Trip Number: 13775A
Price: $3,525 (11-14)
$4,195 (or fewer)
Staff: Angela White
- Trek on ancient footpaths to Inca archeological sites, temples, observatories,
and Ingapirca, the famous sun temple
- Camp and hike in Cajas National Park, a unique natural area
- Experience the Andean Paramo ecosystem and the traditional Quechua Andean
highland culture, unchanged for centuries
- All accommodation, private transport, most meals, and gratuities
- On-trip guide
- All trek support, camping equipment, porter/mule service, and most meals
Photo: Neblina Forest
The Inca empire was connected by a road system by which food, trading, and
messages would be taken from coastal communities to mountain settlements and
the royal families. The messengers were called Chasquis and could run up to
100 miles in a day at very high altitudes. The roads were constructed of stone
and many have now disappeared with time. We will trek on the parts that have
been best preserved, making it possible to experience an ancient way of life
and current Andean Highland culture. The environment at this altitude is called
the paramo and has unique plant and animal life, adapted to the harsh climatic
The trek starts at Achupallas, a small village about four hours from Cuenca,
and ends at Cojitambo, an important observatory (Canari-Inca) built on the top
of a mountain. We will pass through Ingapirca, the most important sun-worshipping
temple of the Incas and the best preserved Inca ruins in all of Ecuador, then
onto the Continental Divide to end our trek with views all over the valley and
mountain ranges. The first two nights are camping and the second two are in
a beautiful old Spanish hacienda.
To prepare for the trek, we will visit and camp at Cajas National Park, a high-altitude
ecosystem with plant and bird species unique to the area.
Day 1: Arrive in Quito.
Photo: Neblina Forest
Day 2: We will gather for a welcome meeting with the group
at our hotel. Afterward, we will spend the day touring the beautiful city of
Quito and visiting the Mitad del Mondo, the equatorial site. This will help
us get used to the altitude as Quito is at 8,850 feet. (B, L, D)
Day 3: Today we will fly to Cuenca, a gorgeous Spanish-style
city, and travel directly to the trailhead at Cajas National Park. We will hike
in the paramo ecosystem at 12,000' , through podolepis forests with their endemic
birds and plants, and by mist-covered lakes and mountain summits. (7 miles,
1,500' elevation change). (B, L, D)
Day 4: We will trek out of the Park and return to Cuenca for
the night. This short trek helps with acclimation to the altitude and allows
us to be better prepared for our longer trek. You have the afternoon free to
explore the city, and dinner is on your own tonight. (B, L)
Day 5: We will leave the hotel early in the morning, and take
the van from here to the trailhead and Achupallas (10,000'). From here we continue
trekking to Tres Cruces (11,800'), our home for the night. We will be hiking
very slowly to allow for the significant elevation change at a high altitude.
(1,800' elevation change, 5 hours hiking.) (B, L, D)
Day 6: From Tres Cruces, we will hike along old Inca trails,
over a 14,000' pass with outstanding 360-degree views of all surrounding mountain
areas, then continue on to the Inca ruins at Paredones (12,000') in Sangay National
Park. Here, we will spend the night and imagine we are in the company of the
spirits of ancient Inca warriors. (2,200' elevation up, 2,000' elevation down,
5 hours hiking.) (B, L, D)
Day 7: Today, we will continue on the Inca trail to Ingapirca,
the most important sun-worshipping temple of the Incas and the best preserved
Incan ruins in all Ecuador. We will pass through the Andean village of San Jose,
through Andean farm land and then on to our destination, where we will stay
in an old Spanish hacienda next to Incapirca. (2,000' elevation change down,
6 hours hiking.) (B, L, D)
Photo: Angela White
Day 8: Today is a layover day and time to hike and explore
Ingapirca and all its history. In the morning, we will return to an Inca trail
and walk through the countryside to another Inca site, recently excavated and
opened to the public. On the way, we will pass a ritual bathing site and an
Inca face carved into a cliff. As we walk, we can enjoy watching the local life
-- families working on the farms and taking the animals to graze, children going
to school, grandparents watching the babies in the fields. The bus will bring
us back to the hotel and the whole afternoon will be spent at Incapirca. Lunch
is on your own in one of the local cafes at the site. (500' elevation change,
3 hours hiking.) (B, D)
Day 9: Our final day on the Inca trail system! We will hike
along a path that was an Inca trail going to Cuenca, through a wonderful narrow
canyon, and along the path with incredible views of the surrounding scenery.
