Churches, Markets, Museums, Architecture, Atmosphere
Quiet and tranquil if you want an active night life
Well worth a short flight down from Quito
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
When we arrived at the Hotel Victoria after our early morning flight from Quito it was only 9.00 am,...more
This place has character! All the rooms are centered around an enclosed courtyard that also serves...more
This is a 5 Star Hotel! The service is exemplary and the food is outstanding. The rooms are...more
When we first arrived in Cuenca it was about 9.00 am. We had been up since 5.00 and not had breakfast (only a drink was served on our flight), so that was the first thing we looked for – and the first likely place we saw was this European-style café on a street corner just a few metres from our hotel. It was a bright sunny morning, warmer than we...more
You might expect a restaurant situated in this prime location on the west side of Parque Calderón , right next to the new cathedral, to be a tourist rip-off, but Raymipampo is anything but! We came here twice and on both occasions found it busy and bustling, with a really mixed clientele – local families enjoying a meal together while attending the...more
On our first day in Cuenca we had to return to our hotel, the Victoria, at midday to check in, having arrived too early to do so immediately. Once we had done that, settled into our room and unpacked, we were ready for lunch and looked for somewhere nearby on the Calle Larga. La Parola caught my eye because it had an upstairs terrace which seemed...more
I had read about the Wunderbar on VT member richiecdisc’s Cunca page and it sounded like our sort of place – I liked the sound of the cocktails, and Chris liked the pun in the name! What is more, it was only a few doors from our hotel, the Victoria, so we really had to check it out, which we did on our first evening here – and liked it so much that...more
La Compañia claims to be the first micro-brewery in Cuenca and when we saw the sign we decided we just had to go in and try it and its beers. We liked the rather higgledy-piggledy arrangement, with tables on different levels and a friendly buzz, but were less impressed with the beers – which were sort of the point! My Irish Red was OK, if rather...more
We kind of expected a German beer garden when we saw the name Wunderbar and read that it was indeed German owned so we were a bit disappointed to find a typical if cool bar down by the river. Once we got by our initial preconceptions we loved the place. It's a bit of a labyrinth with lots of little rooms and snug holes to get cozy in. It was a...more
We came to Cuenca by air (with Ecuadorean airline TAME) from Quito where we had been spending the first part of our Ecuador trip. The flight left pretty early in the morning so we were at the airport by around 6.15 but already it was really busy, with a long queue at the TAME desk for the several flights leaving that morning. I was even a bit...more
The only reason I flew from Guayaquil to Cuenca is because I arrived to Guayaquil by plane from Galapagos Islands, and I thought it could be convenient with a transfer at the airport instead of going to the bus terminal and take a bus. Later, when I got the flight times I realised I had to wait several hours in in Guayaquil. In one way this was...more
In the morning I took a taxi from the hotel in Cuenca to the bus terminal. It was $2. At the terminal I looked for Transportes Cañar which have direct buses to Ingapirca at 9am ( the bus left 5 minutes earlier, so don't come late). The ticket was $2.50 (July 2011) and to Ingapirca it took about two hours. There were many tourists on the bus and...more
Naturally the Panama hat factory of Homero Ortega and Sons has a shop, and naturally our tour of the factory ended there. But I have to say that there was minimal “hard sell”. We were persuaded to try on a few hats (and I at least was happy to do so, as some were gorgeous!) but no one forced the issue when we said we didn’t want to buy. Had we...more
A wonderfully decorated place where you can have a cup of coffe in a very artistic environment with excellent taste. All the items seem really unique, and beautiful in their imaginative simplicity. I almost liked everything! The prices are very good and I think even if you just go for coffee, you will finally give in and buy something. There are...more
On 2nd November each year Cuenca, like the rest of Ecuador, celebrates the Feast of All Souls or Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), and a day later on the 3rd it marks the anniversary of its independence from Spain. The two events form one merged celebration, and when, as in 2013, they fall at a weekend, the city really takes on party mood....more
The Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is commemorated in Ecuador as in many South and Central American countries, although not to the same extent as in Mexico perhaps. Its observance is strongest among the native people, the Kichwa, and especially so here in Cuenca. The festival falls on 2nd November, which was during our visit to the city, and...more
