Explore the most popular Hiking 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.

This route starts at the entrance bridge to San Juan de Barabón [1] on the road to Solados. Here you will find several restaurants of typical food. To start, you cross the bridge and continue to the church of San Juan de Barabón [2] where we can find a store to stock up before the walk. The road is taken next to the church in the Southwest direction and 100 m further on you will find a pedestrian path ascending to the left side [3], which must be taken to ascend towards the mountain by a line of trees. The ascent is safe except for a landslide area where there is a ravine [4]. 200 m later, the path ascends by an ancestral or culunco path [5], which has sections of great depth due to the use and erosion of clay soil. If it were very muddy, it is possible to walk along the parallel path, from where there is a spectacular view towards the Yanuncay Valley. The path then continues through the forest until you find a fork where you should turn right to the south [6]. We always continue without deviating from the main path that ascends in the Southwest direction. The path forks again and we continue along the left branch always on the rise [7]. Later the culunco becomes muddy [8] and it may be necessary to go out to walk along the side path until the end of the ascent. Near the top, the path is divided [9]: you must continue to the right towards the Southwest to ascend to the Huizhil (then you will pass through here to descend Chapaloma towards Baños). This place is ideal for bird watching, and a little further on you have a magnificent view towards the Uchuloma. Then it ascends along the edge following a path barely visible in the grass [10] to a barbed wire that allows the passage to the top of the Huizhil [11]. The views of Cuenca and towards the middle basin of Yanuncay are very attractive. The view of Cerro Barabón towards the Northeast is also impressive. So far 2 km have been traveled and it is a good time to take a break. Next, we will go to the nearby top of Chapaloma. For this, we return along the same path of the ridge until we reach the fork [9], where we take a right to ascend towards the Southeast until we reach the top of Chapaloma [12] from where we have a spectacular 360 panorama degrees. This summit is also part of the Huizhil. From here, the trail begins to descend through the forest to the south. The rainy path may be slippery and caution must be taken [13]. Likewise, you must walk carefully on the next section where there are steep slopes. Approximately after 500 m of descent from the Chapaloma, you will arrive at a site with a set of socavones [14]: this is where the Gil Ramírez Dávalos mines that date from the founding era of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca were located and from which gold and silver were extracted. Continuing along the path you reach a fence that blocks the passage and on the other side of which you can see an old wooden house [26]. To continue, it is necessary to skirt the fence by the West and descend towards the South. The path is clearly defined and later descends by steps of land [16] until it reaches a fork. Here you take to the right to the west where you will see some houses. You pass between them and continue south until you reach a new fork [17] where you must take a left to the east, following a path that goes to Baños. The path continues through a flat terrain and you will reach a fence that will be bordered on the right [38] to reach a very marked path that descends until you reach a forest patch. Continue descending in zigzag [19] and at the end you will find a pedestrian descent between the houses, which reaches the Misicata-Baños road [20]. Take this road to the right in the Southeast direction until you reach the Cuatro Esquinas sector in the parish center of Baños [21] where the route ends. In this place there are several food services, shops, bus stops and mixed transport. In addition, several thermal water establishments are nearby.

This route starts in the town of Portete [1] located on the Cuenca - Girón road. In front of the church there are two stores where you can buy food and drinks before starting the route. There is also a space for parking of vehicles in case of arriving at the site by private car. There is also an informative sign about the importance of Cerro Shío that is recommended to read before starting the walk. The route begins on a small pedestrian path on the right side of the Church, borders it and continues until it is tied with the water channel [2], following its route and crossing the grazing and cultivation lands of the comuneros [3]. The route turns to the right to the south following a row of trees [4] and enters a small patch of forest [5] where you will find a large number and variety of birds [6]. The trail goes up covered and protected by a live fence, crosses a barbed wire [7] to reach another patch of native vegetation [8], leaving which there is a muddy area [9]. Further on there is a second site of great interest for bird watching [10]. Although the path continues through the forest, to follow the route you must turn to the right in the Southeast direction [11] and ascend to a first platform of the Shío hill where it is a good place to make a rest and photography stop [12]. From this point you ascend through the different platforms of this stepped pyramid towards the top. It is necessary to cross two fences [13, 14] and continue ascending with caution and looking for the most marked path until you reach the top of Cerro Shío [15]. From here you have a spectacular panoramic view of the Tarqui Valley and you can admire more clearly the terrace of the hill that would indicate its function as a pukara, that is, a defensive structure of the territory in the Inca culture. The presence of huacas in this place is remarkable. To descend, you must continue with caution down the hill to the west [16], and then south [17] until you find a fence in the lower section located to the west [18], until you reach a road that must be taken on the right hand side From here, most of the descent route runs along the road, which presents interesting views towards the Yunguilla Valley [19, 20]. The last section of the road passes through another forest patch, which is also an excellent site for bird watching [21]. The road ends at the Temple of Tarqui [22], an important milestone that marks the beginnings of Republican history. Here there is also a parking area and a restaurant [23]. Finally, you must exit towards the main road along the path [24] that passes by the parking lot and goes directly to the Cuenca - Girón road where the route ends [25]. To return to the Portete where the bus stop [26] is located, you must walk back approximately 350 m along the main road, with caution due to the high vehicular flow.

