Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Great Day Trips From Cuenca

Cuenca is located in the midst of the most breathtaking landscapes in Ecuador, surrounded by the majestic Andes Mountain, stunning turquoise lagoons, and lush national parks and cloud forests that will take your breath away.  Although this beautiful city offers travelers plenty to see and enjoy, taking a day trip outside of Cuenca is a must, as you will get to see and immerse yourself in the area's natural wonders and have a greater sense of the local culture and people.

About an hour drive north from Cuenca is the sight of the Inca empire’s only remaining sun temple.  Located on a hill at 3,200 meters elevation with panoramic views over the surrounding countryside is Ingapirca, which means “Inca stone wall,” Ecuador’s best set of pre-Columbian ruins. 

Most people will opt for a day tour, which can easily be found online or in Cuenca, but you can also get there by bus Trans-Cañar buses that run direct from the main terminal terrestre at 9am and 1pm daily ($2.50), and return at 1pm and 4pm.

By all mean, this isn’t Machu Picchu in Peru.  However, the drive and the view of the countryside surrounding the ruins is idyllic, and as it is an important history and heritage of the local people, it’s definitely worth the trip.  

A word of warning, there are 2 ways to get to Ingapirca from the Panamericana highway, either via North entrance from the town of El Tambo or from South just outside of Cañar.  Both are under a heavy construction (as of August 2013), which will take additional 30-45 minutes to get to the ruins.
Cajas National Park
Cuenca is surrounded by beautiful landscapes and nature, and Cajas National Park is one of the most magnificent sites. 

This hiker's paradise, also Ecuador’s natural heritage, is located about 30 minute west of the city, is filled with golden-brown grasslands reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands and over 200 clear cold mountain lakes.  Although the water is too cold for swimming, their clear still surface gives them an enchanting mirror-like character, especially when they reflect the colors of the deep blue mountain sky.
You can hike through the high elevation grasslands or stroll through the lowlands of the park. Also, be sure to check out Hosteria Dos Chorreras, especially their restaurant along the way to the highlands to sample their scrumptious trout dishes.
The Valley of Gualaceo & 4 Villages
  • Gualaceo, a town known for its leather goods and also famous for its Sunday market that sells mostly produce, animals, household goods and leather shoes
  • Chordeleg, a pre-Incan town known for their gold and silver
  • Sigsig, declared as Urban Cultural Heritage of Ecuador for the great number of republican-style buildings, and also famous for their handmade paja toquilla hats
  • San Bartolome, a picturesque little village perched on top of the Andes, famous for their handcrafted guitars
El Chorro de Giron
About an hour drive South from Cuenca through the picturesque countryside of Tarqui and Yunguilla Valley is El Chorro de Giron, a massive waterfall reminiscent of Yosmite’s Bridalveil Fall. Like Bridalveil Fall, you’ll be able to hike or climb right upto the waterfall, so close that you can actually stand underneath it if you so desire. The thunderous sounds was massive, and the temperature of the water is freezing. However, it makes for a fun experience, especially with children. 
sitting on the veranda of the restaurant enjoying the view
About half way to the fall, be sure to stop at the Portete Monument, commemorating the triumph of Ecuador over Peru in the Battle of Tarqui. Four obelisks that rise from the top of the monument is the highest point in the area at 8,900 feet, you will get a spectacular view of the valley, especially around sunset.
Laguna de Busa
From El Chorro de Giron, you can drive further on to Laguna de Busa. The panoramic view of the lake is breathtaking, and what we liked best was just strolling around the lake and take in the beauty of it all.
Ecuador, A Wonderful Introduction to South America (Part 1: Quito)
Ecuador, A Wonderful Introduction to South America (Part 2: Cuenca)
Ecuador, A Wonderful Introduction to South America (Part 3: Guayaquil & the Coast)


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