Lately the city has become a popular foodie destination for all types of budgets and palates. On top of all that, on the peripheries of this charming city visitors can find many activities to escape for an entire day and enjoy the stunning surroundings. Here are just a few, worth mentioning, exciting day tours from Cuenca.
Cuenca, the beautiful colonial city with extravagant domed churches, colorful windows and houses, marble floors, and stoned little streets; every few blocks there is another lovely botanical park with statues and fountains that will charm you deep-down. With all it has to offer, it’s no surprise that UNESCO declared Cuenca a World Heritage Site in the year 2014.
Day Tours from Cuenca to El Cajas
Filled with hillsides covered with golden grasses, swampy fields of wildflowers and Polylepis trees, and high Andean skyline-silver lakes, El Cajas is among the most photographic national parks in the entire country. This emblematic park is one of the favorites day tour from Cuenca.
There are about 780 water concentration sites with an altitude range from 3200 to 4400 meters; as a matter of fact El Cajas has the highest concentration of lakes in the world. This national park has many hiking trails and well marked routes, but route number 2 is the preferred one among visitors due to its stunning views after each turn and climb. The hike takes about 4 to 6 hours to complete, after exploring 9.6 km of marked path. While visiting El Cajas visitors always have to be prepared for an unpredictable weather so make sure you carry with you a soft shell layer and a rain coat.
In order to take advantage of this exciting day tour from Cuenca, you must start your journey early in the morning; arriving at the park and starting the hike around 8 a.m., that way you will enough time to walk at a moderate pace and not rush to finish the hike. You will be back at the city sometime between 4 or 5 in the afternoon with a big smile on your face.
Day Tours from Cuenca to Ingapirca & Baños del Inca
Ingapirca is the most important and iconic Inca historical site in Ecuador. This archeological gem is located in the Cañar province, 90 km and 2 hours outside the beautiful city of Cuenca. This historical complex is integrated by roads, food deposits, houses, an astronomical observatory, and the famous Temple of the Sun, which is the most important building in the site. Its relevance is mainly because it was constructed with an oval platform which makes it unique in the world since other Inca´s ruins have circle platforms. This difference in shape is thanks to the Cañari influence in the Inca´s culture.
Located just 1 km away from Ingapirca visitors can find another archeological complex, Baños del Inca, in the Coyoctor community. These ancient ruins are strategically situated and lined-up with the Yanacuri Hill. Studies suggest that due to its closeness, with Ingapirca, both sites were part of the same ceremonial and administrative complex.
This historical site is made up of the big court, Inca chair, Cañari Altar, and the Inca´s baths. While walking around you would be able to observe 2 water reservoirs, which stand out, for water storage that comes from the sacred Yanacuri Hill. This water was mainly used for ceremonial purposes and sacred rituals.
Both places will allow you to get a much better understanding about the Incas and their culture. Surprise yourself with all the complex construction techniques and solar calculations. Our recommendation is to get a tour guide to take you around the complex and give you a very detail explanation about all the buildings with a historical background. The guided tour takes around one hour to complete and it is totally worth it.
If you like the description and feel that this tour suits you, please click here to see the Inca Experience Tour by Wanderbus
Day Tours from Cuenca to Caguanapamba: life experience tourism
Caguanapamba is a community located 2 hours outside Cuenca and only 5 km away from the archeological ruins of Ingapirca. Since the year 2008 Caguanapamba is at the top of the list leading the communal tourism in the region.
This community has continued to work on diverse development plans and programs; as well as providing unforgettable adventures and life experience tourism. This last one was incorporated into the community with the purpose of sharing indigenous everyday life with visitors.
Among the many offered activities, the ones that stand out the most are the healing rituals of local´s priests or yachaks, and the indigenous trials and judgments. Also guests can experience planting and harvesting orchards, shelling corn, knowledge of ancestral medicine plants, shear alpacas, and other activities uncommon to the city life.
Every visitor that sets foot on this lovely community will cherish every moment and experience close to his heart.
