How We Visited Ecuador’s Ingapirca Ruins

Ingapirca Ruins walls

If you’re looking for something truly unique and special on your Ecuadorian adventure, then Ingapirca Ruins is the place to go. This impressive archaeological site, located in the province of Cañar, was once home to the Inca Empire and its ancient inhabitants. Visiting Ingapirca Ruins is a must for any traveler looking to experience Ecuadorian culture and history.

Ingapirca is the most significant pre-Columbian ruin in Ecuador. It is located 50 miles (80 km) north of Cuenca.

Ingapirca is a Kichwa term meaning Inca wall. The Inca Sun Temple, which is the most prominent building on the site, is the only elliptical Incan temple you can find in South America.
This post will guide you on what you need to know before visiting the Ingapirca Ruins.

Booking a Day Tour to Ingapirca

Entry to Ingapirca Ruins museum in Cuenca Ecuador

We booked a day tour through Viator we discovered during our stay in Cuenca. The Ingapirca tour includes a church visit to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Morning Dew or Our Lady of Rocio and a side trip to a local market.

While you can visit Ingapirca without booking a tour, we think it is better to get one since it is best to enjoy historical sites with someone who can share the history of the place.

Our local guide was an expert, and we learned a lot from him while we were on the road. We’ve heard that there are also guides on the ruins, and it is not allowed to roam around Ingapirca without a guide. Yet, we still opted for the tour for a more convenient trip.

If you have more time on your hands, the local tour agencies also offer a multi-day tour in Ingapirca which includes a three-day walk called the Camino del Inca Hike or Inca Trail. You can also do this independently if you are up for the adventure!

Our Experience

Ingapirca Ruins walls

Visiting Ingapirca Ruins is truly a unique experience, as you can explore this ancient settlement up close.

We bought our entrance tickets and waited at the gate to access Ingapirca when we arrived. Only a few people were at the site, which is unusual for tourist spots.

While walking, we spotted several llamas roaming freely within the site. These adorable creatures keep the grass trimmed in the area and also draw in tourists.

Alpaca during our visit to Ingapirca Ruins

We kept walking while our guide told us about the history of the ruins. The ruins were said to be a mix of Incan and Cañari structures. Initially, the Incas attempted to conquer the Cañaris but were defeated. Instead, the Incas chose to coexist with them in peace.

The Cañari civilization was the first to build on the land. The two architectural styles differ in how the structures were formed. While the Cañari used mortar to hold the rocks together, the Incas cut the blocks to size, so they flawlessly fit together without needing a bonding aid.

Ingapirca Ruins is an important archaeological site in Ecuador that was once the capital of the Cañari people. It is the largest and most well-preserved Inca site in Ecuador, and it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Inca Temple of the Sun

Ingapirca’s Temple of the Sun is the most prominent and remarkable of the ruins. Most of this Incan structure is still intact.

View of Ingapirca Ruins in Cuenca

The temple is built around a massive rock and positioned in a way that the Incas could tell the time of year using the sun.

Moreover, the temple was used as a sacrificial site, where many humans and animals were sacrificed to the Gods. We felt goosebumps when our guide told us this detail. 

It is said that the Incas built the temple in this location because of the face of a rock nearby. The Incas believed the said face on the rock would protect them. 

We went to see the renowned face, which is indeed apparent when you look at the surrounding rocks.

View of Ingapirca Ruins from the entrance

After our Ingapirca tour, we headed to a local restaurant for lunch. It was a tiring journey, so we must fill up before heading back to Cuenca.

We had a hearty meal and a nice discussion about the attractions we had seen along the way. We were also served Canelazos, which I think was the perfect drink to conclude our trip. One of the classic Ecuadorian dishes.

Pumapungo Museum view in Cuenca

How to Get to Ingapirca From Cuenca

By Bus

From Terminal Terrestre, take a bus to Ingapirca ruins. Yes, there are buses that run directly to the Inca ruins, so it is easy to go there from Cuenca. 

It is an easy commute. However, the bus stops frequently, and the one-way trip usually takes 2.5 to 3 hours.

The bus stops at the ruins for around two hours and returns to Cuenca.

It is best to check the bus schedule prior to your trip so you can plan your tour.

By Car

You can also rent a car and drive to Ingapirca. This method will give you more time and flexibility on your trip but can also be quite pricey. This is what we did.

Car rentals are available at the airport if you prefer to explore Cuenca and nearby sites by car. We did our reso with Expedia and never regretted it even though we booked a tour for Ingapirca ruins

By Tour

Or you can also book a tour through Viator as we did. For us, it is the most convenient way to get to Ingapirca Ruins.

Alternative Ways to Get to Ingapirca Ruins

Ingapirca is definitely an interesting site and worth adding to your itinerary. However, it takes plenty of time to get there. 

If you are pressed for time, on a tight budget, or simply looking for an alternative way to visit Ingapirca, you can reach the site from the following small villages: Cañar, El Tambo, or Ingapirca.

You can stop at one of these small villages when traveling between Cuenca and Riobamba or the other way around. You can either stay overnight or take a colectivo to the site and catch a bus to Cuenca or Riobamba.

Bottom Line

Ingapirca is a fantastic spot for a morning of exploration. The ruins hold mysteries that are still relatively untold on a tourist scale. 

The history behind the ruins is fascinating, and history buffs will surely enjoy it. Learning about a place’s culture and history is one of the wonders of traveling.

The volume of tourists in Ingapirca is also not that high. Thus, the place is quiet, and you can enjoy the vast site without big crowds. You can also take awesome IG-worthy photos without worrying about photobombers!

About the author

Oleg Galeev

I'm Oleg, and together with my wife, we've explored Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, journeying through more than 20 cities (Quito, Cuenca, Banos, Tena, Puyo, Guayaquil, Riobamba, Otavalo, Mindo and more) and nearly every island in the Galapagos (including iconic ones such as Bartolome Island, San Cristobal Island, Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island and more). In this blog, I give you my real thoughts about each place we visited. This info can help anyone planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands or mainland Ecuador. I'm just a traveler, not a tour company, so I'm not trying to sell anything. That means I'll tell you the truth—both the good and the bad — about traveling in Ecuador based on what we experienced.

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