Beautiful High Mountain Range in the Andes
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Cajas National Park is a unique nature reserve in the Andes mountains in Ecuador. It is located between 3,200 and over 4,400 meters and is home to both forests and páramo. These are high-altitude wet grasslands. Read about the best sights of Cajas National Park. This article also provides tips for the best excursions to do.
There are two entrances to the park. I visited both of them, which can be done in one day. Although you could easily spend two days exploring the area. Both offer various hiking trails, with opportunities to see wildlife. Some luck is needed, but biologists often spot Andean condors flying overhead. To be fair, these birds are so large, that you won't easily miss them.
The lower part has different vegetation compared to the much higher part. There is a lake, you can walk around it over a nice path. Most likely you will see a unique bird, the Andean Gull. This is the only species of gull that lives in the mountains. This part of the park can only be reached via a bumpy dirt road, which is sometimes very difficult to access. It is definitely worth going.
The road between the cities of Cuenca and Guayaquil passes through the upper part of the park. This makes it easily accessible. And explains why this part is the most popular. However, it is also the most impressive.
Here you will find the Laguna Toreadora, a beautiful lake with the El Refugio visitor centre. There is also a small museum about the rich nature in the area. You can find photos and information about many animals that live in the park, as well as information about the unique plants and shrubs. You can buy some food and drinks in a small café.
The most beautiful hike goes around the lake, after which you can go even higher for a lovely view. Along the way, you'll encounter numerous unique plants. The sound of traffic can be a bit distracting, but soon you won't hear the cars anymore.
From the visitor centre, you can choose various hiking trails. Most of them last approximately one and a half to three hours to hike. Make sure you have the right clothing with you, as the weather can change quickly. A raincoat is always handy to bring along.
The immense nature reserve is located less than an hour's drive from the historic city Cuenca. Cajas, as it is commonly called, is therefore a popular excursion from the city. You can also visit the area with excursions from the city. I did the day excursion and found it intriguing. The upper part of the park is easily accessible by public transport. Ask for the timetable on site. You can get to Cajas by taxi within an hour.
Most visitors stay in the city of Cuenca. In this lovely city, you can find hotels, hostels, and bed & breakfasts in various price ranges.