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Ingapirca: Ecuador’s Largest Incan Ruins (1 Hour North of Cuenca)

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Ingapirca is the largest site of Inca ruins in Ecuador. There have been other sites found, but none as large as Ingapirca. Obviously, this makes it a top tourist destination.

Ingapirca Ecuador

Ingapirca: Ecuador’s Largest Incan Ruins

We have been living in Ecuador for 4 years, and finally visited Ingapirca earlier this year. Because it is so close to Cuenca, we felt kind of silly not having been there.

Especially when our friends and family (from Canada and the US) had often seen it during their travels around Ecuador. Finally, we can now say “yes, we've been there” and tell them what we thought of it.

Ingapirca Ecuador

Incapirca Ecuador

What I Liked About Ingapirca

It was really interesting to see the difference in the way the Cañari built with the large stones as compared to the Inca. The stones laid by the Inca are much smoother and fit more snugly together.

I could see a type of mortar between the Cañari stones but the stones from the Inca didn't need any. I'm kind of into textures so I found the stones themselves intriguing.

Ingapirca Ecuador

As we walked around we learned about the culture and customs of both the Cañari and Inca.

The clothing that the Cañari people wear today is a mix of their original culture and some things from both the Inca and Spanish cultures.

Ingapirca Ecuador

We went inside a reconstructed home. Inside we learned a little bit about what daily life would have been like.

We also learned that there was an extensive underground aqueduct system that brought water to the entire site.

Ingapirca Ecuador

Ingapirca Ecuador

There is a small museum on-site where you can see some examples of traditional dress and artifacts found at the site.

There are public bathrooms, a gift shop, and a place to pick up a snack.

Ingapirca Ecuador

It was also nice to see the llamas. They were fenced in while we were there, but I've seen pictures of them out around the site. So you never know, maybe they will be grazing around the site while you are there.

Ingapirca Ecuador

Traditional Dining at Posada Ingapirca

We ate lunch at a traditional restaurant just up the hill from Ingapirca. It was warm and the food was really good. There was a wood fire going which felt nice because it was cold at Ingapirca. The site is usually windy and if it's overcast or drizzling you'll be shivering unless you are bundled up.

Bryan tried higos con queso for the first time.

Posada Ingapirca

Posada Ingapirca

Where is Ingapirca?

Ingapirca is in the province of Cañar in the Andes mountains of Ecuador. It is located just outside of a town with the same name. The town was named after the site. It is just over an hour north from the city of Cuenca.

You can take the bus from Cuenca and hire a guide at the site (included in the entrance fee) but if you need a guide that speaks English fluently you might want to book with a travel company just to make sure.

If you take the bus you will want to get off at Cañar or El Tambo, and get another bus to the site (they run every half hour) or hire a taxi. It makes a nice day trip from Cuenca.

Ingapirca Ecuador

Incapirca Ecuador

Hire A Guide When Visiting Ingapirca

I really enjoyed seeing Ingapirca but I don't think I would have enjoyed it nearly as much if we didn't have a guide.

The guide filled us in on the history of the site and why the ruins look the way they do. For example, I didn't know that the Cañari were the first to build on the site. Then the Inca came and continued building on the same site.

That is why there is a difference in the stonework.

Ingapirca Ecuador

I enjoyed seeing the difference in the stonework of the Cañari and Inca.

Rhe Cañari were the first to build on the site and then the Inca came and added to what was already there. At first glance, it all looked the same but as I took a closer look I noticed a significant difference in the stonework.

Ingapirca Ecuador
Some of the stones didn't fit together as well as others, there was also a difference in their color and texture.

Amazing Stone Textures at Ingapirca

The Cañari and Inca build with the same type of stone but the stone used by the Cañari looked much rougher and they used a type of mortar to hold the stones together.

The Inca polished and cut the stone more precisely and didn't use mortar. The Inca also shaped the stone to add strength to the structure of their buildings so they were more resistant to tremors.

Ingapirca canari stone

The Cañari stone is rougher and has mortar.

Ingapirca inca stone

The Inca stone is smoother, lighter in color and has no mortar.

The way the Inca polished the stone brought out more of their natural color which adds to the beauty and texture of Ingapirca.
Ingapirca Ecuador
An interesting fact we learned while visiting Ingapirca is that when the Spanish came they took stones from Ingapirca and used them in the construction of buildings in Cuenca and other areas.

Ingapirca Ecuador
Have you visited Ingapirca? Please share your comments below.

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Joanna

Monday 21st of October 2013

Hi Dena, Awesome pictures and great post. We're looking forward to scouting Ecuador next year as a possible relocation destination and we'll be sure to check out Ingapirca. I love that kind of stuff. Have visited several Mayan sites in Mexico but Inca ruins will be totally new to me. Thanks!

Ronald

Thursday 19th of September 2013

You missed the Inca face made of rock!

paul tessier

Monday 16th of September 2013

International Living has provided information on relocation. We're heading to Merida & Progresso this fall and rent for the winter. Your posts are great and read them all. Thanks so much. Your case for Ecuador is strong and think we need to also investigate the country in person.

Lance

Wednesday 11th of September 2013

Cynthia, my wife, and I just recently registered for you e-mail correspondence. We intend to expatriate to Ecuador next year after retirement and are currently living in Washington State. We really enjoy "Gringos Abroad", and would love to know more about expat groups in Cuenca. Are there forums online for such groups? Please advise.

Paul

Tuesday 10th of September 2013

Hi Bryan, As a fellow Canadian, you must know how convoluted the route is to fly to Cuenca. We are planning our second visit to Cuenca (from Ottawa). The last time we flew AA via Chicago and Miami - long trip! Any suggestions of alternative routes? Air Canada via Bogota is a little expensive. I know there is a direct flight from JFK to Guayaquil, but there are no direct flights from Ottawa to JFK, making a 1-hour flight into a 4-hour one minimum. United flies Houston to Guayaquil, but again, Ottawa to Houston is a tortuous route. We would prefer not to overnight at either Quito (airport too far) or Guayaquil, but it looks like we may not have a choice when travelling to Cuenca. Any words of experience? Thanks, Paul

gerry

Wednesday 23rd of October 2013

check out copa. we flew from Toronto-panama-Guayaquil-Cuenca. fastest flight yet, under 9 hours. check with travel agent in Ottawa. I am from Kingston.

gerry

Saturday 14th of September 2013

try copa. they fly from Toronto to panama, panama to Guayaquil and then you can either fly or take a van or bus to Cuenca. we lived in Kingston and copa is the most direct route and treat you very well with meals and beverages all free. plus you can bring 3 bags.hope this isof some help, gerry

Bryan Haines

Wednesday 11th of September 2013

There are also direct Atlanta flights. If you can arrive in GYE in the afternoon you can catch a Tame flight at 3 or 7pm to Cuenca. We like flying into GYE and staying at the Howard Johnson. They have a shuttle service for airport pickup/drop-off (and a great breakfast buffet).