The Beautiful Cajas National Park
Cajas National Park is located in the highlands of Ecuador, an older area of the Andes Mountains where there are no volcanoes. Declared a national park in 1996, it is a beautiful natural reserve with many unique characteristics. Elevations here rise from 3,100 to 4,450 feet above sea level. It is located 30 miles west of Cuenca. Cuenca is the capital of the province of Azuay and considered to be the most charming city in all of Equador. It takes less than one hour by bus to travel from Cuenca to Cajas National Park.
Especially of note in the park are the some 250 small lakes, ponds and lagoons. They are an important water source. Toreadora is one of the largest lakes at the main entrance to the park and Luspa is the largest overall, some 68m deep. Due to the humidity, low temperatures and high altitude, an ecosystem thrives which accumulates much organic material in the soil to retain water.
The lakes provide trout and sport fishing for visitors.
The park hosts a most interesting collection of mountain plants, especially the puya bromeliads. This plant grows hairy flower spike which can grow 3m and support many colorful flowers within the woolly stem. Polylepis trees have an unusual papery bark and it is one of the highest altitude growing trees in the world. They can be found at over 4,000 foot elevations. The Genciana sedifolia is a beautiful and tiny flower that grows in bunches in the tundra areas of the park.
There is a large variety of animal life in the reserve. Most notably, the highly endangered S. African condor makes its home here with only 80 remaining in the wild. The black and white raptor and the largest hummingbird in the world are among the other 157 species of birds. There is a large variety of insects. Larger animals include opossums, cats, bats, pumas, coatis, weasels, skunks, foxes, porcupines, pacas and shrews.
The jagged landscape of the hills and valleys in the Cajas National Park are great for hiking and trekking, especially during the drier season in August and September. Climbing, camping, fishing and birdwatching are eco-friendly activities that will provide the visitor with unforgettable memories.