29 Feb Visiting Ingapirca Ruins from Cuenca, Ecuador
Visiting Ingapirca – Ecuador’s largest site for ancient ruins – is a great day trip from Cuenca, Ecuador. This post shares what we learned about the ruins and how to get there.
How to Get to Ingapirca Ruins from Cuenca
From Cuenca, you can either arrange a package tour, drive yourself, or take public transit. For those wanting to travel independently by bus, the best option is to take the 9am bus from Terminal Terrestre. This bus goes all the way to the ruins, waits two+ hours, and returns to the bus station in Cuenca. It is $3.50 per person each way, plus 10 cents to get through the turnstile at Terminal Terrestre. There is supposedly a second bus that does the same route later in the day, but it may not always be running. Other buses are more frequent but would take you to the town of Cañari and you’d have to pay for a taxi to the ruins and find your way back as well.
If you haven’t had a chance to see more of the Andes to the North of Cuenca, you will really enjoy the views of the valleys and farmland out your window. It is a two hour trip but there’s a lot to see.
When you arrive at Ingapirca, buy a ticket at the information center (bathrooms are also available there), tell them if you want an English or a Spanish tour, and they will give you a tour time. We only had to wait about 15 minutes. Our group was about 10 people and the guide was a local who had a thick accent but was very animated. It’s my understanding that the guided tour is required – which really helps to get more out of the experience anyway, and it is included in the price of entry.
Although the ruins have not been preserved as well as other famous sites – they were discovered buried under farm land, the tribal history behind it was still very interesting. Here are some of the things we learned from our guide:
- The native Cañari were present at Ingapirca (and Cuenca) before the Incas. The Cañari worshipped the moon and maintained a matriarchal society. Their construction is characterized by round lines. The Incas, on the other hand, worshipped the sun, were patriarchal, and built in rectangular designs.
- Buried in one of the sacred sites, they found a richly-adorned female ruler surrounded by a circle of servants buried alongside her in the fetal position!
- The Incas could not conquer the Cañari so they actually allied with them, lived together and intermixed, and eventually overtook them – at least culturally – around 1470.
- Ingapirca’s ruins were uncovered under a farm, where only the sun temple had previously been exposed. Archeologists worked on the site around the 1970s.
- It estimated that about 80 people lived within Ingapirca, primarily people of religious and political importance. In the surrounding areas were another couple thousand inhabitants.
- The famous Incan stacked stones without mortar are only found in their most sacred spaces.
- Ingapirca is the site of the only Incan temple that exists in an oval shape, which is due to the strength of the Cañari and their style of architecture.
We were curious about walking around the surrounding area more after the tour (there is a trail near the exit that’s supposed to lead to a face carved into the rocks), but we only had time to eat lunch ($2.50 almuerzos) and speed through the little museum of artifacts. Although a little bit more time might have been nice, in my opinion, it wasn’t worth the hassle to figure out an alternate way back.
We especially liked these clay pot people, which were on display in the Ingapirca museum as well as the artifact museum in Cuenca.
Have you been to Ingapirca? Feel free to share your travel advice in the comments section below.
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