Caranqui, a small Ibarra suburb situated at the north base of Mount Imbabura, has about 5000 people. If you drive about 3 kilometers south of Ibarra, past an oddly-shaped cubic building and up a hill, you will arrive in this small town, called the "centro antiguo" or "old center" locally.
Historically and archeologically, it is an extremely important area. Historians differ as to whether the Inca ruins were constructed by Huayna Capa, the conqueror of the area or by one of his two sons, Atahualpa.
At any rate, it is the birthplace of Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor. It is possibly the last Inca site to be built in South America before the Inca empire fell to the Spanish invasion.
This unusual building, a square temple of the sun, is dedicated to Atahualpa. It sits in a small park known as Parque de Caranqui and houses a museum.
An imposing sculpture of Atahualpa stands guard outside the building.
This Inca site is being reclaimed from its burial under tons of earth. It had been hidden beneath the remains of an adobe brick-making factory until the municipality purchased the lot and allowed excavation to take place.
What is now known as the Inca Swimming Pool or templo de agua is part of a large ruin located on Huiracocha and Princesa Paccha streets. Excavations in 2006 uncovered a rectangular building with well-preserved walls one meter high. At one end is a semi-submerged structure.
Cieza de Leon visited the area around 1546 and described the ruins of a grand palace, a pool or estanque built of finely cut large stones and a Temple of the Sun. He wrote that the temple was once filled with objects made of gold and silver.
This is most likely a description of the templo de agua. Not a swimming pool at all, the estanque contains a system of hydraulic works.
Additional Inca finds include two stone walls that contain niches and doors and a burial pit.
The city is attempting to resurrect the area as a tourist destination. Vendors sell pan de leche, or milk bread, for which the town is famous. People come to Caranqui on weekends from Quito and the bread is usually sold out. It’s made from wheat and corn flour and milk.
The town is also well-known for its ice cream and popsicles, mora jelly and jam and for dulce de higos, which is sweetened figs served with local cheese.
Click here for more of Caranqui’s history.