How to Visit Ingapirca Ruins from Cuenca: A Guide for Budget Travelers
Ingapirca ruins are the largest archeological complex in Ecuador, and it is really worth to visit if you plan on traveling in this part of the country. Read our guide on how to visit Ingapirca ruins from Cuenca independently or with a tour, and our tip on how to make your trip more comfortable and cheaper.
Although Ecuador is a small South American country, it offers an incredible diversity and an uncountable number of places worth visiting.
We arrived in Cuenca after spending some time in Riobamba where we biked down Chimborazo volcano and were planning to slowly cross borders to Peru, as we could not wait to see some of the most famous Inca ruins.
When we were looking for the best things to see and do in Cuenca, we found information about Ecuador's largest archeological site and decided we must see it as a starter before hitting Kuelap or Machu Picchu ruins.
Ingapirca, an interesting archeological site showing the blend of two cultures - Cañari and Inca is quite easily accessible and makes it for a great one-day trip from Cuenca.
Read our guide on how to visit Ingapirca ruins independently with tips on where to stay, what to pack, and what to see.
BRIEF HISTORY OF INGAPIRCA
The area around Ingapirca had been settled a long time before Incas arrived by Cañari indigenous people (their descendants, by the way, live in the area until today). Incas arrived at the end of the 15th century.
Incas needed a strategically located settlement from where they could patrol the large empire.
There are two versions of how Incas overruled the Cañaris. One story says they defeated them in a long battle, the other story says Incas used political strategies such as marrying the local women to win the fortress.
Either way, it is interesting that at the end Incas and Cañari people lived in the settlement peacefully side by side.
Ingapirca is 3200 meters above sea level and the position overlooking the surrounding valley was very important for Incas, unfortunately, it did not help them against Spaniards who arrived in the 16th century, and partially destroyed the site.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING INGAPIRCA
When traveling to Ingapirca, you should remember is lies in an altitude, 3200 meters above sea level, so unless you are well-acclimatize, you can experience mild altitude sickness. To avoid it, drink lots of water.
Also, this region is known for the harsh weather which can change any minute. It rains, the sun shines, and the wind blows and it just goes on and on, so arrive well-prepared.
HOW TO VISIT INGAPIRCA RUINS FROM CUENCA
It is quite easy to get from Cuenca to Ingapirca ruins either independently or with a tour, but it does not change the fact that it is quite time-consuming.
We've put together all the information on the best ways how to make this popular one-day trip from Cuenca, plus we share one helpful tip which will save your time and money if you are traveling on a budget or a strict schedule.
Public Transport | As we wanted to travel to Ingapirca from Cuenca independently, we had to head in the morning to Terminal Terrestre, from where we took a regular bus at 9 AM to Ingapirca. This bus goes directly to the ruins and waits there approximately two hours (leaves usually at 1 PM back, but check the up to date schedule with driver), and you will return with the same bus to Cuenca, the only disadvantage is that it stops way too often and one way journey takes between 2.5 to 3 hours. There is one more bus scheduled from Cuenca at 1 PM, but we would definitely prefer the morning one. The ticket cost $3.5 one way (plus you must pay $0.10 to get on the platform).
Car | Ecuador is a small country, and travelers usually get around by bus the same as we did, but there is an option to rent a car at Cuenca's airport only for a day or two, depending on how long you want to explore the area. Hiring a car is definitely the most comfortable and quickest way how to get from Cuenca to Ingapirca. In case you decide to go this way, you will have to pick up and drop off the car at the airport, but the truth is it is pretty close to the city center.
Tour | Honestly, we do not think that traveling from Cuenca to Ingapirca with a tour is worth it, but it is still definitely an option. The only difference when traveling with the tour is that you do not have to go to the bus terminal, and the drive will be a bit faster as you won't be picking up locals every 20 meters. There is a guide service included, but you must pay for the guide either way as it is not allowed to wander around the complex independently.
Our Tip: Although Ingapirca is an interesting site, and we would include it on every best Ecuador itinerary, you will spend quite a lot of time on a bus for only an hour, maximum two hours exploring the ruins.
In case you are short on time, traveling on a strict budget or simply seek another option on how to visit Ingapirca, you can get there from small villages such as Cañar or El Tambo.
When traveling between Cuenca to Riobamba or in the opposite direction, you can get off at one of those small villages, and either stay there overnight or take a colectivo to the site and then catch a bus to either Cuenca or Riobamba.
This way you don't have to retrace your steps and lose one day.
ECUADOR'S INCA TRAIL
We do not know if you've heard about it, but Ecuador also has its Inca Trail.
It is not that famous or spectacular as the same name trek in Peru, but it is for sure an interesting experience, and if you have three spare days, this might be a program you are looking for.
The trek starts at Achupallas (you need to get there from Alausi) and ends at Ingapirca ruins.
The hike is not that long, but note you will go via Ecuadorian countryside, where the path can easily get muddy, you will all the time walk above 3000 meters and sleep in the tent, which makes this adventure a bit more challenging. You can trek the Inca trail on own, but it is compulsory to have at least some wilderness experience and navigating skills.
If we inspired you to walk this trail but you are not sure if you can do it on your own, check out this multi-day tour.
WHERE TO STAY IN CUENCA
Cuenca is the prettiest colonial city in Ecuador, and thanks to its popularity, it is not hard to find here accommodation which suits almost every budget.
The city center is approximately 2 kilometers from the bus terminal where you need to get to travel to Ingapirca independently, but it is a walkable distance, or there is an option to take a taxi.
We've handpicked three best hotels for every type of traveler.
Budget | Selina Cuenca - Perfect location, beautiful and clean facilities for a cheap price, co-working place, kitchen, and terrace - you probably won't find a better deal in Cuenca.
Mid-range | Hostal Mariscal Inn & Suites - Reasonably priced hotel which offers the best value for your money in Cuenca. Comfortable beds, excellent breakfast, and a great atmosphere are the main reasons why to stay here.
Luxury | Mansion Alcazar - Colonial boutique hotel in the center of Cuenca offers comfortable spacious rooms, perfect service, and tasty breakfast. Top pick for everyone looking for a higher standard.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
WHAT TO PACK FOR VISITING INGAPIRCA RUINS
When traveling from Cuenca by public transport but even with a tour, visiting Ingapirca will take you one full day.
You will spend most of your time on a bus (2.5 - 3 hours one way), and then you will walk around the archeological complex where the weather is very changeable and can be rainy at times. That's why you should travel to Ingapirca well-prepared.
Here are essential things you should pack with you for this great one-day trip from Cuenca.
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