When thinking about the Inca, what will spring to mind for most people is Peru. Yet Ecuador also has its own Inca history, ruins and trekking options that are interesting to explore. For many visitors this adds an additional attraction to Ecuador, and there are a number of opportunities to learn about and experience the evidence of the Inca in this country. Here we will consider the history of the Inca in Ecuador, some of the key Inca ruins, and some hiking in Inca country.
Having built up …. In Peru, the Inca people began expanding into Ecuador. This began in the mid-fifteenth century in 1463. The charge was led by Patacuti, an Inca warrior, and he was joined by his son Topa Yupanqui. By the turn of the sixteenth century the fall of Ecuador was complete, and the Inca ruled throughout.
However, the reign of the Inca was relatively short lived. The situation all changed with the arrival of the Spanish in 1532. During 1534, the Spanish managed to secure Quito and drive the Inca out. The ultimate result of this was the fall of the Inca empire across most of the country, though some small strongholds remained.
Ecuador does not have grand Inca ruins such as Machu Picchu in Peru, but it does have its fair share of Inca sites of historic interest. The biggest of these is Ingapirca, situated in the Cañar province and not too far from Cuenca. It is believed that the Incapirca site was used for storage to support the war effort, allowing the Inca to extend north. The Temple of the Sun is an interesting building here, and it is also possible to observe the presence of an aqueduct.
Rumicucho is another Inca ruins worthy of a visit. This is a distance north of Quito, fairly close to the equator. It is the site of an Inca hilltop fortress, and from this site there are excellent views across the countryside around, which would have made it a good point for defending the territory.
Cuenca also has some Inca ruins that are interesting. One such site is Pumpapungo, which is found in the southern Andean town of Cuenca. They may have formerly been a part of an Inca city which was called Tomebamba. There is also a good museum at this site where you can see some of the archaeological finds from this site.
You may be surprised to learn that Ecuador has its own Inca Trail. This is less well known than its Peruvian big brother, which means it has the significant benefit of a lot fewer hikers. In fact, if you decide to hike the Inca Trail in Ecuador, you may well find that you do not see any other tourists during your trek. The Inca Trail trek in Ecuador is usually completed across three days and covers approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles), camping along the way. The hike can be organized in different ways, with different lengths of hikes on different days, though the option described below is one fairly common way of doing the trip.
On the first day you may start in Riobamba, from where you drive to a small town in the highlands called Achupallas. Your hike begins here, at an altitude of 3300 meters (10,800 feet). On the first day you typically hike around four hours. An alternative option is to start from Alausi and drive to Achupallas from there. There is also accommodation to stay overnight in Achupallas, if that appeals.
The second day takes in Cuchilla de Tres Cruces, which is the highest point of the trek at 4400 meters above sea level (14,400 feet). From here, on a clear day you can expect to enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, including Sansahuin Lake. Later on that day you pass the Paredones ruins, which the Inca used as a resting point in years gone by. Finally, you drop down to Patacocha to rest for the night.
Day three is the last day of trekking and includes a four hour walk to the Inca ruins of Ingapirca, at an altitude of 3160 meters (10,400 feet). Here you can take in the site and get to understand more about the Inca, and other historic peoples in this area. Your hike ends at Ingapirca, and from here you may transfer back to Riobamba, or on to Cuenca to enjoy more Inca ruins.
If you plan to hike the Ecuadorian Inca Trail, be sure to bring the right clothing with you. It can get chilly, and the weather can be changeable. You may want to consider bringing gaiters, as certain parts of the hike can get a bit boggy at times.