2015-04-16 12:13:17

Recommendations for touring the Cajas National Park outside of Cuenca, Ecuador

Las Cajas parque nacional is located about a half hours drive (or hour bus ride) to the west of Cuenca, along the road to Guayaquil. The park is almost 28,000 hectares and offers many hiking trails of varying difficulty. This mountainous region is at a higher elevation that Cuenca, so be prepared to watch for signs of altitude sickness and for the wildly variable weather.

The elusive trail maps are hard to come by and even if you can get your hands on one, the trails are poorly marked, either with post holes (yet to be filled with signs) or with painted rocks far enough apart to get lost easily. I recommend that you hire a private guide or go on one of the many group tours that are available.

The Andean flora is remarkable, with all types of surprising flowers and plants throughout the year. The vistas are also ever changing with rocky tors, rolling grass lands and river strewn marshes that offer a variety of bird life. Don`t be surprised if you share the path with llamas or cows, as the park also functions as grazing lands for the local farmers.

Whatever you fitness level, there is likely a tour for you. Some offer rides up to one of the peaks, where you can hike down and have lunch at one of the many trout restaurants that are sprinkled throughout the park, where others will take you on challenging rock climbing expeditions or mountaineering paths.

Also not to be missed, at least for the avid sportsman, is the trout fishing. You can choose between well filled trout farms, with an (almost) guaranteed catch or pick one of the tour companies that will take you to the lakes and streams to try your luck.

Whatever you do, bring appropriate footwear (sturdy, water repellent, with good support) and wear layers of clothing, as the temperatures can fluctuate wildly and drizzle/rain/sleet can come in quickly with the winds that blow through the huge valleys. Also recommended is a high SPF sunscreen, as the equatorial sun is harsh and can burn your skin in a very short period of time. Don't forget your camera, as the views are stunning, with every ridge offering another breathtaking spectacle. After your first trip, you'll want to go back to see what else there is to discover in this beautiful park.

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