Explore the most popular Bird Watching trails in Azuay with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Itinerary step by step This route starts on the road to Soldiers - Sustag, 1.8 km from the entrance to the Tennis and Golf Club Basin. The path ascends to the right in the middle of a line of eucalyptus trees in the Southeast direction [1], after the first few meters the path turns in the opposite direction and continues ascending in a clearly marked zig-zag on the floor. At approximately 600 m there is a clearing of the forest [2] from where you can see the Huizhil hill and the Yanuncay valley that will dominate the landscape during the ascent, as well as the city of Cuenca. Further on, the path passes by a house and turns south, always on the rise, to cross a wooded area to finally exit to another open area [3] with a privileged view of the city, and possibility to rest or even camp , but authorization must be requested from local residents. Up to here you have walked approximately 1.5 km. After 500m the path will reach a patch of native forest [4] in which it goes south and crosses a bridge over a small ravine. This forest is an excellent place for bird watching. When leaving the forest, the road forks before an area of landslides, and the branch of the right that ascends towards a solitary tree must be taken [5]. From here, the path ascends along the edge following the very visible footprint of motorcycles and bicycles. The path reaches a small patch of forest in the eyebrow of the mountain and continues along the edge to the west, until we reach a flat area where we can take a break [6]. From this point and later, the view of the city is particularly attractive. Here it is easy to observe the strong impact caused by the entry of motorcycles and squares into the moorland because they destroy the soil structure and affect the natural waterways. The ascent continues along the edge following motorcycle tracks. We will pass through the mouth of a summer road suitable only for 4x4 vehicles and continue towards the Northwest, always following the tracks, until we reach a place where the path deviates slightly and reaches the first peak [7]. So far we have walked 5 km. To continue, we descend west to a flooded grassland, which is necessary to cross northward [8] to the path that continues along the edge. 300 m later there is a place where you can rest, protected from the wind and overlooking the city, and after 100 m you reach the second peak [9]. From here begins the descent through the edge of the mountain; Be careful of the ravine on the west side. After 300 m you will pass between two large rocks [10], always returning to the path on the edge, and continuing along it in the northwest direction. In this area, the 360 panoramic view allows you to see the rest of the moors to the west and the city to the east [11]. Continue for about 500 m more until you reach the Pallkarumi. This formation, also called Boca de Pez [12] consists of two rocks aligned in the Northwest - Southeast direction and divided by a crack, where native forest trees grow. When crossing this rocky area, it is necessary to be careful not to fall into the crack, because the presence of vegetation makes it difficult to see the floor. The path continues along the edge to a barbed wire, from where it descends to the west a few meters to take the road in a Northeast direction again, following among the pine trees [13] for approximately 800 m. Upon reaching a deforested area on the right side, the main path is blocked, which is why it is necessary to deviate [14] to the North, enter the forest and take to the East, and then descend between the trees until reaching the main path Further on the path goes back into the forest and must be lowered and crossed to the main path [15]. From here the slope becomes steeper and follows a water channel. This forest path ends in a fence that we must cross, then take the dirt road that descends to the right in the Southeast direction [16]. Here you can see a lot of birds.

