Ambato, Ecuador, a modern city 75 mi/120 km south of Quito, was rebuilt following a 1949 earthquake—little evidence of the colonial era remains. Ambato, however, is a good place to buy Salasaca Amerindian tapestries and other handicrafts (Monday is the main market day, with smaller markets on Wednesday and Friday).

Sights include the Museo Provincial Casa del Portal, Quinta de Mera (a historic home), the Museum of Natural Sciences and the relaxing Parque Juan Montalvo (named after the Ecuadoran political essayist). The city's otherwise unnotable cathedral has become a tourist attraction for its large collections of murals.

Try to visit during the Fruit and Flower Festival, held the last two weeks of February, and you'll see all manner of fruits, flowers, bullfights, street dances and general festivities. Phone 3-242-5085.

Visitors can take excursions to Chimborazo volcano (at 20,700 ft/6,310 m, it's Ecuador's highest peak); the Fauna Production Reserve (15,000 acres/6,100 hectares of native flowers and plants); and the nearby town of Banos.

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