Beyond Cuenca and its cultural and architectonic charms, there are many places to visit nearby. Wonderful nature as well as small towns and parishes that seem stuck in time, reminding us of their early inhabitants: the Cañaris and later the Incas.
Baños of Cuenca
Baños of Cuenca is only 5 miles east of Cuenca town, you can find soothing hot spring waters. These thermal waters of volcanic origin reach the surface with a temperature of 158°F and cool down to 95°F -104°F.
Cajas National Park
Cajas is located 19 miles northwest of Cuenca, at an altitude of 9,000 to 13,000 feet above the sea level. This is a place for those who love the great outdoors. Some of the many things to do and see are camping, fishing, hiking miles of trails through a scenic preserve, and enjoying more than 230 lagoons of glacial origin. A guided tour of the area allows one to admire a breathtaking landscape and unique fauna and flora. Warm clothing is recommended due to the low temperatures (32°F – 47°F).
Approximately 30 miles from the city of Cuenca, surrounded by an extraordinary landscape, are the ruins of Cojitambo. These constructions belonged to the Cañari indigenous group, who lived in the area before the arrival of the Incas. The ruins lay at approximately 10,000 feet above sea level.
Gualaceo is a subtropical valley, approximately 22 miles away from Cuenca towards the Azogues town. At “El Descanso” take a right to reach Gualaceo. This town is known for its handicrafts, folklore and a beautiful river where you can go for a swim.
10 min. from Gualaceo, it is a pre-Incan town where important archaeological objects can be found. This brilliant culture inhabited the area between the years 500 and 1500 BC. The artisans offer Ikat ponchos, pottery, straw hats and jewelry. This is the place to buy the finest gold and silver filigree at a good price. There is also an excellent ethnographic museum in the square in an old courtyard house, where you can see weavers at work and find good shawls, scarves, belts and embroidery for sale.
Located about an hour and 45 minutes from Cuenca, these ruins are the most important architectural legacy of the Incas in Ecuador. Ingapirca means “Incas stone wall”. The vast archeological complex includes a roofless fortification, courtyards, terraces, temples, houses and a “castle,” possibly the “Temple to the Sun.”
This little town is located an hour and a half south of Cuenca in a charming valley. Colorful fields welcome visitors to a place where people are always polite and joyful. The Duma-Para Cañari Ruins are located closeby. This was the place where the Cañari Chief Duma was defeated by the Incas, who then susequently ruled the land.
At Nabón one you could also find the traditional Ecuadorian Tequila or Chahuarmishqui, which is a very tasty alcoholic drink that is produced in an artisan way by locals. Another attraction are the fine handicrafts made of reed.
Oña is located 103 km south west of Cuenca, 7,870 ft above sea level. May is a special month at this site as the San Felipe Festival takes place on the 3rd and the celebration of the town’s establishment takes place on the 10th One of Oña’s highlights is the parish of Susudel where people are mostly dedicated to agriculture and handicrafts. There is a gallery where skillful ladies exhibit clothes and other handicrafts made of recycled materials and natural textiles. Susudel has a XVIII Century church, as well as a colonial house that serves as a Cultural Center for children. It’s called the “House of Paris,” after its last owner who was French.