Historical and cultural attractions At the top of the Cabullín hill is an archaeological site that comprises approximately one hectare. It is a slightly sloping terrain, where a large amount of ceramic material from the Tacalshapa and Inca cultures is noticed, which presumes the ritual importance of the place. It is very likely that on this hill the rites and celebrations to the Inca divinity of the ray, called in Quichua Illapa, were performed. The name of the nearby town of Rayoloma, would be closely related to this place by the cultural evidence found there. The route crosses the sectors of Ucubamba Alto, Cabullín and Rayoloma that can be defined as peri-urban neighborhoods of Cuenca. There are mixed transport services towards the beginning of the route in Ucubamba Alto and near the end of the route in Rayoloma. There are also stores to stock up, on the edge of the hill near the Swan dump and in the Santa Anita neighborhood of Rayoloma. Although it is not part of the route, the traveler can head towards the nearby hill Huanacauri (of the rainbow quichua). Its name is probably associated with the frequency of rainbows in this area caused by the rains that come from the East and rush into the valley illuminated by the afternoon sun. This phenomenon must have been of great importance to the Incas and would have been the reason for the location of a ritual site on the flat top of this hill where a large amount of archaeological material has been found. Below the archeological level is sterile rock soil, locally called “cangahua”. A brief analysis of the surface material reveals the existence of large pots with briefly grooved edges, pozuelos or medium and small bowls. The decoration consists of cream bands, light red and reddish brown bands on the edges and rounded outer lips, which would indicate ceremonial use. The material belongs to styles not yet registered in local archeology and others belong to the Inca culture. Unfortunately, the site is strongly affected by embankments and roads recently built in the process of urban expansion. Fortunately, some areas have not yet been affected, and there are spaces with intact and original stratigraphy that contain very valuable information, so new studies and official protection are urgently needed. The Huanacauri, was the most important temple for the Incas after the Coricancha or temple to the Sun. According to one of the versions of the origin of the Incas, Ayar Cachi appeared as a bird before his brother Manco Cápac at the site of Huanacauri near the site of Huanacauri Cuzco and formally committed his help in wars and their descendants. History points out that, during the Inca initiation ceremonies, young men dressed as Ayar Cachi climbed up to the Huanacauri, where they paid tribute, asking how they would be brave in war. Some Spanish chroniclers have reported that Huayna Cápac would have taken a stone from Huanacauri del Cuzco to take it to Pumapungo, also transferring its sacred meaning.

Natural attractions This route covers a great diversity of landscapes, most strongly altered by human action. In the area there are some environmental management efforts to mitigate the impacts of the city and human activity in general. One of these efforts is the Amaru Biopark, a wildlife education and conservation project that is recommended to visit, after completing the route, to learn about native and exotic wildlife, their habitats and conservation status. On the route we can discover some small plant associations of interest. At the beginning of the tour there are some striking herbaceous species for their colors and shapes, such as the bells (Kalanchoe officinalis), the huicundos (Guzmanea genus) very important for amphibians, and the ñachac (Bidens andicola) appreciated for their medicinal properties. Later on, the route covers areas of crops and small fragments of eucalyptus plantations, where we can observe some species of birds such as the blackbird (Turdus chiguanco) or the purple solángel hummingbird (Heliangelus viola). In addition, with a little luck, from the top of the Cabullín hill you can see the eaglet in full flight (Buteo polyosoma), especially if it is early in the morning or at the end of the afternoon. It is distinguished by the white tail with thin horizontal black stripes and a black underground band on the tail. It is also known as variable hawk because during its growth it varies in color between gray and brown.

Historical and cultural attractions The site of Jalshi or Jalzhi was determined in 2007 through a survey of the place. Jalshi's name would come from Quechua calshsi, (Andean plant). Despite its archaeological importance, it does not have systematic studies, and is currently threatened by the rapid urbanization process. The western part of the hill has recently been intervened with heavy machinery that has caused a flattening of the top. In the Jalshi, ceramic fragments probably of Tacalshapa affiliation have been identified. Tacalshapa (from quichua taca = “basket” and sapa = “full”, place full of baskets) corresponds to the second phase of the Cañari culture based in the region; It was discovered and described for the first time by Max Uhle on the hill of the same name, near the Santa Ana parish in the South of Cuenca. Tacalshapa pottery is characterized by its more elaborate design, with geometric and anthropomorphic figures. The road of the Jadaneros or “Janadejos” is an old road that reached the town of Jadán, in the Gualaceo canton. At this time, only a small fragment is left at the middle of the route, but it shows the importance of Cuenca's connectivity with the surrounding towns. Although it was already described on Route 4, the Guagualzhumi hill is one of the most archaeological, cultural and geological sites around the city. On the South side, behind the hill, although not directly on the route, is the Quituiña lagoon of great lake, ethnographic and environmental importance. It is likely that the Guagualzhumi hill, considered masculine, was directly related to the Quituiña lagoon considered feminine, a constant in the context of the pre-Columbian sacred geography of Azuay and Cañar. This lagoon is famous in the sector due to the oral traditions and legends that are told, such as that of the “Pastor” and the “Paila de oro”. The people of Jalshi celebrate the festivities of the Virgin of the Rosary, on October 13. It is an opportunity to enjoy the cuisine and culture of this population near Cuenca. There are transportation services at the beginning, on the way and at the end of the route, as well as small grocery stores where to stock up on food and drinks, as well as a chicken broiler restaurant on the Arenal-Capilla Loma road.

