El Cajas National Park Ecuador near Cuenca is without a doubt one of the most stunning national parks in the country. Littered with beautiful lagoons and lakes, the landscape can be described as “tundra looking”, and there are jagged peaks and pretty valleys a-plenty, formed through glacial activity, hundreds of years ago. Many who visit El Cajas say that it is a “must see” if you are visiting Cuenca, and we have to agree, as it is very special. Here we will explain the highlights of the park and things to do. We will also look at when to go and how to get there, nearby attractions, accommodation and our own Insider recommendations for your time at El Cajas National Park. We hope that this El Cajas National Park travel guide will help you to make the most of your time in this lovely part of Ecuador.
The main highlight of a trip to El Cajas National Park Ecuador is to simply enjoy the breathtaking scenery for miles around. Photography is very enjoyable at El Cajas Park, since when the weather is decent it is difficult to take a bad photograph. You may even find that some of the resident llamas in the park are present, and this can make for a very iconic Ecuador photograph.
There is plenty to do in the El Cajas Park for those that enjoy outdoorsy pursuits. One of the main pursuits that visitors to this area enjoy is hiking, and there are several hiking trails. These are not necessarily well marked, so it may be best to take a guide if you plan to hike. There is the possibility of doing a day hike within the park, or alternatively doing a multi-day hike, camping along the way.
If hiking isn’t your thing, there is also the option of rock climbing in the park. For this it may be preferable to go with a guide who knows the best places for a climb. Another very popular activity here is birdwatching, and there are a wide range of different species that you may get to see. Finally, fishing is also a fun activity for some at the Cajas National Park.
The weather in El Cajas National Park is similar to elsewhere in the Ecuadorian highlands. Generally speaking, you can expect the unexpected, and you can easily experience four seasons in one day. It is best to be well-prepared for this when you visit El Cajas, as it is a natural, outdoor area, and there are few places to hide from bad weather if this comes in. The weather is unpredictable at least in part because the park sits at a high altitude of between 2,800 meters to 4,400 meters. You are likely to have better weather between June and September, and perhaps in December and January, but the weather will be unpredictable whenever you visit.
There is no marked high season distinction in El Cajas National Park. You can expect it to generally be busier between June and September and over Christmas and the New Year, as these times are when the weather is better, and more people travel. It can also get busier around Ecuadorian public holidays – we can advise on this.
Getting there and around Getting to El Cajas National Park is not particularly easy. You can try and take public transport from Cuenca, but this is not straightforward. If you take the bus you can get off at Lago Torreadora. Here there is a tourist office where you can register to enter the park. The journey takes about 45 minutes from Cuenca. Getting back is harder because not all buses will stop at Lago Torreadora, so you may be waiting a while. It is probably best to take a tour, either private or shared to explore the delights of the national park, as this is likely to be the most time-efficient way to do things. Aside from going from Cuenca, you might also choose to fly into Cuenca from Quito, and then travel from the airport to the national park, most likely by private transportation. Getting around once at the park will either be on foot or via private transportation.
The most noteworthy nearby attraction to El Cajas is the city of Cuenca itself – usually considered the main jumping off point for the national park. There is plenty to see and do in Cuenca and around to keep you occupied for many days.
There are various places that you might choose to stay near the Cajas National Park. One option, just a couple of miles away from the park is Hosteria Cabanas del Pescador. Another is Hosteria Dos Chorreras. This is only six miles away from the National Park. Since Cuenca is only about 45 minutes away, you may just want to stay in Cuenca, where there are more facilities and plenty of restaurants to choose from. More adventurous souls might enjoy camping within the El Cajas Park.
One of our Insider recommendations is to make sure you schedule a bit of time for hiking in El Cajas National Park, since it is simply stunning. Be aware however, that the trails are not well marked, so it is helpful (and safer!) to go with a guide. Aim to go in the morning because the weather is generally better then. Also, the park authority only has a certain number of people that it can let in per day, so if you arrive late you might be disappointed.
We offer customized and personalized tours all over Ecuador, including the Southern Highlands, and we can include time in El Cajas National Park on your trip. Get in touch today and we can help you organize your Ecuador trip to include this stunning area in the Ecuadorian highlands.