Ecuador // The Oriente //

Caves and petroglyphs around Tena

While famed for the Cavernas de Jumandy, the Tena region has many other less-visited caves, the majority of which are on private property meaning you’ll need the owner’s permission to visit them. The area is also littered with petroglyphs, rough but lyrical etchings of shapes, creatures and faces onto rocks and boulders, dating from several thousand years ago up until the sixteenth century. No one is exactly sure of their significance, but they are often found near waterways or on high ground, places of strategic and habitational importance. One of the best groupings, composed of at least sixty petroglyphs, is Los Petroglifos del Valle Sagrado, located on the hillside north of Cotundo, a village about 10km north of Archidona. The Fundación Sinchi Sacha (t 06/2889044, in Quito t02/2230609, is developing a guidebook and an archeological park with trails around them; you can find out more information and hire a guide at their Centro de Turismo in Cotundo.

Anyone interested in caving should talk to Gabriel Guallo in Tena, who takes trips to the so-called “Grand Canyon” system near Mondayacu about 10km north of Archidona, as well as deep into the Cavernas de Jumandy. He’s a good guide, but better on day-trips ($40) than more logistically difficult overnighters; contact him at Las Grutas de Gabriel, Abdón Calderón and Juan León Mera (t06/2887894 or t09/8839922).

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