El Cajas National Park, Protected Areas, Tourist Attractions
El Cajas National Park is 70,000 acres (29,000 ha) in size with as many as 250 lakes and ponds located within the park, making it vital water source in the region. Visitors can take advantage of a number of different fishing facilities, including fly-fishing facilities, at various lakes and ponds that are located amongst a number of striking peaks. This beautiful and varied landscape is easily accessible, with the main highway running straight through the park up to a point of 4500m before heading down to the coast. The National Park is only 29 km - about an hour away from Cuenca. This fact adds to the parks popularity as an "outdoor destination" and as a result a large number of visitors come to visit this spectacular reserve every year.
El Cajas National Park first became famous due to an apparent appearance of the Virgin, with the result being that many people flocked to the park to pray for miracles. The National Park is phenomenal, with landscapes that vary from rocky lunar lands to cloud forests elevated high in the mountains. It contains up to 125 different species of birds, like the Condor, Violet-tailed Metaltail, shining sunbeam and the sparkling violet-ear. Visitors should also look out for the beautiful water birds that populate the lakes, especially at Toreadora, the largest lake in the park. Apart from the beautiful birds you can observe the weird but striking mountain plants, such as the Puya Bromeliads which are a hairy flower that can reach three meters in height and are completely surrounded by wool.
If you are looking for a bit of exercise and solitude, then a hike across El Cajas National Park is a must. However keep in mind that being an experienced hiker and having a good sense of orientation is essential if you are to complete the hike in two days. If you would like to follow the trails, then you should definitely take a map with you. The weather also varies quite a lot, with the nights being particularly cool. You may even experience hail and rain, so make sure your clothing is appropriate. Hikers should also try to avoid snow by hiking between August and January, which are the dry months, although it is possible to hike through out the year.