Cajas National Park – The jewel of Azuay

Stef Zisovska
 
Image credit: Delphine Ménard

Cajas National Park is located in the province of Azuay where the Andean mountains are very old and have less volcanic activity, unlike the Northern Andes which are full of highly volcanic peaks.

The mountains in this area form large and spectacular lagoons that cover significant areas of the Park and give the whole place a magical feeling like it’s from a fantasy movie.

 

National Park Cajas
Lagoons

Toreadora is one of the biggest lagoons in Cajas and it is only a 40 minute bus ride from Cuenca, the capital city of Azuay Province. Toreadora lagoon is visible from the road, where the bus is often stopped by lamas who cross freely through the park and take their cubs from one place to another.

The altitude of Toreadora lagoon is 3955 meters (12975 ft) above sea level which makes it susceptible to rapid and severe weather changes.

Toreadora Lagoon

This National Park has a very interesting history. Between the years 500 to 1450, the Cañari people were living in the territories of the Park and they worshiped the Moon, the lakes, and the mountains. These were considered to be the sacred places of the Park up until the Incas conquered the region.

One of the most famous trails is the “Inca Trail”. It crosses the Park and is a strategic trail between the highlands and the coast. Almost 4 km (2.5 miles) of this road have been restored and can be used within the Park, between the Luspa and the Mamamag lagoon. The Park was declared a national park on May 11, 1996.

 

One of the many lagoons in the Park

The vegetation in the Park mainly consists of paper trees, mosses, ferns and some species of orchids. There are also many species of hardwood trees. The most common plant species, besides the paper tree, are Rosemary and Valerian root.

 

The fauna at Cajas National Park is made up of hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The animals most likely to be seen in the Park are rabbits, lamas and ducks. Sometimes you can also see white-tail deer, Andean tapir, and condors, but these species are very rare and tend to hide from the visitors.

Many people enjoy camping near the lagoons, it is exciting and gives you a real feeling of adventure. If you decide to camp make sure that your tent is well sealed or you’ll have a cold, wet and unpleasant time. Take plenty of blankets and layers of clothing as temperatures at the Park range between -4 to 20 C. The weather can change quickly and you can find yourself in the middle of fog, rain and even frost.

 

The Inca Trail

Before you go there be aware of the altitude and prepare yourself for frigid temperature during the night. You should wear a pair of sturdy shoes that you won’t regret wearing on a long walk. Also take a sweater, a pair of sunglasses, a scarf, a container of sunscreen ( if it’s sunny you can get easily burned), a bottle of water and a raincoat for the showers.

In the end, you will enjoy the amazing, unique, and unforgettable experience of visiting and scouting Cajas National Park while you escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. You won’t regret going there and you will never forget your wonderful adventure.

 

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