If you have been elsewhere in Ecuador before arriving in Cuenca you will have seen plenty of people, especially women, wearing the often-colourful traditional costumes. And here is no exception, but if you look carefully you will notice the differences between the dress here and, for example, in and around Otavalo. One of these differences is in...more
Cuenca is even more atmospheric at night and every visitor should have a wander in the evening when the old historic buildings are lit up and illuminated. However, Cuenca's old town centre can be extremely quiet at night and you should exercise normal precautions at night. Don't walk on your own and stay away from the river bank paths and quiet...more
I have read several conflicting accounts about the safety of North Americans and Europeans in Cuenca. Having just returned from and extented stay there, I say that the chances are higher that you will be robbed in Cuenca than in most cities the same size in the US. Three people I met there had been robbed (one had her digital camera stolen) or had...more
During my planned 5 weeks in Ecuador, mainly Cuenca, I hope to also visit Vilcabamba. Concerned about petty theft on the bus trip - there are no direct flights - I asked my contact at the hotel in Vilcabamba if I should take any precautions. In a characteristically helpfull Ecuadoran way (don't you just love it?) he sent the following reply:Hi,...more
While Café Eucalyptus is a nice enough place to have a few drinks, I would never eat anything there again. After a few mojitos we had a hankering for something to snack on and when we saw a Middle Eastern tapas plate we decided to take a plunge on the splurgy $7 “snack.” Now, I know by western standards this would be a cheap meal but in Ecuador you could eat for a couple days on that amount. I wouldn’t mind the exorbitant price if the food was good and authentic but it was neither. Note that tabouli is NOT made with cilantro as much as I love that spice and cumin is not a spice normally found in hummus. Not only was the food not authentic it was pretty small considering the price. In fact, it was mostly pita bread.
Unique Suggestions: No problem going here for drinks, just go elsewhere once you get the munchies!
Luggage and bags:
When traveling by bus you'll find the less you carry the better and a backpack is easiest once you get off the bus.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Good walking shoes are essential as its the number one activity in town. With the relatively mild climate we mostly stuck to our backpacking sandals but carried socks in case the temperatures dipped.
Photo Equipment: A wide angle lens is what you need to get the big buildings into your focus when you can't get far enough back due to the narrow streets. A good zoom comes in handy in the markets as well as for balcony shots.
In one of the old houses on La Condamine, which are gradually being restored, a local artist with a bizarre but very creative mind has undertaken a restoration very different in style. Yes, the old house (dating from 1810) has retained its traditional layout, with small rooms leading off open courtyards. But the décor in those rooms would I am sure...more
This little square is perched on a ledge above the Rio Tomebamba on the southern edge of the colonial city. There are good views from here over the more modern city on the other side of the river. Its main feature is a cross, called the Cruz del Vado, which is protected by a six-sided structure. This cross was erected as a symbol of protection for...more
Cajas National Park is situated just west of Cuenca. The park has an area of 285 sq km and it lies between an altitude of 3100 - 4450 metres. Most of the park consists of Páramo, a high grassland ecosystem, with rugged mountains and over 250 lakes. There are also a few small forests with Quinoa trees (Polylepis) and in the lover part of the park,...more
La Merced has already given us a small taste of the colonial heart of the city, but before venturing further let’s pause and consider how Cuenca came to be listed UNESCO World Heritage Trust site.The city’s history began long before the Spanish colonial era. It was originally settled by the indigenous Cañari around 500 AD and was called by them...more
When planning our trip to Ecuador I was conscious that we were only going to have very limited time in Cuenca so when our travel company (Simply Ecuador) suggested pre-booking a half-day tour of the city I acquiesced, thinking it would be a good way to see a lot in a short time. But when we arrived, and I realised how compact the city was, I...more
After school on Friday, like most days, I wandered around the "Old City" of Cuenca. The colonial achitecture really makes you feel connected with history and makes you wonder what life was like for the people who built the place and lived here at the time. Sure, there a places like New Orleans that are similarly constructed but here it not spoiled...more