Wanderbus offers an unforgettable day tour where you will be able to share all types of activities closely with local indigenous people inside the community, from visiting local orchards to visiting the gelid waterfall where lawbreakers must pay its penances.
What are you waiting for to embark on a completely different adventure and discover a new culture? Click here to see the tour in detail.
Day Tours from Cuenca to Culebrillas & Sisid Anejo
Hidden among grasslands and covered by a mystical fog is the Culebrillas Lagoon. Consider a mythical and sacred place for the Incas because of its snake shape; the lagoon was an important element that connected Quito with Cuzco. Nowadays, it is one of the most visited places by adventurers that want to enjoy a day in the outdoor or fishing.
Located at the base of the Yanahurco Hill, it presents natural and archeological attractions such as the Tambo of Paredones or the Labrascarumi stone quarry.
The day tour from Cuenca to Culebrillas starts with a typical Andean breakfast in the communal house of Sisid Anejo, community located 2 hours away from Cuenca. After the delicious breakfast, visitors will enjoy an hour drive amongst the magical Andes in order to arrive to the sacred lagoon. Once in Culebrillas visitors will hike 40 minutes to the Paredones ruins, an important Inca refuge in the Inca Trail. Also, the local guide will walk you through the Labrascarumi site and explain the importance of this ancient quarry in the construction of the famous Ingapirca. Then, visitors will get back to the Sisid Anejo community where lunch will be served with a traditional dish the “Pampamesa”; after heading back to Cuenca.
If, by any chance, you have a few more days to spare click here to see Wanderbus magical two days tour to Culebrillas that includes the Culebrillas Lagoon, Sisid Anejo and a short stretch of the Inca Trail.
Day Tours from Cuenca to Launag Grande: Horseback Riding in the Andes
Launag Grande is a beautiful and charming parish notable for its humid moors and windy highlands at 3400 meters above sea level, just half hour away from the little town of Chunchi. This little but charming place offers horseback riding day tours from its communal refuge to the Yahuarcocha lagoon located at the top of the hill or a 3-day riding experience through the Ecuador Inca Trail.
For those visitors looking for a horseback riding day tour from Cuenca this 5-hour riding experience from Launag Grande to Yahuarcocha lagoon is the perfect fit. This incredible ride on criollo horses, bred in the highlands, starts with a zigzagging climb through a steep slope while crossing pristine water streams where you will wind through ancient paths which are nearly forgotten.
The scenery is filled with enormous rocks formations that grow from the ground up; in fact there is one specific rock formation called the Padre Urcu, which stands tall at the side of the road, previous to the arrival to the Yahuarcocha Lagoon.
Legend says you need to ask Padre Urcu´s permission in order to advance through the path and with its blessing good weather will accompany you throughout your journey with clear skies.
Once you reach Yahuarcocha Lagoon the guide will allow a quick break where you can get off the horse and stretch-up your legs. From here is a 2 hour ride back to the community refuge and then back to Cuenca.
Bonus: From Cuenca to Puñay Hill – 2 days full of adventure
In the last few years the Puñay Hill has become a trendy destination among tourists. Located 3270 meters above sea level, Puñay stands tall at the Chanchan River´s basin. At the hill´s top raises an earthy stepped pyramid with a peculiar Guacamaya shape; therefore the Puñay Hill is considered the biggest Pucara from the Andes which served as a ceremonial site.
In order to make it to the top, visitors must walk 3 hours through lonely woodlands until reaching the magical big stone where most sacrifices were made in ancient times; then a 30 minute walk will lead you to the hill´s summit where you can set up your camp and enjoy of the most stunning skyline and sunsets Ecuador has to offer.
In order to get to this new and trendy destination, visitors have to get to Chunchi and then to Santa Rosa community. Once in Santa Rosa ask for directions to the local people who will show you the path to get to the top of the hill.
Cuenca has such a privilege location that its surroundings are marvelous places worth discovering. There are so many options of day tours from Cuenca that we can go on forever, luckily for you we have narrow it down to the most trendy and exciting options. Hope this list is useful and you have the best time traveling around this magical.