Hiking Cerro Mandango in Vilcabamba, Ecuador

Cerro Mandango, also known as “the sleeping Inca,” isn’t the only attraction in Vilcabamba, but it’s certainly one of the main ones. It felt wrong to leave without checking it out. So, when we found ourselves without plans on the last morning of our butterfly collecting trip, we hit the trail!

This was quite easy to do since the trail shows up on Google maps, and you can walk from the center of town.

Look for the signs as you follow the road away from Vilcabamba.
The start of the trail with a semi-view of the sleeping Inca.

The hike itself starts out pretty easy. The path is well marked, and it’s not so steep. In fact, we found ourselves alongside a youth group from a local church, and two men carrying a giant cross passed us going up. Turns out, they were holding a church service that day around the halfway mark.

An easy going start.

Eventually, the trail does get steep and rocky. Still, I’d say it’s accessible to just about anyone. However, I would recommend feeling sure on your feet and taking your time.

Going up with views over Vilcabamba.

The trail has three viewpoints. The first is at a cross with 360-degree views of Vilcabamba and the surrounding valleys.

Looking up towards the first viewpoint.
The first viewpoint.

The second is across the ridge, presenting you with that prime-time view of Cerro Mandango!

The ridge leading to the second viewpoint.
Panoramic views over the neighboring valleys.

We didn’t make it to the third viewpoint at the summit of Cerro Mondango. Unfortunately, we were out of time, given that we had about four hours of butterfly packing ahead of us. It took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to make it to the second viewpoint. I would venture to guess another hour, and you would be at the summit. However, we were warned to avoid the summit on windy days since the trail is narrow and on the ridge.

Notably, the trail was pretty popular. We started fairly early in the morning and only encountered a couple of people (excluding the youth group that stopped halfway). However, we passed quite a few on the way down. So, I recommend an early start, especially if it’s a beautiful weekend day, as in our case!

Oh, and bring water! You’ll want it. 😅


So, have you figured out why it’s called the sleeping Inca?

It might be hard to tell from my pictures, but the mountain looks like a face lying flat, looking up at the sky from the side.

Photo by Romillykate from Hero Traveler.

This hike was a great way to end our time in Vilcabamba. Hopefully one day we have a chance to make it all the way up!

On the ridge between the first and second viewpoints.

Hasta luego,

Whitney

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