Before talking about de Inca Ruins in Ecuador, let me remember that history indicates that the Inca Empire, Tahuantinsuyo, stretched from southern Colombia, through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. Tahuantinsuyo is the Quichua word for Empire. It prevailed from 1430´s to 1530´s and ended with the arrival of the Spaniards.
For most people, when thinking about the Incas what immediately comes to mind is Peru or Bolivia, yet Ecuador has its own and unique Inca’s history. This country does not possess enormous ruins like Machu Picchu in Peru but it definitely has its fair share of Inca sites which are full of historic value and are worth visiting and exploring.
Inca Ruins in Ecuador: The Temple of the Sun in Ingapirca
Ecuador possesses close to a dozen Inca Ruins spread all over the country. The most important and iconic historical site is: Ingapirca. This archeological gem is located in the Cañar province, 90km outside the beautiful city of Cuenca. Ingapirca is composed of two Quichua words: Inga meaning Inca and Pirca which means wall.
This historical complex is integrated by roads, food deposits, houses, a cemetery, an astronomical observatory, and the famous Temple of the Sun. This temple is the most important building in the entire complex and its main purpose was worshiping. It was constructed with an oval platform which makes it unique, since other Inca’s ruins have circle platforms. This building offers the best view of the complex and the valley.
Ingapirca is a must when trekking the Inca Trail, or commonly known as Qhapaq Ñan. Let yourself immerse in the past and get to know our ancestors’ history. Ingapirca allows 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 detailed explanation about all the edifications with a historical background. The guided tour takes around one hour to complete.
1. Inca Ruins in Ecuador: Cojitambo Trail
Located 21km outside the city of Cuenca, Cojitambo is an Inca archeological complex. These ruins are much smaller than Ingapirca but of considerable importance. Composed of the Quichua word ‘Curi,’ which means gold, and ‘Tampu’ or ‘Tambo’ which means deposit or resting place.
Legend says Cojitambo is one of many different sites alleged to contain part of the gold ransom that was supposed to be delivered to the Spaniards for the release of Atahualpa, the last Inca Emperor.
The historical Cojitambo complex has several stone structures built by the Incas in a natural terrace where bits and pieces of embankments, housing structures, and walls are still clearly visible. There is also a plaza where rituals, sacrifices, and offerings were given to the Gods.
2. Inca Ruins in Coyoctor: Baños del Inca
Coyoctor is an archeological site located just 1km away from Ingapirca, and strategically situated and lined with Yanacauri hill. You cannot miss visiting Coyoctor after exploring Ingapirca. Studies suggest that due to its closeness, 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 two water reservoirs, which stand out for water storage that comes from the sacred hill Yanacauri. This water was used for ceremonial purposes.
3. Inca Ruins in Pumapungo: Cuenca
This archeological Inca vestige is located in the heart of the city of Cuenca. If you want to visit this historical site you just need to ask for directions from your hotel and walk alongside the river while enjoying the beautiful views of this charming city. Studies indicate that before the arrival of the Spaniards, where Cuenca is now, raised the Inca city of Tomebamba.
It was considered the second capital of the Tahuantinsuyo, after Cusco. Pumapungo was at the heart of Tomebamba and was considered the most important administrative center of that time. The word Pumapungo means Door of the Puma.
Here you will find foundation walls of many edifications. These buildings include a palace, a residence of a prominent leader, cemeteries, and walkways. The most prominent features in the complex are the stepped terraces used for sowing. The complex offers a free museum where you can get a more detailed explanation about the history of this important ancestral site.
How to get to the Inca Ruins from Cuenca or Guayaquil
From Cuenca, you can either arrange a package tour, drive yourself, or take public transportation. For those wanting to take the bus, the best option is to take the 9:00am bus from the bus station OR “Terminal Terrestre”. This bus goes all the way to the historic site, waits 2 hours, and returns to the bus station in Cuenca. The only setback with this bus is that it stops every few kilometers to pick up local passengers and the ride becomes longer than it should be.
From Guayaquil, the easiest way is to take a bus to Cuenca. In Cuenca you will arrive at Terminal Terrestre, and here you can switch buses to the Ingapirca bus that takes you directly to the ruins and will bring you back to the terminal.
Where to stay in Ingapirca
Ingapirca offers a few lodging options close to the ruins. The most popular one is Posada Ingapirca which is located right next to the historical site. Also, there are a few communal accommodations close to the complex where you can experience community tourism and share with the local people.
Caguanapamba and Sid Sid Anejo are two communities which offer comfortable lodging options in their beautiful community house. Take the chance to stay in a different but hospitable place. Also, community houses offer traditional indigenous meals like the Pampamesa. Venture yourself trying this traditional and delicious dish.
As you can read…
Ecuador owns a few archeological sites rich in Inca’s history. Most of these sites are concentrated in the South of the Andes, close to the beautiful city of Cuenca. Ingapirca is the most important and best preserved archeological ruin in the country and is worth taking the time to visit. You will not get disappointed!