Located in the heart of Ecuadorian Andes, the altitude varies from 3100 to 4450 above the sea level, which is higher than Quito, Ecuador’s capital. The best way to get to El Cajas is to arrive to Cuenca and take public transport from there. If you’re not willing to pitch a tent in the mountains, Cuenca is the best choice to stay at as it’s the closest, with only some 30 km away, and the most comfortable place due to a wide range of hotels.
El Cajas offers a large variety of activities, such as hiking, rock climbing, trout fishing, mountain biking, camping, and bird watching. The national park is a home to lots of endangered bird species, such as South American condor (with only 80 left in all Ecuador) and the world’s largest hummingbird. You can also spot different types of felines, rabbits, water mice, porcupines, weasels, skunks, opossums, and even pumas.
Nature-lovers will be immensely impressed with the stunning views of lakes and lagoons in total numbering 270. Grave and tranquil, they are all of glacial origin and set an enchanting contrast to surrounding brown and gold grasslands with sprinkles of white, yellow and pink. If you get above 3000 meters, you can find yourself in unique Polylepsis forest, also known as “paper trees”, which is the highest naturally occurring woodland in the world and the most ancient forest in Ecuador, estimated to be several thousand years old.
In addition to spectacular wildlife, El Cajas is an interesting place to visit for educational purposes: the national park contains the remains of a major Inca highway, which used to run across the area, and preserves ancient indigenous villages, like Guavidula, that have been turned into museums.
Perfect combination of relaxation and activity.