Natural attractions This route runs through landscapes heavily intervened by human activity and the walker will be able to appreciate and interpret the contrasts of the small remnants of native vegetation in the first part of the route, with the impacts of urban expansion in the second part. At the beginning of the tour there is a small fragment of eucalyptus plantation, ideal to see and hear some species of hummingbirds. Later, near the creek, there is a small fragment of high montane humid forest where species of native plants such as iguila (Monnina crassifolia), sage (Salvia corrugata Vahl), or zapatitos (Calceolaria adenanthera) are found, among others. In addition, you can see the Andean acacia (Mimossa Andean), an endemic shrub of the Ecuadorian Andes categorized as vulnerable due to habitat loss. The second part of the route continues mostly through areas of crops, orchards and areas with live fences, where we see birds such as the blue-yellow tanager (Pipraeidea bonariensis) and the parametr seedbed (Catamenia homochroa); We also found some species of herbaceous vegetation that attract attention for its flowers such as geraniums (Geranium multipartitum), arayamos (Orthrosanthus chimboracensis) and the polluted huarmi (Minthostachys Mollis) very appreciated for its healing properties, mainly for colds and stomach pains. From the Jalshi hill you can see the Ucubamba wastewater treatment plant. For several decades, this plant receives wastewater from the homes of Cuenca and decontaminates them before returning them to the river, which at this point is already called the River Cuenca. However, its capacity is exceeded by the expansion of the city downstream and it is necessary to plan a new treatment plant in the Guangarcucho area.

Historical and cultural attractions: This route runs through the northern part of the Guagualzhumi. Although on Route 4 the importance of this sacred hill was already mentioned, the North edge has new surprises which makes this route one of the most culturally interesting. The first element of interest for the walker is at the site known as "The Tank" located in the drinking water tank on the ascent to the hill in the first part of the route. Here is an archaeological site in an area of approximately 50 meters, with a profile whose depth does not exceed 30 centimeters and where pre-Columbian ceramic vestiges are scattered. Its location and occupation would indicate a site of ritual ceremonies, which corroborates the importance of Guagualzhumi in pre-Columbian cultures. Later, at the beginning of the descent you will find Chapanahuasi. The term could refer to a surveillance site in Quichua (Chapana: look, huasi: house), although this denomination could be more recent than the construction, which could have been originally destined for another function. The Inca-style structure is approximately 7x5 meters rectangular, with walls up to 3 meters high. In the longer walls there are two doors 1 meter wide. Inward we see two rectangular niches of approximately 40x30 cm. It was built with irregular carved ashlars of Cangahua, material that is typical of the place and that should have been obtained from the same place where the structure is located. The walls of about 60 cm wide are locked with a double block, which allows the presence of the niches inwards. Apparently, its roof was gabled, built with wood and straw. Due to its abandonment and lack of protection, it is in the process of destruction. A final point of archaeological interest is the site of the Cruz del Calvario, near the end of the route and before descending to Paccha. The place has an area of about 80x60 meters, is inclined and is covered with plain and surrounded by native vegetation on one side, and with eucalyptus trees on the other. In the surface and in the eroded spaces abundant pre-Columbian material of the Tacalshapa culture is observed. Towards the bottom of the ground is a low wall of stones. This site has not been studied in depth. The community of Paccha has cleaned and maintained the path and several iron crosses have been placed on the road to represent a via crucis. It is interesting to observe how the spatial logic of overlapping cults that dates from the earliest times of the colony, which reveals the sacred character of the place, is still valid, even for the current inhabitants. Not only the archeological aspect is interesting. This route passes near Quituiña, a relatively isolated community within the small valley that forms the Guagualzhumi, which despite its proximity to the city maintains a peasant lifestyle. The inhabitants of Quituiña have the belief that the nearby lagoon of the same name is delighted: when someone behaves improperly or harms the community, the lagoon generates a swell that drags and drowns the offender. The parish center of Paccha is another population of great social and cultural interest. The Holy Week processions towards the cross of Calvary, and the feasts in October of the Virgin of La Dolorosa, patron of the parish, are a sample of this.

