El Cajas National Park in the highlands of Southern Ecuador is called ‘the Lake District,’ of the country for good reason-it has the most lakes per square mile of any other place in the world. Located close to the colonial city of Cuenca, the park offers respite from the hustle and bustle of busy travel days, and its scenery and wildlife gives nature lovers a chance to stretch their legs and enjoy the natural attractions of the country. Keep reading for five big reasons to include it on your list while exploring Ecuador.
Cajas National Park has 152 different species of birds including the Andean condor, violet-throated metaltail, the red-rumped bush-tyrant, the giant conebill, and the tit-like dances-all species that are hard to spot in other parts of the country. Andean ducks are often spotted off the shores of the lagoons. Other birds to look out for are tanagers and twenty-four different kinds of hummingbirds.
Happy Gringo Travel’s Southern Highlights Birding Tour devotes a day to explore the area in the company of an expert bird guide who is very familiar with the area and knows where to find different species of birds within the park’s borders.
Cajas National Park is home to an intriguing variety of land creatures that are often seen on hikes in the lowlands. Llamas, alpacas, deer, foxes, and wild horses are a few of the animals seen on trips here. Happy Gringo has several tours that include the park as part of the itinerary-allowing you to explore the flora and fauna in the company of a naturalist guide.
The landscape of the park is astonishing. High peaks overlook pristine lakes, lowland rivers lead to wooded forests, and lookout points give you a bird’s eye view of the sprawling tundra at every angle.
Highlights include the Lake Torreadora and Lake Luspa. Lake Luspa is the largest body of water inside the park and is reached by walking on part of the ancient Inca trail inside the park. The Inca built a road that crossed the park and connected present-day Cuenca to the coast. Lowland rivers that cross the park’s artic like tundra produce a series of small waterfalls that make hiking and crossing the waterways an adventure. The rivers here also play an essential part in nearby Cuenca, they supply the water for the city.
The Continental Divide is located inside the park, marked by three crosses and reached by an easy hike.
For the adventurous and intrepid alike, El Cajas National Park has something for everyone. Stunning lakes, hard to find birdlife, and rare wildlife make exploring a worthwhile day trip. For those who want to explore on longer treks, Happy Gringo can help arrange multiple-day hikes further into the park with knowledgeable guides.