Cuenca Things to Do

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Most Recent Things to Do in Cuenca

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    Cajas National Park

    by elsadran Updated Oct 10, 2014

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    Just one hour from Cuenca on the road to Guayaquil, you pass through a protected area where all trucks are checked for not carrying dangerous or suspicious cargo. This is the Cajas National Park at an altitude of 3000- 4450m. It's an amazing terrain of pure nature with more than 200 lakes and rivers that flow all the way to the Pacific and to the Amazon! It provides excellent hiking and trout fishing. Although it is usually misty or rainy, many prefer to camp for a night and enjoy its magic atmosphere in its full. The lake near the entrance is thought to have been sacred in old times. The forest of the quinua (quinoa) trees with their twisted branches reminds you of the film “the Lord of Rings”. And the amazing views of the shrubby mountain slopes with the still lakes and the absence of the natural sounds gives a unique feeling of immense solitude. However the reality is quite different because there is plenty of animals and plants if you come closer. There are many flowered bushes, the quinua trees at the lake and rivers, wildcats, pumas, deer, rabbits, ducks and a lot of birds, as woodpeckers, humming birds, Andean condors and a lot more....
    There are many popular hikes which are not difficult and you can do them yourselves. Just call at the Information Center pay for your entrance(10$US) and ask the wardens about the trails. You will be provided with a free map and all the information you need. A popular trail starts right there . There is another one starting at a higher point called 3 Cruzes (altitude 4160m), because of the 3 Crosses, next to the road .
    If you are a real fan of mountain hiking and need more days to take off your energy, buy a better map. Of course in any case you will need a compass, good waterproof boots and a windproof jacket. If it's a chilly day you will need a good warm jacket. For more days you will need a lot more, especially if you decide to camp.
    In the so called “Lowlands”, which in fact are at 3100m, the scenery is more peaceful and familiar. You can meet cows and a lot of local people who come here to catch trout or just to escape the daily routine. The trout was introduced here but eliminated the indigent species, so people are urged to fish, which is really enjoyable in that environment.
    You can come to the park by any bus going this way and ask to be dropped at the Information Center, which is near Lake Toreadora. There is some space in the Center where you can spend the night. Also a good hotel nearby and two or three places where you can warm up and have a meal.

    More pictures in my Travelogue "Cajas"

    serene Lowlands at 3100m... a rabbit... the quinua trees My guide, Javie, near lake Toreadora Cajas National Park
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    • Camping
    • Backpacking
    • Hiking and Walking

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    Mirador de Turi

    by elsadran Updated Oct 10, 2014

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    Turi is four kilometers south of Cuenca, on a hill and provides amazing views of the whole city. It's better at sunset when the colours are light pink and the lights of the city start twinkling. The Mirador is near the church of Turi, where local people gather, as well as tourists, romantic couples and intellectuals. So you can rest watching them and taking photos. Or you can have a look at the local artscraft.
    A taxi will take you about 4$US but you can also get the bus that writes “Turi” from the corner of Fray Vicente Solano and 12 de Abril.

    THE view!
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    Museum of Modern Art

    by elsadran Updated Oct 10, 2014

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    On the southern side of San Sebastian square is the Museum of Modern Art with an excellent collection of temporary and permanent painting and sculpture exhibitions of contemporary artists. The sculptures occupy even the internal courtyards adorned with trees and flowers. A very pleasant place to wander. At the time of my visit there was an exhibition of Fernardo Botero paintings which are really enjoyable to observe. His extraordinary fattish figures are very cute in their perfect colours and shapes. I loved it.
    The building was constructed in 1876 and is called The House of Temperance. ( Casa de la Temperancia) because it was originally built to house people who had drinking problems. Between the years 1976 and 1981 the Central Bank restored the building, and finally in 1982 the Museum of Modern Art was inaugurated here.
    Open: Monday to Friday 8.30-13.00 and 15.00-18.30
    Saturdays and Sundays 9.00-13.00
    Free Entrance.

