Looking for adventure sports and other tourist activities close to Cuenca? Here are five options

Jul 22, 2023 | 4 comments

Azuay and Cañar Provinces offer plenty of opportunities for adventures sports as well as more mild-mannered tourist pursuits within an hour’s drive of Cuenca. Many of these are off the beaten path, rarely promoted in the popular tourist guides and websites. There are destinations for cliff climbing, paragliding, “canyoning,” canopy cycling, hiking, waterfall viewing, sailing, among other activities.

Here are five of the less publicized destinations near Cuenca.

Pedaling 60 meters above the ground at Parador Turístico El Chorro near Girón.

Biking in space at El Chorro

Pedaling at 60 meters above ground over a forest canopy, overlooking an imposing waterfall, offers a world-class adrenaline rush near Girón, 40 kilometers south of Cuenca. At the Parador Turístico El Chorro, visitors can also walk across a 40-meter-high suspension bridge or ride the 780-meters-long canopy line.

Other options at the Parador include hiking the nature trails, horseback riding, picnicking and participating in paintball fights. The area features a spectacular natural landscape and the three El Chorro waterfalls, which can be visited on tours or independently.

In the town of Girón, tourists can visit the 1829 Battle of Tarqui museum that tells the story of Gran Colombia’s victory over the Peruvian army which determined that Cuenca would be part of modern-day Ecuador and not Peru.

A climber scales Cojitambo with a view of Azogues in the background.

Rock-climbing, hiking at Cojitambo

The distinctive Cojitambo Mountain is located near Azogues, in Cañar Province, 25 kilometers northeast of Cuenca. It is the best place in southern Ecuador to practice rock climbing, with dozens of route options.

The 3,076-meter mountain is also a famous archaeological site, containing ruins of both the Cañari and Inca cultures. The famous Inca road, Qhapaq Ñan, runs by the base of Cojitambo.

Climbing routes vary from 10 to 200 meters, offering different levels of difficulty, from beginners to expert. The reward, upon reaching the top, is a spectacular 360-degree panoramic view of Cuenca, Azogues and the surrounding mountains. Tour guides, who provide equipment and expert advice and are highly recommended for those interested in climbing.

A paraglider soars over Paute.

Flying high in Paute

Paute, a 45-minute drive east of Cuenca, is a favorite southern Ecuador destination for of paragliders due to climatic conditions and geography. The 600-meter-high Cabeza de Perro hill is the preferred launch point but tour guides are familiar with several others in the area.

In addition, Paute offers a variety of other tourist attractions as well as excellent restaurants and overnight accommodations. Kayaking is popular on the Paute River and the popular linear park beside the river has food and crafts vendors, picnicking areas and a children’s playground.

Paute has an attractive weekend market as well the largest wooden spoon in the world, according to the Guinness Book World Records.

Scaling the canyon wall at Rio Amarillo.

‘Canyoning’ the Rio Amarillo

The Rio Amarillo, on the northeast outskirts of Cuenca, offers a variety of adventure option in a spectacular canyon setting. Visitors can hike and rock-climb in the area, descending to the riverbed through certain obstacles. A guided tour usually begins at Cerro Cabogana, five kilometers from Cuenca’s historic district, in Cajas National Park.

A tour typically includes an uphill hike offering views of waterfalls, lakes and natural springs. Tours, which provide climbing equipment, require participants to be in good physical condition.

A boater on the Mazar Reservoir.

Boating and hiking at the Mazar Reservoir

Despite its breath-taking natural beauty, Sevilla de Oro, 63 kilometers east of Cuenca, is one of the least visited cantons in Azuay Province. Visitors can enjoy the sights by canoeing or kayaking at the Mazar reservoir, which generates 30% of Ecuador’s electricity at the downstream generation plant.

In addition, there are hiking trials and camping sites in Sevilla de Oro and attractions include the Cruz Loma viewpoint, “avenue of waterfalls”, and the Rio Colay, where people can swim, fish or go horseback riding. Another popular destination is the Cerro Negro lagoon, from which you can enjoy an impressive view of the Mazar reservoir.

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