Natural attractions At the start of the route, on the Guagualzhumi hill, the traveler will find several small fragments of native forest, home to native plant species typical of Andean ecosystems, such as cotag (Ferreyranthus verbascifolius), ranran (Maytenus verticillata), quishuar (Buddleja incana), or the yubar (Geissanthus ventawerfi). Here you can also see two species of tangaras, striking for their unique songs: the mountain tangara ventriescarlata (Anisognathus igniventris) and the tannegrass tanager (Tangara vassorii). Continuing the journey along the northern edge of the mountain are other small fragments of high montane humid forest, where the great abundance of the beautiful orchid flower of Christ (Epidendrum secondum) is striking. Here we can observe several species of birds such as black pinchaflor (Diglossa humeralis), masked pinchaflor (Diglossopis cyanea) and the aforementioned thong. Before completing the route there is a grazing area surrounded by a small fragment of forest and another of eucalyptus. The different canopy levels of the vegetation make this place an optimal site for bird watching, such as the golilistada alinaranja (Myiotheretes striaticollis), the dorsicarmesí woodpecker (Piculus rivolii), and the azara colaespina (Synallaxis azarae), difficult to Observe in other places.

Historical and cultural attractions The Zhinglla site is located next to the Immaculate Chapel, at the beginning of the route. Zhinglla is apparently a Cañari name, but its meaning is unknown. Here a set of Inca tombs with stone walls and covered with marble slabs was discovered in 2005; Currently it is no longer possible to observe them and instead there is a sports court. The characteristics of the site indicate that there was an indigenous settlement, and it is presumed that it was inhabited by a high character of the Incario by the type of ritual pottery found in a well, in the year 2019. On December 6 the party is celebrated in the chapel of the Virgin of the Immaculate. The lands are from the community and there are no access restrictions. The route crosses three communities: Corpanche, less than five minutes from the parish center of Checa, very affected by migration, as empty houses show. La Dolorosa (Czech) is the first important community we found when starting the route; It has less than 200 inhabitants whose rural life revolves around the farm and animals, although there are also some fruit trees. This community has historically been responsible for the maintenance of the first part of the irrigation canal that is the particular characteristic of this route, and some remnants of the first channels can still be seen nearby. Jesus of the Great Power (Sidcay): formed by scattered houses along the water channel, shows us the traditional peasant life associated with the farm and the care of animals. Some of these communities still practice the tradition of minga. La Dolorosa (Ricaurte) is the closest community to the Cachaulo hill, very close to the parish center of Ricaurte; Its inhabitants are mainly used in the urban area of Cuenca. On April 20 the festivities to the Dolorosa Virgin are celebrated, with burning of castles and comparsas. Mount Cachaulo, at the end of the route, has an irregular and elongated shape, with a privileged view of much of the Machángara river basin and the Sidcay river microbasin. Here, pre-Columbian ceramic remains have also been found, but the site has still been little studied. The first written mentions about Cachaulo date from the 16th century, and it is known that it was part of a huge hacienda that in the 17th century extended from the heights of the hill to the Machángara River. The neighbors of the area consider it an enchanted hill associated with ancient myths and legends that speak of its sacred character for the Andean worldview; they say that before it was a Huaca of the Incas and that even today the “mama huaca” appears in the afternoon; they assure that burials and pots of gold have been discovered, and some say that two-headed lizards hide among their stones. The name Cachaulo would come from the Cañari language but its meaning is unknown. There is no restriction of access to the area.

Natural attractions: The special attraction of this route is the change of landscape and agricultural mosaics, with live fences that delimit the plots and preserve the biodiversity of the area. The traveler will observe species of endemic importance such as mountain coconut (Parajubaea cocoides) and pumamaki (Oreopanax avicenniifolius) with its characteristic 5 “finger” leaf, and beautiful native trees of Cannabis (Erythrina edulis) and walnut (Juglans neotropica) very old. There is also an abundant and varied birdlife with striking species for their sizes, colors, and whistles; The turquoise magpie (Cyanolyca Turcosa) lives in the eucalyptus plantations that we found at the beginning of the route. The ventriazul orejivioleta hummingbird (Colibrí coruscans), very common in this area, will be discovered along almost the entire route. The characteristic chugo (Pheucticus chrysogaster), which can be easily seen and heard among the corn plots. A very interesting species is the dorsicarmesí carpenter (Piculus rivolii), it is not usually seen easily, but with a little luck we will find it in the live fences in the last section of the route.

