Located in a valley and crossed by four rivers, Cuenca is considered by many as the most charming city in Ecuador. Full of churches, narrow cobblestone streets, colonial houses with balconies and patios and full of cultural activities, it offers an interesting atmosphere that reminds of its inca and colonial past, mixed with its rich modern architecture. Following is a list of some of the main programs recommended to discover this enchanting city and its surroundings.
Enjoy a walk around ancient Cuenca, built over Cañari and Inca ruins. This legendary city will amaze you with its colonial center, churches, four rivers, markets, landscapes and friendly people, known as morlacos. Considered one of the main handcraft centers of Ecuador, we will visit the main plazas and have some time to shop for handcrafts. Optional activities should include a visit to the Central Bank Museum,
The most important archaeological site in Ecuador is managed by a local indigenous organization. Discover an impressive temple built on a sacred location, first by the Cañaris, then conquered and rebuilt by the Incas to worship the sun; here is a chance to learn about the diverse techniques used by the incas to build their homes and temples. Afterwards, a visit to the on-site museum.
Another cañarí-inca archaeological site, located on a peak with an astonishing view of the surrounding andean plateaus, valleys and cities.
Thirty minutes far from Cuenca is El Cajas National Park, with 28.544 hectares, over 200 lakes and heights over 4.000 mts.. We will hike around this protected area, being able to enjoy the strange beauty of the paramo landscape, learning about its ecosystem and the fauna and flora within.
Chordeleg and Gualaceo
An hour far from Cuenca you will find these villages dedicated to the making and selling of fruits and handcrafts, specially jewelry, toquilla straw and ceramics and the ancient technique of ikat. We can also visit some of the workshops in the area and the local fruit market.
Cuenca and southern part of the ecuadorian highlands had great importance for the incas as a social, political, religious and administrative center. Many inca roads departed from the ancient Tomebamba city, specially towards El Cajas and Chimborazo; these programs give us the opportunity to follow the routes of the northern inca empire.
Capacñan - Ingapirca
Depart Cuenca early morning to Culebrillas lagoon (3.800 mts.); where we arrive after three hours hiking, continuing to the Capacnan and archaeological sites of Paredones, Culebrillas and Labrashca Rumi. At noon we continue hiking among high altitude cultivates fields until the community of San José and finally Ingapirca, where we will visit the fortress an then return to Cuenca or camp in the area for the night.
Capacñan -El Cajas National Park
Hike starts at 4.200 mts. and goes down passing by lagoons Negra, Larga and Togllacocha to meet the inca trail and quinoa forest by Luspa lagoon, the biggest one in the area. We then continue along the inca trail, going up and passing by many small lagoons, until Toreadora-Soldados lagoon, that brings us to the lagoon of Caballo Shayana, where we board the bus that brings us back to Cuenca. A variation of this program brings us along the inca trail from Guagrahuma, to Luspa and Burines lakes, and Taita Chugo archaeological site for overnight camp; continuing the day after to Yaviuco lagoon, passing high cloud forest until the bus meeting point.