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 with Peru 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 2100 m (6890 ft) above sea level. The Pan-American Highway runs past Loja.
The city of Loja was founded by Field Marshal Alonso de Mercadillo in 1548, and it is named for his hometown of Loja in Spain. 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.