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Long before the Inca invaded the region, in the latter half of the 15th century, the fierce and industrious Cañari people ruled Guapdondélig (Plain as Wide and Beautiful as the Sky), the name they gave the fertile highlands surrounding Cuenca. They built some stunning monuments, including the ancient city of Ingapirca.
An important religious and political center for the Cañari, Ingapirca is perhaps better remembered for what the Inca built here after Tupac-Yupanqui conquered the Cañari. The king left behind quite a legacy, including the name, which means "Wall of the Inca." The smaller stone structures, built completely without mortar, are thought to be Cañari temples to the moon, but the massive elliptical structure at the center is an acknowledged temple to the sun built by the Inca. La Cara del Inca, a natural rock formation said to resemble the face of an Inca chief, is a 10-minute hike.
There is a small museum at the entrance, built under the auspices of the Banco Central, which houses artifacts found at the ruins. The cozy restaurant on the hill overlooking the site serves excellent soups and local dishes in front of a fireplace. Getting to the ruins is half the fun. Buses costing less than $2 depart from Cuenca's Terminal Terrestre at 9 and 1. On the return trip your bus is likely to be filled with villagers transporting chickens and other livestock to market. The other option is to take a guided tour. Note that you might want to use a restroom before arriving, as those at the site leave much to be desired.
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