Cajas National Park
Cajas National Park (29,000 ha), with over 250 lakes is located 29 km west of Cuenca. This national park became very famous since the appearance of the Virgin (Virgen del Cajas). Many people like to go there to ask for miracles and pray. Approximately 125 species of birds have been found here. Among them, we can mention: The Condor, the Violet-tailed Metaltail, sword-billed, shining sunbeam, sparkling violet-ear and the veridean metal-tail. In the lakes, you can also find Andean gulls, yellow-billed pintails and the speckled teal. Additionally, this is an easily accessible plateau and high elevation forest park and is also the main source of drinking water in Cuenca.
In order to travel along the trails, or through the plateau, it is a good idea to have a map in hand. The IGM maps 1:50,000 covers the whole park: Cuenca, Chaucha, Chiquinta and San Felipe de Mollerturo. The main entrance to the park is about 40 minutes from Cuenca on the road to Miguir, where a fee of US$10 is charged. If you want to go by bus it takes around 1 1/2 hours to reach the Laguna Toreadora (Toreadora lake). You can always catch a bus at the bus station in Cuenca. The Sayausi-Miguir cooperative leaves daily at 06:00 from the plaza San Sebastián, located on the corner of Simón Bolívar and Coronel Talbot, returning to Cuenca at 14:00. The ticket cost is around US$1.40. To hire a taxi is between US$10.00 and $15.00.
Camping in the park has a fee of around US$5. Otherwise, you may stay in the refuge, which has 4 bunk beds and some cooking facilities. Another option will be to stay by the shore of the lake in 2 rustic shelters (a 20 to 40 minute walk from the refuge). Do not forget to bring the basics for this trip such as: warm clothes, candles, food, fuel, sun block and sleeping bags.
There are several organized tours to the lakes in Cuenca. Trout fishing for example, is one of the most popular and cost approximately US$38 per person. Also, a private jeep or truck and a knowledgeable driver can be hired for around US$18.