Located only a two hour drive from Cuenca, I saw the best ancient Inca ruins in Eucador, and you can too when you travel to Ecuador.

Visiting the Ancient Ruins of Ingapirca

Ingapirca means “Inca Wall”. It is an Inca ruins site, and as I said, probably the best one in Ecuador. The Incan temple sits at the top of a mountain at Ingapirca, and through the years more and more excavation has been done around the surrounding fields to uncover many footings of homes, cisterns, and grain storage. The Incan King and his Queen lived at Ingapirca in about the 1400’s.

The people at Ingapirca

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Landscape of Inca ruins at Ingapirca

The area was first ruled by the Cañar people who were later ruled by the Incas. Instead of war, however, the Incas achieved rule by marriage to a Cañar princess. The Cañar were a matriarchal people and worshiped the Moon goddess; unlike the the Incas who had a patriarchal society and worshiped the Sun god. This may have been one of the first “mixed marriages” and examples of multiculturalism in early times. Seriously, I find this is very cool when I think about it.


Temple and Buildings of  Ingapirca

The Cañar people built their buildings using elliptical shapes while the Incas used rectangular and square dimensions. The Temple of the Sun is set on an elliptical rock wall but the temple itself used right angles to align points with the equinox of the sun’s rays through doorways and windows.

Temple of the Sun Inca ruins travel to ecuador

Temple of the Sun, Ingapirca, Ecuador

These are the ruins of the Temple of the Sun which sit on top of a large elliptical wall. Surprisingly, the Incas did not use any mortar. As I looked at the stones making this large wall, they were cut exact and each one placed where it needed to go to provide proper support of the structures resting on it.

travel to ecuador ruins at ingapirca

Ruins at Ingapirca

The Temple of the Sun ruins have been visible in various stages for centuries. About 50 years ago, many locals used the large square, cut stones for foundations building their own homes. Recently, there’s been a concerted effort to return these stones to the site. I think the people who used them just figured they had a right since they belonged to their great, great, great, great, great grandfathers.

Stones collected from surrounding homes

See sacred burial grounds on your travel to Ecuador

There is a tomb site on the grounds and a woman of importance is buried there. Maybe the Queen? According to a local Ecuadorian, she is surrounded by 10 young girls from 1-10 years old. The story goes that the King randomly picked these girls to accompany his wife into the beyond. The girls were given a  tea made from the Borrachero plant which contains a drug that causes people to do exactly as told. The girls were buried alive with the dead Queen.

Visit ecuador and see burial site

Burial Site at Ingapirca

The stones forming a circle in the picture above is the burial site. The headstone is set perfectly center for the rays of the rising and setting sun to hit its middle each Equinox, June 21st.

Influence of the Moon Worshipers

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Rock used as lunar calendar

There is also evidence of the influence of the Cañar people in the lives of the Inca kingdom. This large rock has 28 carved-out areas that hold water. The lunar calendar is on a 28 day cycle, which also is the menstrual cycle of a woman. It is believed that this rock served as a calendar, and that each night after the sun set, one of the cup-like areas was filled with water which reflected in the moon light.

After our 45 minute tour of the site with the guide, we were encouraged to follow the trail behind and below the main site that had different views of the Temple of the Sun and other things of interest. We were able to see how high up the Temple sits from the back view. There is also an Inca profile in the mountain.

Back View Temple of Sun

Temple of Sun back view

visit ecuador Inca Face in Mountain Side

Profile of Inca man in mountain

The trail behind the Temple had some fantastic scenery. Many locals farm on the steep hillside. Wheat, corn, beans, and squash-type plants are grown around the area.

Hills Behind Temple of Sun

Hills Behind Temple of Sun

When we finished walking the trail behind the ruins we stopped in the museum at the entrance of the site. It was filled with pottery, human remains, traditional clothing, musical instruments, and explained history of the Cañar and Inca people who lived here so many years ago.


Ancient Pottery of Cañar and Inca peoples

All in all what a fantastic experience seeing the ruins and learning more about the people who settled and ruled in this area. Read more about the ruins of Ingapirca here. With such easy access to these ruins, it is a worthwhile trip for everyone during their travel in Ecuador.