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EL CAJAS NATIONAL PARK
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ADDRESS & ACTIVITIES
ADDRESS OR VENUE
OPENING HOURS (or DATE if it is an event)
Km 38 of the Cuenca-Molleturo road, Cajas National Park, 40 minutes drive from Cuenca, Province of Azuay, Ecuador
Open every day
Recommended to visit from 08:00 to 16:30
The Tres Cruces Hill, in Cajas National Park, is many things at once. Viewpoint, continental water divide, crossroads. It is located at 38 kilometers from Cuenca, a city declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The trip by car to its summit takes 40 minutes on the paved road to Molleturo. Its Quichua name is Kimsa Cruz.
The hill is at an altitude of 4,167 meters above sea level. It is an obligatory stop for national and foreign travelers. It has spectacular views to both East and West of the lagoons and moors of the Cajas National Park. Here photography and video are unavoidable activities. You have to be well prepared to withstand the wind and cold. For those visitors who want more adventure, they can reach a second viewpoint on Tres Cruces hill, after climbing 300 steps, above 4,200 meters above sea level.
As a landmark, it is the water divide, between the Pacific and the Atlantic, closest to the Pacific Ocean in South America. From here you can also see the last remnants of Andean forest.
As a crossroads, the recently built Cuenca-Molleturo cement road, the García Moreno road from the Republican era, and the ancestral Qhapaq Ñan (Camino Real Andino), declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2014, all go up the Andes in Tres Cruces. Therefore, Tres Cruces is a historical place of contact between the Sierra and the Coast and of contact between sky and earth, in the south of Ecuador.
One more characteristic makes Tres Cruces a very special place: its "apachita" which translates as "the one who helps to carry". In the place there are three marble crosses, they are his particular mark, which over the years have been buried by the stones accumulated (apachita) on them by travelers. This custom goes back to the ancient Andean walkers, who carried small stones to the most difficult mountain passes and left them there, as an offering so that the "apus" or hills would allow them to continue the journey.
As a result of these offerings to the gods, three large stone mounds were formed. In an attempt at Christianization, the mounds were replaced by crosses. But it didn't work. On the contrary, the three crosses were merged with the "apachita", because the travelers gave continuity to the custom. For all these reasons, Tres Cruces is a mandatory stop when travelling to Cuenca from Guayaquil by land.