We finish our trek at the Continental Divide, looking down at the city of Cuenca.
From here the van takes us to Cuenca and the hotel. Dinner is on your own tonight.
(1,000' elevation up, 6 hours hiking.) (B, L, D)
Day 10: The bus picks us up at the hotel and we spend the
day driving back to Quito. We will see different ecosystems, farming crops,
and local dresses as we drive up the mountain roads. We will make several stops
at points of interest and arrive in Quito by late afternoon, in time to settle
in to the hotel and have a delicious farewell dinner. (B, L, D)
Day 11: Our trip will end after breakfast. We bid our sad
farewells to our fellow adventurers and leave for the airport.
The itinerary is subject to modification, depending on weather and other conditions.
You will fly into Quito, Ecuador, arriving late evening on August 24, and
fly home from Quito on September 3. No visas or immunizations are needed to
enter the country, but your passport must be good for six months after the date
of exiting Ecuador.
Ecuador is a beautiful country and, of course, has the added attraction of
the Galapagos Islands. You are encouraged to come early or stay after the trip
to visit some of Ecuador's special places.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Angela White
We will be staying in comfortable three-star hotels, locally owned when possible.
Rooming will be in double rooms with private bathrooms. Single travelers will
be assigned a same-sex roommate. There may be single accommodation available
on a limited basis. You can request this and pay the extra charge. Any "forced"
single room will be rotated between the single participants.
Single person tents will not be available on the trek. All two-person tents
and equipment are provided by the trekking staff and you will only need to provide
your Therm-a-Rest and sleeping bag.
The food will be fresh, local, and delicious. Typical Andean food consists
of soups with quinoa and vegetables, and main courses of meat, rice, and vegetables.
It is possible to accommodate vegetarians. Please note that most meals are provided.
Two dinners and one lunch are not included in the price, giving you the opportunity
to sample local food -- maybe even guinea pig!
This is a moderately strenuous hiking trip at high altitude. We do not go
over any really high passes and our highest point is 14,200'. It is important
for participants to recognize the need to train for this trip, using a personal
regime of hiking and other aerobic activities on a regular daily basis.
Travel in South America is always an adventure! We will all need to be flexible
and have a sense of humor when the unplanned and unexpected happens.
Equipment and Clothing
An equipment list will be sent to the participants at a later date.
- Rachowiecki, Rob and Danny Palmerlee, Lonely Planet: Ecuador and the
- Dixon, Grant, Greg Coure and Rob Rachowiecki, Trekking in the Central
- Storey, Jackey, Enchanted in Ecuador High Andes.
- Whitaker, Robert, The Map Makers Wife.
- "Genesis of the Incas," National Geographic magazine, April 2011.
Photo: Angela White
Deforestation is one of Ecuador's biggest problems, resulting in habitat destruction,
soil erosion, reduction of fertility in farmland, and changes in traditional
methods of agriculture and lifestyles. Ecotourism has helped keep this at bay
and we will see how correct land management can profit everyone.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Angela White has led many International Outings for the Sierra Club in South America and has visited Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil several times. She lives in Truckee, situated in the mountains of California, with her significant other and their dog, Wiley and spends her time hiking, XC skiing and going to yoga and Zumba classes. Angela is looking forward to introducing you to the Quechua culture and sharing the magnificent Andean Highlands with you.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips