the impact of the winds and humidity rising out of the amazon and flowing from east to west, coupled with dramatic changes in altitude. In fact, the elevation varies from over 3800 meters (12,500 feet) in the northern part of the province to 200 meters (650 feet) in the west. With the mountains, valleys, and plateaus affecting the rainfall we get everything from lush forests to dry deserts.

Each climate has its own unique biodiversity - in both flora and fauna. Wouldn't you like to start exploring the many different natural facets of Loja?

This blog post is an example of how the team at Life in Loja helps tourists and visitors, expats and immigrants, to better appreciate the many aspects of living in Loja, Ecuador. If you would like to know more about our custom tours and relocation services then contact us by email or phone/WhatsApp at 593-098-674-5994 to begin a conversation. 


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