Challuabamba is a cute small town located 20 minutes away from downtown Cuenca. The district Colinas de Challaubamba is well known as being one of the wealthier districts of Cuenca with large modern homes and vacation homes of the well to do. Less well known are the hiking trails up the mountain. The trails traverse private land. However lack of fences make it easily accessible to the general public.
What to see
The terrain is rugged, what seems to be ancient volcanic lava flows spattered with sparse shrubbery. In some areas the land is carved by the water into strange sculptures. From the top you can see a view of Cojitambo (a mountain in Azogues) and unfortunately a far off mine as well (not quite as scenic). Sparkling red and white quartz pebbles can be seen scattered along the ridge. Wildflowers bloom in unexpected nooks and crannies. And according to my friend, a 3rd generation Chaullabamba-ean, you can even find shards of ancient ceramic if you are lucky (I wasn´t so lucky….but next time!). The ruins of a centuries old house – two walls made of pebbles – still stand. There are two houses built on the top plateau, one charming weekend cottage, and the permanent residence of an elderly Ecuadorean man who lives alone, enjoying the solitude of the mountain. I can only imagine the maestros hauling the materials up the slope.
Why to go now
For the time being, this is a hidden gem, completely off the tourist trail. I did not see a single other person hiking. Red markers on the trail show the land the government has purchased, after making several studies of the area. They are planning to make the area an official tourist attraction at some indeterminate time in the future. But for now, get there before the mass tourist influx! The hike to the top, along the plateau and back down is around 3 hours at a leisurely pace. To get there, head up the somewhat convoluted residential districts to the very top until you see the trail head. Apologies about the vague directions – the streets are completely unmarked.