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This tour consists of fantastic virgin landscapes - high jungle, green mountains, moors... -, beautiful cities and towns, as well as wonderful people. This southern section of the country deserves your visit to know (at least) the following places:


  • Vilcabamba

  • Loja

  • Podocarpus National Park

  • Cuenca

  • Cajas National Park


In a beautiful and peaceful valley lies this village, known for the high life expectancy that its countrymen reach. Therefore, this valley is also known as the Valley of Longevity. Nobody knows which part is true and which part is myth, but the fact is that many “vilcabambenses” have lived longer than 100 years. Probably the peace that emanates from its forests and rivers, the fantastic climate and the relaxed rhythm of life play a beneficial role for health.


People mainly come here to rest and disconnect by walking around (there are beautiful mountains and a river surrounding the city), as well as to meet travelers from many corners of the world. But there are other interesting additional plans, such as going to the southern part of the Podocarpus National Park or visiting some panela factory, a regional candy made with sugar cane (there are several factories nearby).


Nice university colonial city in a beautiful mountain setting, already close to the jungle. The capital of the homonymous province has some attractions that make it worthy of a visit: its streets and stately buildings, its beautiful parks, art and music expressions in every corner... And, of course, its proximity to the incredible Podocarpus National Park (northern section).

Podocarpus National Park

This protected area of enormous biodiversity, halfway between the mountain and the jungle, has three entrance doors: from Vilcabamba (south access), from Zamora (east), and from Loja (north). The northern and southern sectors are located at higher elevations, with a predominant forest habitat, while the eastern one shelters the green lowlands. I visited the north part, but all sectors are recommended.


The Park has many trails (some of a few kilometers, others longer) that will take you through the leafy mountainous forest to powerful rivers and falls (is there anything better than cool off in a waterfall in the middle of the jungle?). There are places to camp and even some shelter.


 Note. The podocarpus is the only native conifer species of Ecuador.


One of the most beautiful cities in South America: the Athens of Ecuador! Its spectacular Historical Center, its cultural richness, the past and present together, as evidenced by colonial and indigenous art, its delicious gastronomy, its location in the Andes mountain range, its dream surroundings... The traveler needs to come to the capital of the province of Azuay to discover its history, architecture, museums, people and surroundings. It is worth mentioning the Inca ruins of Ingapirca, picturesque villages and indigenous communities and, above all, nature in abundance. The Cajas National Park stands out.

Cajas National Park

Welcome to the high moor, where you can walk through the clouds, the inhospitable lands do not give life to many trees and yet, the vegetation is amazing (incredible little plants and colorful flowers), there are bodies of water scattered everywhere and birds are by far the leading figures. While this park is huge and has many routes, most are difficult to access, needing to travel small dirt roads. There is no public transport, so if you are interested in doing some particular hike you will have to rent a car or hitchhike to the start of the trail.


Most of us are ok with exploring the Park in the simplest way: going through the road that crosses the Park in the north, connecting Cuenca and Guayaquil. In addition to the viewpoints along the way, you will probably want to stop at the Visitor Center, next to the Toreadora Lagoon, from where a circular path of about 7 or 8 km starts.


It is an exciting walk that takes you to go up mountains from which you get unparalleled views of that paramo ecosystem, go through quinoa forests, skirt small lagoons where reeds and tiny birds share the space and, best of all, breathe the purest air. Next to the Visitor Center there is an interesting Interpretive Center on the Park’s geology and biology. Near Toreadora also starts other route in a southerly direction where you can camp freely.

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