One of Ecuador´s best kept secrets is its very own Inca Trail that, other than its Peruvian counterpart, is never crowded! The Qhapac Ñan network of stone-paved roads, a World Heritage Patrimony since 2014, was constructed by the legendary Incas over several centuries. It had an extension of over 6000 km. from Colombia all the way to Argentina. In Ecuador, the trail ran from north to south with several crossroads connecting to the Amazon and the Coast.
This 3-day trek follows the remnants of the ancient Inca Trail between Achupallas and Ingapirca. It crosses Sangay National Park with beautiful highland lakes and paramo flowers, heading to the indigenous communities and Ingapirca ruins in Cañar province. A wonderful combination of nature, history and culture.
The Inca Trail trek requires a good physical fitness and a basic acclimatization for the altitude. The average hiking times are 4 hours on day 1 and day 3, while day 2 is a long hiking day of about 7 hours.
This trek is apt for families with children who like hiking and camping. The emergency horse is available if one of the hikers (child or adult) needs a break, and to assist when crossing the stream.
At 8.00 a.m. our driver and guide will pick you up from your hotel for the 2,5-hour drive to the village of Achupallas at 3300 m. / 10.827 ft. altitude. Our muleteers will be waiting to pack all gear and supplies on the donkeys. We start the hike going gently uphill and will cross the pass between Mapahuiña and Callana Pucará hills. The trail follows the Cadrul river upstream, passing Cuchicorral, the first Inca ruins along the trek. After 4 – 5 hours hiking we set up our first camp at about 3950 m./ 12.960 ft. Dinner and time for stargazing!
Today´s route offers peaceful solitude amidst superb sceneries. From the campsite we head uphill to Laguna Tres Cruces and on to the Tres Cruces ridge, with 4400 m. / 14.436 ft. the highest point of this trek. Enjoy the beautiful view of Sansahuín, one of the many lakes in Sangay National Park. We start a long descent into the Espindola Valley, where the vegetation gets lusher. While hiking downhill you can distinguish the remains of the Inca road. The trail continues along the Laguna Culebrillas to Paredones ruins, that used to be a resting place for Incan couriers. The last stretch follows a well preserved, 7 meters wide part of the Qhapac Ñan. We pitch our tents near Patococha Lake, at 3800 m. / 12.467 ft.
After breakfast we prepare for the hike from Patococha to Ingapirca, at 3160 m. / 10.367 ft. Leaving the remote paramo highlands behind, we descend through farmlands and small indigenous communities. After a few hours of hiking, we can see the Ingapirca ruins in the distance. We will arrive at the archeological site around noon. The highlight of these Inca ruins is the elliptically shaped Temple of Sun, designed by the Inca architects to worship the sun. After exploring the ruins and the site museum, we have lunch in a local restaurant. In the afternoon private transfer back to Riobamba, arrive at around 17.00 p.m. (or optional transfer to Cuenca).