Historical and cultural attractions El Plateado hill, at the beginning of the route, is a very characteristic place in the areas of Nulti and Challuabamba, which owes its name to its bright gray rock. It contains an archaeological settlement not studied, but with an important wealth still to be determined; His training seems to indicate that he had a ritual character. The archaeological sites located in El Plateado are at medium height and correspond to small flat areas of approximately 80x40 meters, in natural terraces and at different levels, where it is presumed that the ancient inhabitants practiced the rituals. These sites are devoid of vegetation, however, there is a species of native low grasses, mixed with a considerable density of pre-Columbian ceramic material, apparently from late periods. The high erosive degree of ceramic material makes it difficult to specify the cultural affiliation of the site. The Silver is a site of great geological, landscape and archeological wealth; but not having studies and protective measures runs the imminent risk of disappearing forever. In the lower part of El Plateado is the area of Challuabamba (Quichua Challua: Pez and Pampa: Plain) where there are also important archaeological evidence of a pre-Inca culture. Unfortunately the place suffers a strong urban pressure that has greatly diminished the possibilities of studying it since it is currently a neighborhood in Cuenca. In the final part, the route ascends to the iconic Guagualzhumi: one of the most representative mountains on the horizon of Cuenca from where it appears with a semicircular shape and a bulge at the tip. The archaeological site of Guagualzhumi is located on an esplanade before reaching the top of the hill [35], and it is presumed that it was an ideal place for celebrations and rituals. The pampa, slightly inclined in an East-West direction, has an approximate length of one hectare with a large amount of archaeological material. The place has now become a grazing site for the animals of the comuneros. The site has several accesses, but apparently the oldest is the one that goes between the two edges. In the access road you can still find pre-Columbian ceramic material. There are very few studies of this site that, without a doubt, require deeper research that accounts for its historical and cultural significance. In the northeastern slopes of the Guagualzhumi is the small Curitaqui hill (Cerro de Oro), of great environmental importance and with an archeological wealth still to be studied. This place has given rise to many legends that the inhabitants of the area will be happy to share with the walker. Unfortunately, the hill has been partially fenced with barbed wire and modern houses are already built in its surroundings, with the imminent risk that its cultural and archaeological heritage will continue to deteriorate and is about to be lost forever. Near the route, although they are not part of it, there are other sites of archaeological importance that are worth mentioning: The Cashi hill on the Silver Road, the Huahuapulmi or Guagualpulmi hill, the Jarata hill and the Shirán hill. The traveler interested in visiting these sites can talk with the inhabitants of the communities in the area to receive more indications. Near the route, and in the western part of the Guagualzhumi is the community of Quituiña. It is a small population of 160 inhabitants dedicated to subsistence agricultural work in the care of the farm. It is very close to the populated center of Paccha, but separated by the North blade of the mountain. His lifestyle is therefore very far from the urban, in a very bucolic and peasant environment.

Natural attractions On this route, the traveler will discover various types of ecosystems and plant formations. At the beginning, in the area of El Plateado the ecosystem is arid and rocky, characterized by herbaceous plant species, some of them striking such as the borrago (Borrago sp), the small orchid Elleanthus aurantiacus, and the moradilla (Alternanthera porrigens), a species Herbaceous commonly used in the rites of fear healing. Among the birds you can find the ventriazul hummingbird (Colibri coruscans) and the bright cowboy (Molothrus bonariensis). About halfway there are eucalyptus groves, pine trees and some native plant associations. In these associations is the whip of the devil (Scutia spicata), a native species whose fruits serve as food for small mammals and reptiles. There is a belief that this plant helps keep evil spirits away. In this area you can also see the famous quilillico (Falco sparverius), one of the smallest hawks in the world, and the hummingbird (Lesbia nuna). At the beginning of the ascent to the Guagualzhumi there are some of the last small fragments of high montane humid forest south of Cuenca. Here it will be very common to find many hummingbirds feeding on the striking flowers of the gañal (Oreocallis grandiflora) and the aguarongo (Puya lanata). On the top of the hill there are alder plantations (Alnus acuminata) where birds such as the Dorsicarmesí woodpecker (Piculus rivolii) and the red-faced cotinga (Ampelion rubrocristatus) live. During the descent of the hill in the last part of the route, you will pass through the interior of the secondary forest that has native shrub and tree species such as the Romerillo (Podocarpus sprucei Parl) and the Pichul (Vallea stipularis).