    painting by Fernardo Botero painting by Fernardo Botero The flowery courtyard of the museum
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    Museum of Aboriginal Cultures

    by elsadran Updated Oct 10, 2014

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    In a bright, airy building, the museum of Aboriginal cultures has a wonderful collection of 5000 exhibits that tell the story of thousands of years of the region. The most ancient items go back to 13.000 BC. Very nicely displayed they occupy the area of 12 rooms, each one covering a distinctive period. It ends with the Inca era in about 1500AD. They are jewels, tools, agricultural instruments, ritual items, pottery, statues and various decorative articles. The selections were done by a specialist who has taught History of Ecuador for 30 years!
    Upon entering you are given a leaflet with plenty of information in English or Spanish. Thus you can navigate yourself through the different rooms.
    There is a large gift shop downstairs with a great variety of things such as books, bags, jewels, artifacts and hundreds more.
    Mon to Fri 8.30-18.00/Sat 8.30-13.00
    Entrance: adults 2$US / children & students 1$US / Third age 1.50$US
    In the pleasant patio there is a nice cafeteria -”Merindia”-where you can rest for a while before or after visiting the museum.

    postcard -gift of the museum postcard- hand for a morter
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    • Historical Travel
    • Archeology
    • Museum Visits

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    Prohibido Centro Cultural

    by elsadran Updated Oct 10, 2014

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    This is a very original place if you like extreme expressions of art. Actually it's an exhibition that works as a cafe-bar, too. You can call any time and have some drinks, talk to people, listen to music and have a look at the different details. There is painting, sculpture, tattoos, jewellery and clothes of the same style. It's the creation of the owner, Eduardo Moscoso, who has turned the place itself to an eccentric, paradoxical work of extreme art. The music is punk, rock and trash very suitable to the general style.
    Entrance: 0,50$US
    Mondays to Saturdays: 9 am to 10 pm
    Sundays: 9 am to 6 pm
    Eduardo, a smiling open-hearted person, is trying to bring an air of radical new way of thinking to the rather conservative society of Cuenca, and he's facing great opposition.
    I liked him!
    Good for young and crazy ..or those who have remained so...!
    There is a similar place in Amsterdam...

    Prohibido Centro Cultural Eduardo Moscoso, always smiling... an original chandelier
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    flower market

    by elsadran Updated Oct 10, 2014

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    The colorful flower market is normally located in the Plazoleta del Carmen on the corner opposite the New Cathedral. When I was there the place was being remodeled so it was temporarily held in San Francisco square. Women dressed in nice blue and white clothes sell their locally grown flowers. The place smells beautiful and the florists look so neat and tidy in their dresses! Only a little tired of having their photos taken...

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    Visit the surroundings of Cuenca

    by MarcusM19 Updated May 28, 2014

    From Cuenca it is only about 40 minutes to the little village of Gualaceo. In Gualaceo you will find some place which are worth a visit. For example at the company Ecuagenera you can visit a garden with lot of orchids. The got more than 1.000 different species of them. Entrance fee for a guided tour is 5 $ per person. There is although a little place where you can observe how they make textils the way the Incas did. A visit to the local market in the city centre is interesting. Here you can taste fried pork or grilled guinea pig. If you want to stay a night in Gualaceo you have the posibility to sleep in the 5-Star Santa Barbara Hosteria. Rooms here start from 90 $. Nice place with a huge pool and good food. If you are in Gualaceo you shouldn't miss the neighbour village of Chordeleg. Here you can buy silver jewelery at veryeconomic prices. Day trips from Cuenca you will find for the price of 60 $ per person at the different tour operators of the city. If you only need a car you may contact Mr. Eduardo Britto, owner of the Hostel Pachamama at Calle Larga. He charges 60 $ to drive you to Gualaceo and back to Cuenca.

    Related to:
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    A Trip to Paute

    by MLBarratt Written Sep 25, 2013

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    Paute is a small town a few miles NE of Cuenca that has a rich heritage, friendly people and is world famous for its Fruits and Flowers. Most people don't know that a great percentage of the cut roses that come to the USA come from Ecuador and many of those come from Paute. About an hour scenic bus ride from Cuenca, Paute gives a visitor that small town feel while still giving many great opportunities for shopping the local markets and deciding which wonderful restaurant to visit. Our favorite is "Corvel International Restaurant" just off the main square. Plan to just walk around town as it's a small town giving one a rest from the hustle and bustle of Cuenca. There is also a beautiful park along the Paute River that runs through town. Buses leave from Cuenca to Paute and from Paute to Cuenca from the Terminal Terrestre (bus station) about every 15 to 20 minutes all day long so you are never rushed.

