Saraguro Sign, Saraguro Ecuador, people, steps, plaza, trees, garden church, sky. full day trips from Cuenca Ecuador

Why You Should Visit Beautiful Saraguro Ecuador

If you’re like most travelers, you probably haven’t even heard of the beautiful hamlet of Saraguro Ecuador. This little hidden gem village probably won’t be under the radar for much longer. The picturesque village boasts mountainous backdrops, sacred sites, a traditional market, a welcoming central park plaza, warm people, and extraordinary culinary treats.

Nestled conveniently between the colonial city of Cuenca and the popular village of Vilcabamba, Saraguro really shouldn’t really be such a secret. But it has been, until recently.

Here’s why Saraguro Ecuador should be a MUST on your Ecuador itinerary.

Table of Contents

Where is Saraguro?

Saraguro is located in the southern section of Ecuador. The beautiful colonial city of Cuenca is less than 90 miles to the north, while the popular “valley of longevity” and the village of Vilcabamba sits 70 miles to the south. Saraguro is located right along the main road that connects these two cities, so it can easily be done as a day trip from either Cuenca or Vilcabamba.

If you don’t feel like renting a car, it’s pretty straightforward and affordable to reach Saraguro by using public buses.

☛Travel Tip | Saraguro is a great place to visit before heading into the underrated North of Peru and one of my favorite charming villages in the Andes Mountains.

How to Reach Saraguro Ecuador via Public Transportation

Most travelers will be visiting Saraguro Ecuador from either Cuenca or Vilcabamba. Here’s the basic logistics on how to use public buses to reach Saraguro.

Buses from Cuenca Ecuador

Here’s how to reach Saraguro Ecuador from the colonial city of Cuenca via Public Bus.

Cuenca to Saraguro Ecuador | Take the bus in the direction of Loja | One-Way Ticket Cost to Saraguro: $5.50 | Duration: Around 3 hours | Buses depart at least once every hour from the main terminal and exit at Saraguro | Exit Tax: Pay 10¢ upon exiting the Terminal Terrestre in Cuenca

Psst… Don’t simply skip past Cuenca! There are so many things to do, like visit the incredible Ingapirca ruins, soak in the hots springs above the city in Baños de Cuenca, hike the El Chorro waterfall in Giron, or visit the otherworldly Cajas National Park. Most travelers miss Laguna Llaviucu. Here’s the complete guide to the best day trips from Cuenca Ecuador.

Buses from Vilcabamba Ecuador

Here’s how to reach Saraguro Ecuador from the lovely village of Vilcabamba in the Valley of Longevity.

Vilcabamba to Saraguro Ecuador | Hop on the bus to Loja and transfer in Loja to the buses for Cuenca (these buses run every hour on the hour) | Ticket Cost: Vilcabamba – Loja ($1.65) Loja – Saraguro ($2) | Total One-Way Ticket: $3.65 | Duration: Around 3 hours | Exit Tax: Pay 10¢ upon exiting the Terminal Terreste in Loja

Coming Soon: Best Things to Do in Vilcabamba Ecuador

The Best Day to Visit Saraguro Ecuador

mural of Saraguro Ecuador, bright colors, Indigenous people of Saraguro, sun, mountains
A painting of the Indigenous people of Saraguro Ecuador wearing their traditional clothing.

Hands down, the best day to visit Saraguro is on a Sunday. On Sunday, the village hosts a large authentic market. In addition to this, locals attend Sunday mass at the main church in the plaza. By attending, it means they are shuffling in and out of the service, but they are dressed in their “Sunday best.”

The Indigenous people of Saraguro are known for their traditional black woolen clothing. Some say they wear the black clothing because they mourn the death of the last Incan empire of Atahualpa; however, some just say the dark wools attract the warmth of the sun in the Andes.

The men wear black gauchos just below their knees and ponchos with lovely hats. I felt a twinge of jealousy as I gawked at their beautiful long black braids. The women are the real treasures with their long black skirts, lacy and ornate tops that come in elegant shades of reds, greens, yellows, purples, and so many more, a paintbox of vivid brilliance. Their necks are decorated with the delicate, but bright patterned beaded jewelry. These necklaces are known as chakiras. A silver broach (tupus) holds them all together. The most distinctive feature has to be their signature white hats with large black spots decorated underneath the wide brim.

Seriously, it’s a treat to see the local people decorated in such exquisite clothing. For this reason, Sunday is the best day to visit Saraguro.

Reasons to Visit Saraguro Ecuador

Between the stunning Andes Mountains, the beautiful people, a truly local market, a picturesque plaza, and an up and coming culinary restaurant, these are only a few reasons why Saraguro Ecuador should be on your travel radar.

