Cajas Nationl ParkIbarra

  • Altitude: between 3156 and 4450 meters
  • Inhabitants: –
  • Region: South-Andes

Feel the magic of the fairy tale Cajas National Park through an unforgettable hike. Located about 33 km west from Cuenca between 3100m and 4450m above sea level, the park offers a tundra-vegetation on a jagged landscape of hills and valleys. The name “Cajas” is derived from the Quichua word “cassa” meaning “gateway to the snowy mountains”.

Historically, the area was considered as a sacred place for its mountains and lagoons by the Cañar civilization. During the Inca occupation, the actual park was passed through the Inca trail “Camino del Inca” linking the Highlands and the coast. About 28 archeological sites have been identified in the park and its vicinity that indicate inhabitation during the pre-Incan and Incan period.
 
During the Spanish colonial era, the area was use for livestock. Today, visitors can enjoy hiking, fishing, bird watching, rock climbing or camping in the National Park’ s 285 km2 area. With over 270 lakes and lagoons, the park provides about 60% of the drinking water for the Cuenca area. Furthermore, two of the four rivers of Cuenca, the Tomebamba and Yanuncay rivers, take their origin in Cajas and eventually drain into the Amazon river. The high grassland ecosystem called paramo contains many plants, 19 of them endemic to Cajas. Above 3,300 meters a Polylepis or “paper tree” forest can be found. 
 
The Cajas National Park is home to a large variety of animals, some of which are endemic or highly endangered such as the South American condor, raptors, hummingbirds, pumas, bats, foxes, many amphibians, insects and many more. The park and its surroundings are also famous for its trout population. Originally catfishes were found in the waters until the introduction of trouts which provoked the disappearing of the catfish population.
 
Click on the following link for more activities and tours: Cuenca

Insiders´ tips

  • Once you arrived at the park entrance, you will have to register. Ask the rangers about the different trails and their difficulties.

  • If you are going to the park by public bus, make sure to know when the last buses are passing through the park entrance.

Restaurant tip

  • You can spend an unforgettable time at the Hacienda Dos Chorreras, located next to the Cajas National Park. You can take a ride on the back of a horse and explore the park before lunch is served! Address Km 21 via al Cajas, Cuenca

  • Or try a delicious trout filet in one of the many trout restaurant of the area.

What to bring?

  • Camera and binoculars

  • Waterproof jacket

  • Comfortable walking shoes

  • Warm clothes