After several years of wanting to visit Ingapirca, we finally drove to this pre-Columbian archaeological complex located 50 miles north of Cuenca, Ecuador in the province of Cañar. It takes about 25 minutes from the city of Cañar or an hour and a half from Cuenca and three and a half hours from Guayaquil. Ingapirka is a Quichua word that means “Wall of the Inca”.
Ingapirca is Ecuador’s largest and most important archaeological construction of Inca origin and makes the best day trip from Cuenca, Ecuador. In this guide we share everything you need to know about the Ingapirca ruins, what to expect and how to get there.
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This archaeological site could have been an observatory of the sun and the moon. It is not known for sure what are the purpose for this building of Inca-Cañari origin. The Temple of the Sun is the most prominent building in the complex and is the only round Inca temple in all of South America. The complex was built at the beginning of the 16th century. The ruins are a mixture of Inca and Cañari structures, since at the time the Incas tried to conquer the Cañaris, and when they were unsuccessful the two cultures learned to coexist.
The Cañari civilization was the first to build on this land and you can see a great difference between the two different styles of architecture. While the Cañari used a form of mortar to join the rocks, the Incas precisely cut the blocks to size so that they would fit together perfectly without the need for an adhesive. There are several different sections of the ruins. They range from rooms in which grain and meat can be stored to aqueducts to provide water to the complex.
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Things to know before visiting Ingapirca
- ATM: Bring cash for the entrance fee. We did not see any ATM nearby and they did not accept credit cards when we visited.
- Tickets: The entrance fee is $2 USD per person. It includes a mandatory guided tour in English or Spanish as you cannot enter the complex by yourself.
- Altitude: 3200 meters above sea level. Make sure to acclimate yourself and bring plenty of water.
How to get to Ingapirca Ruins from Cuenca
The easiest way visit Ingapirca is either by private car, tour or by public transport from Cuenca, Guayaquil or Cañar. Transportes Cañar has direct buses from the Terminal Terrestre in Cuenca to Ingapirca at 9:00 AM. The tour lasts approximately 2 and a half hours and the ticket costs $3.50. The cool thing is that the bus takes you to the ruins, waits for about two hours, and brings you directly back to the bus station in Cuenca. If for whatever reason you cannot make it, then take any bus to the town of Cañar and from there hire a taxi to take you to the ruins and we suggest pre-arranging a pick up with them too.
How to buy the tickets to Ingapirca?
You can buy your tickets to visit Ingapirca at the information center. The entrance to the Archaeological Complex of Ingapirca includes a mandatory guided tour. The tours are offered in Spanish and English, plus there are several signs around the complex in both language and Kichwa that explain the basic concepts of the site. These signs complement the information given by the tour guide and helps answer any questions you may have about this archaeological complex. The entrance is $2 per person and it is necessary to wait for a full tour group to form to able to enter the tourist complex with the guide.
Visiting Ingapirca ruins in Ecuador
What I liked the most about my visit to Ingapirca is the abundance of nature and animals living in the complex. The presence of native fauna, such as llamas, make your visit more pleasant. In fact, one of my favorite photos that I sell in my Etsy shop was taken there. I was able to frame a llama walking with some yellow flowers. These llamas not only make the landscape more beautiful, but by roaming freely around the site they help keep the grass cut short.
Another of the things that can be done in the area are: walk to the face of the Inca, which was the reason why the Incas chose that particular site to build their famous Temple of the Sun. They believed that the Face del Inca would watch over them and protect them from any harm. The face-shaped rock is visible from the temple and can be reached by a short hike from these Inca ruins in Ecuador. There is a great similarity between the shape of the rock with a human face that will surely leave you astonished. The Archaeological Museum which is located in the same complex and like the ruins, is also run by the Cañari indigenous people. It displays an illustrative diorama of the entire site, a mummy, and various artifacts that belonged to the Inca and Cañari civilizations. Entrance to the museum is included in the entrance fee to the entire archaeological complex.