Climb up to the Baños del Inca

Before the nearby village of Ñamarin is the beautiful Baños del Inca. It can be reached by walking from Saraguro (around 1 mile) or by taking a taxi. The hike is fairly simple, but as I visited during the rainy season, it was pretty muddy. From the registration entrance, the uphill climb takes less than 30 minutes. (On Sunday, there was no one there to register my info).

The hike is very beautiful. There is a stunning view of a waterfall and a nearby carved out cave. The sacred site is significant to the Indigenous as it is said to be where the last Inca empire, Atahualpa, would take his bath. The nearby cave is also a sacred space where certain rituals were held.

Visit the Authentic Sunday Market

Saraguro’s Sunday Market is an alluring spectacle. The market is bustling and there are people selling EVERYTHING you could possibly image. There are lots of vendors selling fresh juices, plates of food, and other delicious goodies. The villagers all seemed to be in their element and were smiling toothy grins, hustling to and from the church, eating family style together in the market, stopping to chat with friends, making their gorgeous jewelry, and enjoying a typical Sunday afternoon.

Saraguro has truly kept their traditions at a high standard and it shows by the way people interact with each other. No one was on their cell phone, rather they were engaging with each other, showing their strong sense of community.

The authentic Sunday market in Saraguro Ecuador may be my favorite market in all of my travels throughout South America. It’s hard to find another traditional market that compares once you’ve witnessed the beauty and community of the people of Saraguro.

Ecuador Travel Planning | Love traditional Ecuador markets? Don’t miss Mercado 10 de Agosto in Cuenca.

People Watch in the Plaza | Saraguro Central Park

Católica Matriz San Pedro de Saraguro, Saraguro Ecuador, locals in traditional clothing, mural, clouds
Locals attending Sunday church service at Católica Matriz San Pedro in Saraguro

The main square of Saraguro is a welcomed treasure to sit in and observe everyday village life. It’s actually referred to as a central park. It is a lovely green space that almost feels like an Oasis. On Sundays, villagers move to and from the main centerpiece church, Católica Matriz San Pedro de Saraguro. This is the perfect place to people watch and lovingly awe at the locals intricate traditional clothing.

To learn more about the village and the clothing, head over to the small little museum on the right hand side of the plaza.

Finally, the plaza is home to the exquisite restaurant Shamuico Espai Gastronòmic, run by the beloved local chef Samuel Ortega.

Eat at the Incredible Shamuico Espai Gastronòmic

Shamuico Espai Gastronòmic, painting, vase, flowers, table, wall, places to eat in Saraguro Ecuador
Inside the restaurant, there’s also a lovely garden terrace outside

Eating at the famous Shamuico Espai Gastronòmic is an absolute treat! The restaurant is run by Samuel Ortega, who has worked at arguably two of the finest restaurants in the world in Girona, Spain.

The best option is to indulge in the tasting menu. With the farmer’s market in full swing just a few blocks from this artistic space, it was a no-brainer on what the concept was of this eatery: Farm to table, fresh ingredients, with a presentation that will leave you feeling like you are about to devour a scrumptious masterpiece. The flavors were so fresh with peculiar combinations that leave you curious, yet satisfied. The traditional Ecuadorian dishes were reconstructed and had a whimsical twist.

Example of the 6 Course Tasting Menu

  • 1st Course: 3 types of homemade bread with beet butter
  • 2nd Course: Snacks served on a traditional Ecuador fan
  • 3rd Course: Salted cured veal
  • 4th Course: Deconstructed Locro soup with calamari and the cheesy potato broth poured table side. P.S. I literally liked the plate
  • 5th Course: Lamb chops with Mashua (something grown specifically in the Andes like a potato)
  • 6th Course: Chocolate lava cake with homemade tomate de árbol fruit ice cream.

Seriously, the menu and presentation will blow you away. It’s hard to believe that such an amazing culinary experience exists in a village that is still known for its traditional ways. This modern restaurant with its elegant tribute to traditions will help put Saraguro on the map as a culinary destination alone.

Where to Stay in Saraguro Ecuador

While most travelers only visit Saraguro Ecuador as a day trip, there are two places to stay in Saraguro. This will allow for more chances to savor the delicious food and incredible mountain landscape.

Hotel Achik Wasi

Centro Turístico Inti Wasi

Why You Should Visit Beautiful Saraguro Ecuador

women at Saraguro traditional market, people, fruit stand, steps, clouds
A women observing the Sunday Market in Saraguro Ecuador.

Saraguro, for now, still remains a hidden gem that sees few tourists in Ecuador’s southwest corner. The village is nestled in the misty Andes Mountains and contains sacred Inca sites, a bustling and worthwhile Sunday market and a picturesque plaza. Foodies should make the trip to Saraguro Ecuador just to sample the tasting menu from the treasured Shamuico Espai Gastronòmic.

