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Day 1 CUENCA CITY TOUR
Transfer from Airport to Hotel (Tourist Superior), after check-in depart for a full day Cuenca city tour.
At 8:00 am we depart to see interesting places in the historic downtown “el Centro” part of Cuenca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cuenca has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ecuador, and in South America, because of its culture, architecture, social activities and the beautiful landscapes that surround the city. The city tour includes a visit to the old colonial cathedral and churches, which are magnificently adorned with religious pictures and sculptures.
We begin at the Plaza San Sebastián, the colonial city limit, and visit the Museum of Modern Art. Walking through the historical centre we see the stalls at the San Francisco market and the Plaza de las Flores (flower market), the House of Culture, Parque Calderón the main square and La Cathedral Vieja, the New Cathedral.
We will also visit the Panama-Hat factory, which is very important for the handicraft industry and one of Ecuador’s fashionable exports. We will discover the history of the Panama Hat, and how it got its name, as it started here in Cuenca, Ecuador. We will see the many different varieties of Panama Hats and watch the hat-making process. Here they export more than 1,200 hatboxes per month. Each box contains more than 50 hats – That’s about 750,000 hats a year!
Then El Barranco by Tomebamba River, and finally the Turi overlook, where we see the entire view of the city. If timing permits, we will also visit the studio factory of the well-known ceramic artist Eduardo Vega.
The Rotary Plaza is also a particular place to visit where you’ll find lots of handicrafts like pottery and ceramic products.
*Lunch at a restaurant in town
In the afternoon we visit one of the most prestigious and important museums in the country – Museo Pumapungo, also known as El Banco Central del Ecuador Museum, which has several exhibits of our ancient culture such as vestiges of the “Shuar” tribe and ancient instruments that they used in the past. After this you will be dropped off at your hotel at approximately 4:00pm (16:00).
Evening – Free time
Day 2 CAJAS NATIONAL PARK Full-day tour (8 hours)
8:00 am after breakfast, we head out to El Cajas National Park for a hiking and trekking tour of the upper and lower trails and lakes, where a bilingual naturalist guide will explain the unique flora and fauna found along the way. A traditional lunch of local trout is served in a popular restaurant called Las Ollas that is included in the tour, or you can order from the menu.
We depart at 8:00 am for a 30-minute drive west of the city to the Cajas National Park. The area of Cajas has 232 lakes and has a variety of both vegetation and fauna. It contains vestiges of Inca’s Royal Road, where two hundred of its archeological ruins have been discovered. The park covers an area of about 29.000 hectares (71.660 acres) with an altitude ranging from 2700 to 4300 m. (8858 to 14,108 ft.) Once in the park, we begin a 40-minute walk to the Toreadora Lake, which is one of the biggest in the park. On the route we will see many different kinds of flora like Chuquirahua, Romerillo, Rubra, Chochoandino and Lencetilla de Páramo. After a brief rest, we walk for about 3-hours (moderate difficulty) from the highest point called Tres Cruces. There you can see both parts of the National Park CAJAS. This is the most popular place to take photos. Then we go to Lake Chica Ilincocha, where we start trekking, continuing on our route, we will find the first polilepis forest, which is a wonderful place. It is unique in the world, and has magic inside this special forest. Later on, we walk to Unites Lakes, where we will have our snack and a little rest in order to keep on going around this beautiful place.We continue walking and then we find the second and biggest polilepis forest that has an underground river with clean water used for drinking. Here you can feel the peace and tranquility of the natural highlands, which are considered one of the best places to visit in Ecuador and South America.Taking the smuggler’s route, we can see the different kinds of lagoons that are in this area; like Neotríficas, Oligotríficas y Mesotróficas.
We arrive at Barros and Taquihurcu lakes, and then we head down to the mountain to finish our trek. We then go to the restaurant to eat trout, the typical fish in the area. Then we return to Cuenca to drop you off at your hotel at approximately 4:00 pm (16:00).
Evening – Free time
Day 3 INGAPIRCA RUINS Full-day tour (8 hours)
8:00 am breakfast then the guide will pick you up to drive 45-minutes to the province of Cañar and the Inca Ruins at Ingapirca, the largest Inca ruins in Ecuador, where we will tour the complex, visit the archaeological museum, and learn the history of Incas in this region.
Ingapirca means “Incas stone wall”. This is a full and fascinating day trip from Cuenca to the massive fortifications of Ingapirca situated above dramatic beautiful valleys below.
On our way to Ingapirca, we pass by the town of Azogues, which has a lovely church and a straw market (Saturdays). Also we drive across Biblian and pass the most astonishing cathedral constructed on top of a mountain (visit to the Church of the Virgin of El Rocio can be toured on Wednesdays). We continue with a visit to an Indigenous family to see how they weave the straw in order to make the base for the Panama Hats.
Finally we arrive at Ingapirca.
The largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador, the Ingapirca complex features a small fortress that archaeologists believe the main eliptical platform structure, called the Temple of the Sun was used for ceremonial religious purposes. The Temple of the Sun was positioned to the solstices, and at exactly the right time of day, sunlight would fall through the center of the doorway of the small chamber to the temple.
Ingapirca had long been settled by the Cañari people, who called it Hatun Cañar. The Ingapirca complex was built by the Incas around 500 years ago on top of an old cañari settlement. It is believed that Ingapirca was a religious center, an administrative center, as well as a military fortress. The vast archeological area of the ruins includes an open fortress, courtyards, terraces, temples, houses and a castle complex, possibly the Temple of the Sun. In the middle of the Plaza of Pilaloma (the Kancha) lies the tomb of an important woman, when excavated revealed ten people accompanied her, both male and female. The tomb dates to the pre-Cashaloma era before the 10th century. The Inca influence can be identified by the use of negative imagery on their pottery, which is often lentil-shaped. The pit burial also enforces the theory that the woman was buried prior to the growth of Hatun-Cañari. A group of rooms were excavated on the east of the warehouses, and archeological remains discovered that this area was used for the production of objects required by the politico-religious elites who lived in Ingapirca.
Wednesday -You’ll be able to observe the Biblian women knitting the straw in order to make the base form of the Panama hats, and then tour the archeological complex afterwards.
Friday – You can visit the animal market and the pottery market prior to visiting the ruins.
Sunday – You can visit the Cañar market close by, prior to the tour of the ruins.
Lunch: a typical meal at a local restaurant.
On the way back to Cuenca, we will visit the Biblian Church, which is constructed on the top of a mountain that overlooks the town. You’ll learn about some of the tales and myths of the Biblian believers, which you may find interesting and meaningful.
Return to Cuenca at approximately 4:00 pm (16:00).
Minimum 2 persons –
Itinerary is subject to change and is based on availability
Prices quoted are per person in $US (USD) and are subject to change
Offer Valid through December 31, 2015.
Accommodation: 2 Nights
Hotel First Class $377.00
Hotel Tourist Superior $266.00
Hotel Economy Class $218.00
Hotel pick up locations in Cuenca
What to bring:
Lightweight wind/rain jacket
Day temperature 50° to 77° F / 10° to 25° C