Memorable High-Altitude Hike in Cajas National Park – Ecuador

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Day 12 of our Ecuador adventure, we left Cuenca, our favourite city in Ecuador,
and after a short drive arrived in Cajas National Park (CNP).

{For the busy reader, here are some stunning photos of CNP in the public domain}

CNP is a high-altitude area west of Cuenca, Ecuador, well-known for trails through evergreen cloud forests and hundreds of lakes, such as Laguna Toreadora {for photos in public domain open this link}. It’s also home to rich wildlife including Andean condors, giant hummingbirds and raccoon-like coatis.

We arrived at CNP in the rain, so decided to take a light-lunch before completing a two-hour high altitude hike – this is typical weather in evergreen cloud forest. It was billed as a stunning area of lofty peaks, lagoons, lakes and rivers amidst pristine paramo vegetation – there are 125 bird species recorded in this CNP, such as Yellow-billed pintails, Ecuadorean hillstar or Violet-throated metaltail. With good weather, the views are stunning.

Unfortunately, we started our high-altitude hike in the rain, so the visibility for photos was reduced. But during the walk we were able to remove waterproofs. We followed a well-marked track with our regular guide and a local nature guide. The going was a bit rugged and mushy in places. But the principle challenge for a number of our group was walking at high altitude – we were at 4,000 meters. Fortunately, we both had no problems that day with symptoms of altitude sickness.

After the walk, we had a short drive to our accommodation for the night, which was a comfortable hostaria. We had the luxury of underfloor heating in our room. But for dinner, the room was so cold that Alf went and collected our down body warmers – he started a trend and by the end of the evening a number of our group were clad in their warmest clothes. Although we were close to the Equator, at 4,000 meters, it seriously cold at night.

Here’s a selection of our best photos – hyperlink the photo below to activate the full collection:

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