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Nature > Southern Andes

| Protected Areas | Private Reserves |
| Adventure Tourism | Rural Tourism | Historical Routes |

Protected Areas

Thirty km outside of Cuenca, we find one of southern Ecuador’s most impressive protected areas - Cajas Recreation Area. Cajas contains 275 lakes, between which small rivers give birth to beautiful waterfalls and large areas of primary forest.

Here, many rivers which eventually reach the Pacific are born as well as many others which form the some of the headwaters of the Amazon River Basin. Home to numerous species of flora and fauna, the area maintains temperatures that don’t drop below 10 degrees centigrade. It covers an area of over 28,000 ha. There are excellent opportunities for long walks and camping.


Private Reserves

Rich in flora and fauna, the Mázan Protected Forest is located in a small glacial valley between Sayausí and Joaquín, en route to Cajas from Cuenca. It consists of an Andean primary forest and contains lipoids, orchids, ferns, bromeliads, and the native species, fuchsia. The climate oscillates between 6 and 12 degrees centigrade and access is limited to scientific research and eco-tourism.


Sport and Adventure Tourism

Cajas National Recreation Area (Azuay) and Podocarpus National Park (territory shared between the provinces of Loja and Zamora Chinchipe), are characterized by their singular beauty. In Cajas, you’ll find high crags and narrow, extensive box canyons which house the region’s 200+ lakes. In certain areas, it is possible to fish for trout, serenaded by the numerous songs of wild birds.

For its part, Podocarpus National Park offers a large range of orchids, an infinite number of romerillos, and of course, the rare podocarpus tree. Horseback riding and hiking to the lakes of Los Compadres, near the Picachos del Condor, are just some of the possible activities. Vilcabamba, in the province of Loja, also offers areas to partake in mountain and river sports. Next to the Chamba and Uchima Rivers and in the hills of Mandango, you can also enjoy horseback riding.


Rural Tourism

Extensive sugarcane plantations with haciendas and sugar mills, such as San Pedro, Cataviña, Léntag, Sulipali Grande, and Chico, are found in the Yunguilla Valley, near Cuenca. Citrus fruits, coffee, and tomatoes are all grow, in these fertile lands. Another area with old haciendas is San Fernando. There, you can find places such as Manto de la Virgin, Yuraguimi, or el Bolarrumi. Here, you’ll also find San Pablo hill and Nobusquina and Busa lakes, where it is possible to camp. In Loja, the most picturesque tropical-climate valleys are Catamayo, with its cane crops, and Malacatos, with its coffee plantations.


Historical Routes

There are several ways to reach the Ingapirca - or the Temple of the Sun - located in Cañar. The Inca Trail is a walk that can take three days. It begins in the town of Achupallas, 25 km from Alausí. To undertake this journey it is important to bring the appropriate camping equipment. The help of a guide or a specialized travel agency can be especially useful, as well. Along the route, the hiker encounters great geographical variation - Mapahuiña hill, Las Tres Cruces Lake, the Quilloloma Hill, and the rock faces of Paredones de Culebrillas. The final destination is the village of Ingapirca with its ancestral ruins.


| Protected Areas | Private Reserves |
| Adventure Tourism | Rural Tourism | Historical Routes |

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