Cajas National Park is situated in the lake district of Ecuador and is home to breathtaking glacial valleys, moors, forest and a network of stunning mountain lakes. The whole setting gives off a magical fairytale vibe, as if you find yourself on the set of a Lord of the Rings movie.
Cajas National Park is Ecuador’s hidden gem, and will sweep all nature lovers off of their feet. Expect to see Andean Condors, Spectacled bears, hummingbirds and alpacas roaming around. For hikers the park is a playground and the ideal place to push your limits and enjoy nature in her purest form.
With its rugged terrain that features landscapes characterized by valleys nestled in between jagged mountains and hills, Cajas National Park boasts natural beauty and total tranquility. The park is elevated at altitudes over 3100 meters, resulting in tundra vegetation that covers the area like a blanket.
If you would like to learn more about what this diverse park has to offer, keep reading for a complete visitor guide to El Cajas National Park in Ecuador. We have summarized everything from trip planning tips, to trail recommendations and wildlife sightings. Keep reading to learn more.
Visiting El Cajas National Park
Cajas National Park is located 30 kilometers west of Cuenca city in Ecuador. It is easy to visit, and can be done in a day tour for trekking, but it is also possible to camp overnight and fish. The park opens from 8am to 16:30pm daily, and there are basic facilities like bathrooms and a café with a small shop.
In southern Ecuador the Andean cordillera (range) is older, so it is less volcanically active, and without high peaks that are so common further north. The mountains here form a large, beautiful plateau where big amounts of water accumulate. There are about 165 lagoons with condors soaring over the wrinkled green valleys.
We recommend visiting the park with a guide to get the most out of the experience. The guides are naturalists who have been trained to identify the local fauna and flora, as well as how to explain how the Andean Paramo ecosystem works. The guides also know the routes so you do not have to worry about getting lost on one of the trails.
One of the main reasons visitors are attracted to Cajas National Park is because it is literally a hiker’s paradise. There are fifteen well-signposted trails to choose from, and the number keeps growing every year due to the park ranger’s efforts. Some are long, and some are very short – as short as only several hundred meters long – which aids in practicing equity and allowing anyone to be in nature without the physical restrictions of challenging hikes.
There are no shortcomings of long hikes either, the longest trails are almost 20 kilometers long and require some overnight camping along the way. If you are unsure which track to choose, you can approach the visitor’s center and they can help you decide which is best considering your level of fitness, time restrictions and the current weather conditions.
If you enjoy hiking and your main reason for exploring the Andes is to take on the breathtaking high altitude trails, then we also recommend Cotopaxi National Park which is only a short hour’s drive from the capital, Quito.
Fauna and Flora
The predominant flora species found in Cajas National Park is Tundra vegetation, but there is also the presence of cloud forests and perennial high mountain forests that go down with the rivers that flow to lower elevations.
One of the main flora species that the park is well known for is the Polylepis tree, also called the Paper Tree. It is an evergreen tree with short stubby leaves, and it can grow quite large in size.
Some of the most common sightings of wildlife include the mountain wolf, fox, skunk, deer, llama, weasel, coati, porcupine, and shrew. If you are very lucky, you may even spot a cougar or a puma, but that can be quite rare as they are very well camouflaged.
The park is also known for being home to some endemic bird species. Endangered birds like the South American Condor and the Curiquinga can also be seen here. With such lush vegetation that creates the perfect natural habitat, Cajas National Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise.
What to do in Cuenca
Cuenca is the third biggest city in Ecuador, and is one of the most popular colonial cities to visit in the beautiful versatile country. Obviously, you are considering to stop here if you are visiting Cajas National Park, and we can suggest the best things to see and do in Cuenca.
Cuenca has a relaxed ambience, pleasant weather and safe walking streets with preserved 16th century architecture. It is easy to understand why Cuenca is so popular among foreign travelers and locals, and it is the perfect place to see many things in a short period of time.
Cuenca is also called the Athens of the Andes, and is a UNESCO-listed city that offers a rich historical center where you don’t need to follow your tight travel schedule. You can freely wander around and admire the colonial structures, the cathedral, the park or visit a museum. Then of course stop at a restaurant and enjoy some local Ecuadorian cuisine.
How to get there
One of the best things that you can do when visiting UNESCO city Cuenca is to take a day hike in Cajas National Park. As mentioned, Cajas National Park is just 30 kilometers west of Cuenca in the province of Azuayand nestled in the highlands of Ecuador.
The easiest and most convenient way to reach Cajas National Park is by private car or taxi. For the more adventurous types, there is a bus that leaves every morning from Cuenca to the park. The ride takes less than an hour, and showcases beautiful scenery of mountainous landscapes.
Visit with Kuoda
Even though Ecuador might be small, it is definitely not lacking in diversity. Rich cultural history, the Amazon rainforest, sandy white beaches, colonial small towns and friendly locals all give you good reasons to visit this versatile country in South America.
If you are a nature lover, Cajas National Park should be on your bucket list! That, and the entire country of Ecuador offers many opportunities to connect with Pachamama, and immerse yourself into the local culture. The best way to experience Ecuador is through a customized luxury travel package.
We at Kuoda understand the frustrations that may appear when organizing a cohesive trip like this, especially with so much variety and limited travel time. We take pride in our passion for creating attractive travel packages with the aim to provide you and your family the best experiences possible during your trip.
Get in contact with us today, and tell us your personal preferences so we can create the dream trip for you!
Nestled in the northwestern corner of Argentina, Salta is a captivating province known for its rich colonial a...Read Post
Crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches is what one may think when visiting the Caribbean, but Colombia’...Read Post
While many of us can’t imagine a morning without our favorite cup of coffee, Colombian coffee culture takes ...Read Post