Historical and cultural attractions The hill of Hito Cruz is the highest peak of this route. The name is derived from a milestone placed at the top by the Military Geographic Institute, currently covered with communication antennas. The hill was formerly known as Loma de Gapal, but its name has been modified and is now better known as Ictocruz. In the area there is a large number of ceramic vestiges that show the use and occupation of the Tacalshapa and Inca cultures. Through this same site crossed the Inca Trail or Qhapach Ñan, from which one branch was heading towards Cuzco and another departing towards Tumbes. The Cabildos de Cuenca Books contain certain early references on these important roads. On July 17, 1564, the following is recorded: “… Commit Juan Mexía de Balderrama in this town hall to open the ford of the last bridge of the road that goes to Tarqui…”. The road passed through the Ingacha de Gapal and was divided into the hill through the ritual centers of Huacanguilla and Turi, from where it went down to a swamp, in the area now known as Guzho. It is still possible to see some sections of this ancestral path, although they are in the process of destruction. This route travels through the El Cisne neighborhood, El Coco sector, San Antonio de Gapal neighborhood, Icto Cruz and Turi Centro; In the first two sectors we will observe peasant activities such as planting and care of the farm, although it is clear that the population of all sectors exercises their economic activity in the urban area of Cuenca. There are stretches of mountain ascent that represents an effort for the walker, combined with sections of low slopes that qualify the hike with rural landscapes where it is still possible to appreciate farmland areas and small scattered areas of forests. One point of interest on this route is the agroecological farm run by the Association of Entrepreneurs of San Antonio de Gapal (Tel 09-90420649). This can be a point where walkers know first-hand the forms of agroecological production. It is recommended to arrange a visit in advance. A point of great interest is the “Megaparque de Ictocruz” or “Huahua Huaca Illa” of recent construction, which offers comfortable technically designed trails and viewpoints of the city. The route culminates in the parish center of Turi, an emblematic viewpoint of Cuenca, with a long-standing tourist tradition, offering a variety of restaurants and tourist and recreational activities. On Sundays, from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., an agroecological fair of local producer associations takes place, which is a very attractive topic for walkers. Legend has it that some children from Turi grazed their sheep, when suddenly they met another little boy who dressed as a cane; the shepherds asked him where he came from, but the newcomer never responded. One day the children lost the sheep and, while searching for them, they found the little cañari in a cave; this time the boy spoke to them, introduced himself as the Infant Jesus and indicated the place where they would find his sheep. Since then, every December 24, believers from distant places of the province of Azuay and Cañar come to this site to visit the Grotto of the Lord of Bethlehem, deliver offerings to the baby Jesus and attend the celebrations that are held there.

Natural attractions This route runs through heavily altered landscapes, with a high predominance of small-scale agricultural activity, mixed with modern family homes that develop their economic activities in the city. During most of the way we find areas of grasslands, orchards, and crops, some patches of eucalyptus plantations and small associations of native plant species. During the tour it is easy to observe several species of birds characteristic of these altered habitats such as sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis), goldfinches (Carduelis magellanica), blackbirds (Tusdus fuscater), and pigeons (Columba livia). If the walker is attentive, he will be able to hear the whistles and whistles of two birds of difficult observation that frequent this area: The chiflaperro or alinaraja golilistada (Myiotheretes striaticollis) and the whistle Elaenia albiceps).

