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Sigsig is a small agricultural town 60 kilometers (37.2 mi) southwest of Cuenca that sits in a valley surrounded by steep mountains. It is best known for being the source of many of the Panama hats sold within and outside of Ecuador. A quick walk around town will give a glimpse of the many stages of paja toquilla hat production.

Arriving from Cuenca, you will be let off in the first of two of the townā€™s parks. This park is filled with soccer fields and basketball courts and is dominated by two enormous and eerie welded statues of angels on stilts. To get a glimpse of the scenery and to orient yourself, walk up the flight of stairs toward the basketball court on the hill, where you will be able to take advantage of the height and enjoy the vistas.

The town is very straightforward, and by walking around for about an hour or so, you can cover just about all of the streets. The streets are laid out in a grid formation, with the uphill side of town being north, and the downhill side, toward the market, being south. The houses are old colonial buildings with flowers dripping off balconies. There are not many formal activities to entertain you with in Sigsig, but walking around the town and peeking into doors where women are weaving hats can be quite interesting. Toward the east of town there is another park with a statue dedicated to Cacique Duma, the chief of the CaƱari Confederation from Sigsig who defeated the Incan conquistadors from Cuzco.

If you get tired of walking around town, head toward the south of town where a five- to 10-minute walk will lead you to the "playa," or bank of the river. Along the way you can stop at the AsociaciĆ³n de Toquilleras Maria Auxiliadora and take a look at the Panama hat production. If you are interested in buying, this is probably the best place to look. The "playa" is a refreshing stop, surrounded by eucalyptus trees and steep green mountains, and a perfect place to picnic. Swimming and fishing are allowed, but some spots can get deep, so be careful.

Those interested in exploring the surrounding areas should visit the Zhavalula and Chobshi caves, once used by the Incas. These can be reached in about five to ten minutes by pick-up truck, which you can hire (about $3-4) either at the southeast corner of the park when you first arrive in town, or at the market. If you would like to walk there, follow the road to the "playa" then stay straight and follow signs to the caves.

For a good and cheap bite to eat in Sigsig, try Chunucari Bar Restaurant, located on Calle Davila between Sucre and Bolivar. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this restaurant serves delicious meals in the courtyard of a rustic colonial house. Lunch includes a large bowl of soup, a rice plate with vegetables and fish or meat, juice and dessert for $1.50. There is also a small gift shop attached to the restaurant.

There are not many hotels in Sigsig, but if you do plan on spending the night you can stay at Residencial Lupita (07-266-257).

To get to Sigsig, take a "Cenepa" bus from the terminal in Cuenca. Buses run daily from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. and cost $1.25 each way.


Other places nearby Sigsig: Jima, GirĆ³n, BaƱos (Cuenca), Gualaceo, Chordeleg and Bulcay.

15 Jan 2013

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