    Paute Plaza Corvel restaurant Cobblestone Street in paute Paute market
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    Natural Hot Springs Pools

    by MLBarratt Written Sep 25, 2013

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    About 15 minutes by bus South of Cuenca is the town of Banos where there are several hot spring pools and resorts. Our favorite is "Hosteria Duran". This is an upscale Hotel and spa with several hot swimming pools as well as private pools and mud baths. They also have a snack bar and a fine restaurant that serves wonderful meals. Access Banos by taxi for probably $2.50 or catch a bus at the terminal terrestre (bus station) for 25 cents.

    Hosteria Duran 1 Hosteria Duran 2 Hosteria Duran Hotel
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    Ancient Inca Ruins

    by MLBarratt Written Sep 25, 2013

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    About an hour North of Cuenca is "Inga Pirca" an ancient Inca ruins that everyone visiting the area should see. The grounds are kept groomed by lamas. There are buses that leave from the Cuenca Terminal Terrestre (Bus Station) regularly.

    FamouS Incan face in the rocks at Inga Pirca Lawn mowers Bath Tub at inga Pirca
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    • Photography
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    • Family Travel

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    La Merced

    by toonsarah Updated Feb 7, 2013

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    Once we had enjoyed a good breakfast we were ready to start our sightseeing in Cuenca. Right next door to the café was the church of La Merced, so this was as good a place to start as any!

    The church is an attractive one, set back a little from the road on a small semi-circular plaza. An inscription above the door reads “Ave Maria, Redemptrix Captivorum” – Hail Mary, saviour of captives. The door itself is beautifully carved – I loved the slightly grumpy lion on one panel in particular (see photo two).

    I was surprised when we entered to find that photography was allowed as in Quito the first sight that greeted us on entering many of the churches was one forbidding the use of any camera. So I was happy to be able to take some photos (without flash, naturally) of the ornate altarpiece. I was also taken by some excellent examples of the local tendency towards the gory in any representations of biblical events, which is often attributed to indigenous artists finding in their art an opportunity to draw attention to the blood spilt in the Spanish conquest of their lands. See photos three and five for typical examples.

    This church was built here in response to a request by the people of Cuenca, following the construction of the church of the same name in Quito.

    I read only after our visit of the painting here of the Sleeping Virgin, a representation of a miracle said to have occurred near Baños where it is believed her image appeared carved in a rock, so we didn’t seek that out. I also read too late that it holds the tomb of Julio Matovelle, local poet and priest, who founded the Congregación de Padres Oblatos and is best known for promoting the construction of the Basilica del Voto Nacional in Quito.

    Next tip: the Ruinas Todos Santos

    La Merced Door, La Merced In La Merced Interior, La Merced Side altar, La Merced
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    • Historical Travel
    • Religious Travel
    • Architecture

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    Ruinas Todos los Santos

    by toonsarah Written Feb 7, 2013

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    At the south-eastern edge of the old colonial city of Cuenca are a number of sights just a short walk from our hotel. One of these is the major Museo del Banco Central, with the archaeological remains of the Incan city, Pumapungo. But we had too little time in the city to see everything, and I lost the argument with Chris about how many museums we would go to in that limited time! So that will have to wait for a possible future visit ...

    But we did take a walk in that area, and saw a few things of interest. First among them was this much smaller complex of ruins, named for the nearby church of Todos los Santos. The complex was closed (I have read that it usually is) so I had to content myself with peering over the fence. And to be honest, the ruins are so compact that you can see a fair bit that way. Although small, this is an important site in the history of Cuenca, as it was the first place where the Spanish founders of 1557 built over the old city. The ruins therefore are a mix of Cañari, Inca and Spanish with remains of all three civilisations including Inca walls, ruined arches and an old Spanish water mill. In my photo you can see the distinctive Incan construction technique, with the large stones in the walls neatly locked together without any need for a cementing substance.