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: To reach Pachamama, the route runs through a segment of the Qhapac Ñan or Inca Trail. The last Incas went through it: the great Túpac Yupanqui, Huayna Cápac and Atahualpa, and the generals Quisquis and Calicuchima; already in the colony, these famous roads were traveled by characters such as Sebastián de Benalcázar, Diego de Almagro, the Viceroy Blasco Núñez de Vela, the Governor Gonzalo Pizarro, the famous chronicler Cieza de León, and numerous Oidores, Corregidores, Mayors and many others actors of colonial and republican history. A chronicle of Hernando Pablos of 1582 gives us an idea of the differences between the Inca and Cañaris roads: “… ruled the land Topa Inga Yupangui, which opened two-wide roads, which were not before but narrow paths, where the Indians walked one after the other, as they usually have. ” The data shows that the roads widened in the Inca period, to allow the movement of several people together. However, several narrow Cañaris roads were still in this area until the second half of the twentieth century, when they were destroyed to accommodate the new float roads. Along the way, one also observes what was probably a chaskihuasi: a refuge for the chasquis, or messengers of the Incas. In addition, ceramic and bone traces have been found in the sector of what might have been an early occupation before Tacalshapa. The pottery is unique in its kind, does not belong to any of the known local cultural affiliations, so it could belong to the Regional Development period, a little studied stage of local and regional archeology. The main attraction of this route is Cerro Pachamama, which in Quichua means Mother Earth. It was a very important Inca divinity and celebrated as the origin of life, lavish and generous. This word differs from Paccha, which takes its name from a channel or pipe where water moves or flows. The site consists of a plain of more than 100 hectares and in a preliminary archaeological study several elements of the Cañari and Inca cultures have been found, including a section of the Qhapac Ñan, two structures for wineries or chasquis, three structures on the Turán hill, seven structures in Quichul, four structures along the hill of the Cave, fourteen rooms with a central square, one hundred housing bases, a set of tombs and what would probably be the Ushnu [8]. This is a structure of approximately 9 mx 9 m and a meter high, where the Inca offered with the Inti (the Sun God) a special type of chicha called Yamor. The original structures have been affected several times by military activities, stone extraction and other work of residents of the sector. At some point it was proposed to use the site as a garbage dump for Cuenca, but fortunately the project was abandoned. This site is poorly damaged, but requires urgent research to preserve and value it. The first historical reference written about Pachamama dates from September 20, 1582, when Fray Gaspar de Gallegos, doctrine of San Francisco Peleusí del Azogue thus referred to Pachamama and his way: “… There is from Cuenca to this town (Azogues), as it is said, 4 leagues of flat road except that in the middle of the road between Cuenca and this said town is a hill that passes through it the said road, by a door that is made very old; and this hill is all of rough rock, which is why they call it the Copsi Indians, which means hill of rough and sandy rock, and this town falls to one side of the city of Cuenca to the east. The road is always twisting to one end and another, although it is all flat, as I say ... ”. In addition to its archaeological and cultural importance, Pachamama is a key element in the geology of the area. Its shape is a witness of the glaciations that formed the valley of Cuenca. From this privileged place for an exceptional panoramic view, almost all the sacred hills that surround Cuenca can be seen, and even towards the Northwest can be seen the Cojitambo and Abuga hills, near Azogues. The community of Llacao is strongly associated with the hill. Several residents of the parish have farmland that reaches the top. On October 17, the patron saint festivities of San Lucas are celebrated in Llacao, where the tradition of the skirmish game and the “contradanzas”, native dances with representatives of the communities of the sector, is maintained. In the beautiful chapel of Zhiquir also celebrates the feast of the Lord of Pomasqui on September 16, whose image was found by a farmer in a trunk on the banks of the river, according to a local legend. The population maintains community mingas, and mainly subsistence agriculture.

