A Journey to the South of Ecuador
Working and living in the northern part of Ecuador we are sometimes not that aware of what the southern part of the country has to offer. So I started exploring.
A long weekend is a good starting point to head south, for example to Cuenca. It is Ecuador’s third largest city and the historic center is, as well as Quito’s, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wander through the streets and soak in the ancient colonial atmosphere or just sit by the river and enjoy the city’s beauty. If you have a few days left you should definitely explore Cuenca’s surroundings.
For all the nature lovers among you, the Cajas National Park is a must-see. It is located about 30 km west of Cuenca and lies at an altitude of between 3100 and 4450 m above sea level. More than 250 lakes can be found there, but only a small part of the huge park is accessible without a guide. Nevertheless you have more than enough possibilities to explore this stunning area on your own, using the small hiking trails provided to surround some of the lagoons. Just watch your step because it is more than easy to step into what seems to be firm ground but actually is just marshlands, so you immediately sink a few (or more) centimeters into the mud. As you can imagine, I definitely recommend good waterproof hiking shoes.
Upon the advice from different people we brought two jackets, scarfs, caps and hot tea to be prepared for the cold temperatures in the Cajas National Park. It has appeared that the sun was shining, we were wearing shirts and got a sunburn. Well, you never know.
If you are not looking forward to getting wet and muddy feet, another option is a visit of Ingapirca. The name has its origins in the Kichwa language and means “Inca wall.” This archeological site represents the most popular Inca ruins of Ecuador, with the Temple of the Sun as its most important edifice. Before the Incas arrived in the south, Ingapirca had already been settled by the Cañari indigenous people and used as a place of worship.
Another perfect destination for a day trip are for example the small villages of Gualaceo, Chordeleg and Sigsig. Make sure you start early so you can visit all three places. Definitely go there on a market day to admire the different stalls with beautiful handicrafts made by the local people.
You see, a journey to the south of Ecuador is more than worth it. And this is just a small part of this beautiful region, there is a lot more waiting to be discovered! If you are interested in the historic aspect of the south and Ecuador as a whole, you should check out our Andean Treasure Tour