✈ Ecuador Travel Planning | Special Artisan Villages to Visit Near Cuenca Ecuador

I’ll end with personal thoughts on my day in Saraguro Ecuador, which in reality, I wish I would have spent more than only one day here.

“I sit here on the steps that lead into the market. I am an outsider, just observing the daily life here…feeling as if I had stumbled onto a secret, yet I was welcomed all the same. There’s something extraordinary that I’m witnessing here, traditions and cultures that have stood the test of time. My heart feels full and I will remember this special day that I spent in Saraguro Ecuador.”

Had you heard of Saraguro Ecuador? Did you have the opportunity to visit? Did you leave a little bit of your heart in Saraguro Ecuador likeI did? Let me know in the comments below!

Disclaimer: There’s a chance this post contains affiliate links, and I receive a small (but grateful) portion of the sale. There’s no extra cost to you, and I only promote things that I use and love.

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  1. We saw a lot on our trip around South America but we did not get to see Ecuador. And we certainly missed the lovely hamlet of Saraguro. Normally we would not visit small towns on Sunday because so much is shut down. So interesting to read that Sunday is a great day to visit this small town. And to enjoy the lovely outdoor spots in this area. I would certainly be up to try that tasting menu. Even if I might want to start with the chocolate lava cake!

    1. Linda, it is totally acceptable to eat dessert first and it was seriously heavenly! Yes, Saraguro is amazing to visit on Sunday and is quite bustling with locals. I hope you make it this amazing little gem in the future!

  2. I spent a month in Ecuador in 2019 & didn’t make it to Cuenca & had never heard of Saraguro. I wish I had read this before I went as it looks like my kind of place. From your photos, it reminded me a little of Otavalo, except obviously much less touristy as people go there for the craft market. The restaurant looks amazing & I also love anywhere that I can indulge in my favourite pastime – people watching! Thanks for highlighting this hidden gem.

    1. I think Ecuador is overlooked in general by travelers, so it’s amazing you spent a month here. 💚 Otavalo is super special and does have great people watching, too. Thanks for reading!

  3. Very interesting. I’m planning a big South America trip in a couple of years. And since the situation is so terrible right now, I’m kinda planning it on paper already now. Hence, this post comes just on time – I’ll add Saraguro to my itinerary right away. Ecuador is one of the South American countries I haven’t visited yet so I’m really looking forward to going there.

    1. Thanks Renata, it’s surprising that most travelers skip Ecuador, but it really is so diverse and beautiful. The south is very lovely with Vilcabamba, Saraguro, and the colonial city of Cuenca. I hope you get to experience this beautiful region. Happy planning! ❤️

  4. Just saw your article. I visited Saraguro in the mid-1970s while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer with the Ministry of Health in Quito. Because my assignment involved photography, a fellow volunteer based in Saraguro asked if I could document some of the traditional handicrafts in the community. This time next month (November) I’ll be returning for the first time since then. I plan to take some prints from that earlier trip and see if any of the subjects in my photos are recognized. Not likely, I suspect, but if nothing else, it should be an ice-breaker.

    1. Wow Ralph! Thank you so much for sharing! What an amazing story and a terrific ice-breaker. I am back in Ecuador now and am looking forward to returning to this magical village. The people in Saraguro (and Ecuador in general) are so welcoming and proud of their culture and I’m sure will appreciate the prints! For a treat, grab a meal from Shamuico Espai Gastronomic while you are there!

      1. I had totally forgotten about the comment I posted last October but came upon it now as I’m trying to write an article about my trip to Ecuador soon thereafter. As planned, I took along a handful of photos from the mid-1970s, not really expecting any to be recognizable, given their age. But after leaving them laid out on a vacant counter top in the main market, I was shocked to find someone who was able to identify the potter in one of my photos. I had a similar experience in Cuenca and Otavalo, but with photos less than three years old. Saraguro was by far the most unexpected outcome. Unfortunately, I didn’t dine at Shamuico Espai Gastronomic during my visit. A colleague in Quito had also recommended it, but I neglected to write down its name! Duh.

        1. That is so neat that the community was able to identify people in your photos! Thanks for sharing and you can try Shamuico next time… 🤗

  5. A little fuzzy on the getting there details from cuenca, can’t you just get off at saraguro instead of transferring in Loja? By the way, I’ve been loving your Cuenca suggestions, muy muy bien hecho!

    1. Hey Dave! Yes, you simply exit at Saraguro! I noticed that my wording was confusing… I meant that you must take the bus in the direction of Loja from Cuenca, so I went in and reworded that. Thanks so much and enjoy Saraguro!

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