Welcome to Southern Highlands

Veering from chilly, elfin woodland to humid lowland forest, the region is home to a huge diversity of wildlife and landscapes; make time for a trip to at least one of the region’s national parks.

Most journeys begin in Cuenca, a classic South American traveler hub with one of the continent's best-preserved colonial centers. Then it’s a choose-your-own-adventure romp through seldom-visited ancient settlements and untrammeled wild areas toward vibrant, museum-rich Loja and balmy Vilcabamba. From here, forays begin into stark ocher hills, along verdant slopes where Ecuador's best coffee is cultivated and down into sticky semitropical forest.

Top experiences in Southern Highlands

Travel guides

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Southern Highlands activities

$60 Day Trips & Excursions

Cajas National Park Day Trip Including Lunch

ItineraryThis is a typical itinerary for this productStop At: El Cajas National Park, Cuenca, Azuay ProvinceTOUR DETAILS : • Lenght: 8 hours approx. • Start / Finish: Cuenca • Activity Level: Moderate to ChallengingDESCRIPTION:  Be picked up from your accommodation in the morning and drive for approximately 1 hour to Cajas National Park, located 30km west of Cuenca. During this tour you’ll visit two altitude levels within the park. In the middle part (3,960 meters), you will walk about 3 hours in the Toreadora area, depending on the pace of the group. The trek will give you the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery, including the Polylepis Forest and moor-like Paramo, whilst the guide provides information about the flora and fauna of the area. After lunch at a nearby restaurant, you’ll visit Llaviuco (3150 meters). Located in the lower part of the park, this area is part of a different ecosystem known as montage primary forest. Here you’ll and have a walk around the lake for about 1 ½ hour.Duration: 7 hours

$75 Cultural & Theme Tours

Devil's Nose Train and Ingapirca Ruins Day Trip from Cuenca

ItineraryThis is a typical itinerary for this productStop At: The Devil's Nose Train Ride, Riobamba, Chimborazo ProvinceExperience two of the most interesting destinations in our country. After hotel pick up you will travel to Alausi, a little town considered a national heritage. In this charming town you will take the train known as "The Devil’s Nose". In its day it was considered one of the greatest feats of engineering that the world had seen. This railway was built in 1899 with the intent of linking the coastal city of Guayaquil with the highlands capital of Quito. This amazing ride traverses and descends an almost perpendicular mountain face by using switchbacks. Many lives were lost in the construction of this extraordinary railway. Duration: 3 hoursStop At: Ingapirca Ruins, Ingapirca, Canar ProvinceOur trip continues on the Pan-American Highway to Ingapirca, which is the major Inca archeological site in Ecuador. You will have the chance to appreciate one of the most important Inca structures, an elliptical platform known as the “Sun’s Temple”. Courtyards, terraces and various other ruins are found here as well.Duration: 1 hourPass By: Cuenca Bestours, Cuenca, Azuay ProvinceAfter a full day of touring you will return to your accommodations in Cuenca.

$19 Tours & Sightseeing

Cuenca City Tour

ItineraryThis is a typical itinerary for this productStop At: El Barranco del Rio Tomebamba, Cuenca, Azuay ProvinceIt contains around 120 architectural structures, protected as assets of the city. It is the most important symbolic environment of the city. The formal, natural and cultural, visual and functional elements are confused in a unity of act, in a kind of urban melting pot of profound collective significance.Duration: 20 minutesStop At: Plaza de las flores, Cuenca, Azuay ProvinceLocated in the Historic Center of Cuenca, where around 25 vendors of flowers and plants, are placed with tents to sell all kinds of flowers, so it has become a tourist and traditional place for Cuenca.Duration: 15 minutesStop At: La Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepcion de Cuenca, Cuenca, Azuay ProvinceMost representative religious symbol of the city. Its location responds to the condition of centrality and religious power, in front of the central square, occupying half of the block located on the western side. Its volume, texture and color can be seen from all angles of Cuenca, including the surroundings. Its facade is made of stone and local marble, while the floor is covered with pink marbles, imported from Carrara (Italy).Duration: 20 minutesStop At: Homero Ortega, Cuenca, Azuay ProvincePanama Hat factory were you will to observe the complete process of manufacturing of the Panama hat which is undoubtedly most important to our country. Duration: 45 minutesStop At: Mirador de Turi, Cuenca, Azuay ProvinceLocated at the Turi zone in the south of the city. It is a natural viewpoint that offers a spectacular view of the city of Cuenca.Duration: 15 minutesPass By: Plaza de San Francisco, Cuenca, Azuay ProvinceExplore San Fransisco Market.

$45 Day Trips & Excursions

National Park of Cajas Full-Day Guide Tour from Cuenca

ItineraryThis is a typical itinerary for this productStop At: El Cajas National Park, Cuenca, Azuay ProvinceThe name "Cajas" is taken by the form of the mountains of the sector within which are the lakes and lagoons.A green bed surrounds the places that give life to this park. It is the right place for contact with nature.Duration: 3 hoursStop At: Laguna La Toreadora, Cuenca, Azuay ProvinceLocated 33 km from Cuenca, it is one of the most visited sites in the Park. From this point, you can access the environmental interpretation center of the area.Duration: 1 hour 30 minutesStop At: Mirador Tres Cruces, Dos Cuevas, Azuay ProvinceIt's a natural viewpoint that is located at 4,200 meters above sea level. From here you get the beautiful view of a part of the lagoon complex of the páramo. Although, the cold is very strong, its view is spectacular, typical for those who go with a spirit of adventure.Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

$25 Cultural & Theme Tours

Day Trip to Gualaceo and Chordeleg from Cuenca

ItineraryThis is a typical itinerary for this productStop At: Parque Chordeleg, Chordeleg, Azuay ProvinceChordeleg land of jewelers, there get gold and silver jewelry of all sizes, models and weight. Filigree Candonga Zarcillos Rings, the shoe store, the fabrics and the straw shawl, has made Chordeleg a craft center of great importance nationally and internationally.Duration: 1 hourPass By: Reserva y Museo de las Artes Populares, Cuenca, Azuay ProvinceLearn about Ecuador’s history and heritage at Cuenca’s CIDAP museum.

$50 Day Trips & Excursions

Cajas National Park Full-Day Small-Group Guided Tour

ItineraryThis is a typical itinerary for this productStop At: El Cajas National Park, Cuenca, Azuay ProvinceWe start out tour with hotel pick ups in Cuenca at 8am. We drive for about an hour to Toreadora refuge from where we will take a hike in the highlands through the moorland ecosystem of wetlands and lakes to get to the unique forest of Polylepis trees. These are the highest growing trees in the world and are native to South America. Afterwards, we will explore the Llaviuco Montane Forest where you will be able to appreciate the contrast of the park. After a full day adventure we drive back to Cuenca. We will stop at a local restaurant for lunch. The specialty is trout! The park includes approximately 768 lakes in an area of 70,533 acres. It is one of the most important water sources in Cuenca and Ecuador. It has gained international prominence in several categories: Wetland of International Importance in 2002 by RAMSAR, Area of International Importance for the Conservation of Birds by IBA in 2003 and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2013.Duration: 7 hoursPass By: Cuenca Bestours, Cuenca, Azuay Province.

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