    Nearby is the church of Todos los Santos that gives the ruins their name. This was the first church built by the Spanish, but various restorations, most recently at the start of the 20th century, mean that today it shows elements of colonial, Renaissance, neo-classical and Gothic architecture. The main west-facing front is ornate with architraves, friezes, balustrades, niches etc. and an attractive and elaborate bell-tower. Despite the newer work, it still has its adobe walls. Unfortunately it is only open for Mass on Sunday evenings (18.00) and can’t be visited at other times.

    Next tip: Rio Tomebamba

    Ruinas Todos los Santos Todos los Santos
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    • Archeology
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    Rio Tomebamba

    by toonsarah Written Feb 7, 2013

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    There are four rivers that flow through Cuenca – the Tomebamba, Yanuncay, Tarqui and Machangara. Indeed, the presence of these rivers gives the city its full and rather grand name of “Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca” – Santa Anna of the four rivers of Cuenca, with “cuenca” meaning watershed or basin.

    Of these rivers, the Rio Tomebamba is closest to the old city, forming its southern boundary in the area consequently known as El Barranco. A walk here is a very pleasant way to see another side of the city – literally, as it will give you views of the river side of the old buildings on Calle Larga, with their traditional balconies almost overhanging the river. The path is lined with trees and the several benches invite you sit for a while. In the mornings I have read that local women still come here to do their washing but on the afternoon of our visit the activity was of a very different nature, with the riverbanks hosting some of the city’s Independence festival celebrations. There were traditional dancers, lots of music and stalls selling typical crafts from all over Latin America. Locals mixed with tourists, all enjoying the spectacle and the sunny weather. It was a super atmosphere!

    Next tip: one of the river’s bridges, the Puente Roto

    Rio Tomebamba House on the south bank Festival dancers Watching the performance Crafts for sale
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    Puente Roto

    by toonsarah Written Feb 7, 2013

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    Several bridges cross the Rio Tomebamba, linking the colonial city to the more modern area to the south. One that doesn’t do that is the Puente Roto or Broken Bridge. This is an old stone arched bridge dating from the 1840s, a large part of which was washed away by a flood in 1850, only a few years after its completion.

    Today there is a small gallery under one of the arches whose paintings and sculptures spill out on to the path. On Saturdays this expands into a mini open-air art fair but on the Friday we were here this part of the river bank was fairly quiet although further east the Independence weekend festivities had already started.

    Next tip: Colonial Cuenca

    Puente Roto Under the arches of the Puente Roto

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    Parque Calderón

    by toonsarah Written Feb 7, 2013

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    At the heart of Cuenca, as with all Spanish colonial towns and cities, is its grand plaza, here called Parque Calderón after Abdón Calderón whose statue stands in the centre (main photo and photo three). Calderón was born in Cuenca in 1804 and became a hero of Ecuador’s fight for independence when only young. His death in the Battle of Pichincha at age just 18 ensured his conversion from hero to legend. According to accounts of the battle he stood immovable in the line of fire even after receiving 14 bullet wounds, and ensured that his battalion held firm. He died of his wounds and of dysentery five days later in Quito. His story is still told to young children in Ecuador and his statue here, which depicts the wounded hero holding firm to the flag of independence, was a focus for the city’s celebrations of its own independence day on the weekend of our visit as my third photo shows.

    You will inevitably find yourself here many times as you explore the city and it acts as both orientation point and destination in its own right. Around the square are several of Cuenca’s most notable buildings including the cathedral, and the old cathedral which stand respectively in its south west and south east corners. Other less eminent but equally historic buildings add to the overall impression. The square is a focus for both tourists and locals and has plenty of benches and shady corners where you can relax and take a break from sightseeing which indulging in some quality people-watching. As we were here on a holiday weekend it was especially lively, with a variety of entertainments laid on for the local families who had flocked here to join the celebrations – stilt walkers, musicians, photographers with props (you could have your photo taken as a cowboy sitting on a model pony, for instance) and people selling all sorts of food and drink as well as cheap toys. On the Friday afternoon of the weekend there was a procession that passed through two sides of the square, adding to the atmosphere – and the crowds!

    Next tip: Viva Cuenca!

    Statue of Abd��n Calder��n Parque Calder��n On Independence Day
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