Natural attractions: This route offers the walker a variety of landscapes less common than the previous routes. Near the beginning of the journey we find a small fragment of native forest that preserves some native plant species such as white chilca (Baccharis latifolia) and blue chilca (Ageratina dendroides), an endemic species found only in the montane forests of the South of Ecuador and is categorized as "vulnerable" due to habitat loss. In this first part of the route it is easy to observe blackbirds (Tusdus fuscater) and sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis). In the second part of the route, already on the Pachamama plateau, the plant formation is completely different: wide grasslands of native herbaceous species very striking for their colors and flowers such as red straw (Eragrostis sp) and the holy cardon (Eryngium humile ), associated with medicinal properties. On this plateau, the walker will find very particular birds of the area, such as the black-eyed eagle (Geranoaetus melanoleucus), an increasingly rare native bird of prey in the surroundings of the city. And others such as the simple seedbed (Catamenia inornata) and the lioness gralaria (Grallaria quitensis). When descending the mountain, the landscape changes again to present the characteristic areas of crops, orchards and living fences of the Tomebamba Valley, with usual birds of the area such as chirotes (Sturnella bellicosa) and chugos (Pheucticus chrysogaster).

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).

Historical and cultural attractions Although this route connects the hills Cachaulo and Pachamama, these are described more widely in routes 1 and 3 respectively. However, if you have not yet traveled Route 1, it is highly recommended to climb to the top of the Cachaulo at the beginning of this Route 2, to have a panoramic view of the valley you will cross. In the Cachaulo hill, vestiges of pre-Columbian pottery have been found that have not yet been studied, and it is feared that the advance of the agricultural frontier and the urbanization process will destroy what is left and erase the last traces of these ancestral villages forever. of which we know very little. The route runs through ancient roads, where it is still possible to find old stone walls, apparently remnants of pre-Columbian cultures. The traveler will cross the micro basin of the Sidcay River, to the Northeast of the city of Cuenca, which clearly represents the rural landscape of the canton: the agricultural mosaics that give way to the disorderly expansion of the city, but still preserve the way of life Azuay farmer. The few remaining trails are still widely used by community residents who do not have vehicles, but are at imminent risk of disappearing, replaced by roads, in the process of urban expansion. The route ends in the parish center of Llacao, a parish characterized and marked by the presence of the sacred hill of Pachamama, with enormous importance for the Cañari and Inca cultures. In the parish center, the Sunday fair is very important, offering a variety of agricultural products in the area. On October 17 the celebrations of San Lucas, patron of the community are celebrated.

Natural attractions The route of this route begins in an area of corn and bean crops where it is common to see goldfinches (Carduelis magellanica) feeding. In the next part of the route, fragments of eucalyptus plantations that have replaced native vegetation are characteristic. An attraction of the area is the live fences and orchards where you can still find native species such as Chilean Manzanitas (Pyrus sp.) That until a few decades ago were very common. On this route there is a very colorful species of orchid: the flower of Christ (Epidendrum secundum); It is important to remember that you should not extract plant species from their natural habitat. In the agricultural mosaics and the trees it can be observed perching some typical birds, such as the long-eared doves (Zenaida auriculata) and chirotes (Sturnella bellicosa). In the middle of the route there is a canyon where there is a small but attractive fragment of native forest with endemic plant species such as pirigullán (Pasiflora manicata), a bush of pink flowers, and the mountain rosemary (Arcytophyllum capitatum). Near the end of the route, between the crops of corn and trees, we can observe other species of birds such as the black-and-white spike (Sporophila luctuosa) and the ventriblanca star hummingbird (Chaetocercus mulsant).

1 month ago

Great hike to complete in Parque Nacional Cajas. You get some stunning views of the lakes and valleys. Would recommend hiking boots or shoes with very good grip as going down can be slippery. Some wet marshlands to navigate.

no shade
over grown
4 months ago

Started this hike in the morning while the weather was nice and sunny. There are light green signs/arrows along the way although a few were fading or hiding behind bushes. Stunning scenery with amazing view over the many lakes of the park. Hike itself is classed as difficult on the park map. We thought it to be moderate on the way up and a little trickier down as it was so muddy you were slipping and sliding (and falling) most of the time. Nice hike, however did not stand out as one of my favourites in Ecuador.

5 months ago

Amazing place!!!

8 months ago

Easy and muddy

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