Cuenca Tourism

Cuenca, considered one of the most beautiful cities in Ecuador for its colonial and republican architecture, is ideal  place for adventure, cultural, religious tourism, or simply for a rest.

What to see and do in Cuenca Ecuador?

The beautiful city center of Cuenca - Ecuador was recently declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This merit is based on their heritage assets such as churches, historical monuments, squares, parks and their traditional houses. It is one of the most tourist cities in the province of Azuay.

At first it was known as Guapondélic or “Shallow as big as the sky". But the Inca Tupac Yupanqui during his conquest called it "Tomebamba" which meant “Knife Shallow". Later the Spaniards founded it as Cuenca.

Climate: Cuenca, also referred as the "Athens of Ecuador" enjoys a privileged climate because it is located within an extensive valley in the middle of the Andean column with a variable temperature between 7 to 15 ° C in winter and 12 to 25 ° C in summer. The average temperature of the city is 15 ° C, so it enjoys a spring like climate all year round and is ideal for planting flowers and orchids that are exported all over the World.

Important dates of Cuenca Ecuador

Cuenca Foundation: April 12, 1557
Independence of Cuenca (from Spain): November 3, 1820

Parishes of Cuenca

The Canton Cuenca is divided into fifteen urban parishes, and 21 rural parishes

  • Urban parishes
    • Baños, Cumbe, Chaucha, Czech, Chiquintad, Llacao, Molleturo, Nulti, Octavio Cordero Palacios, Paccha, Quingeo, Ricaurte, San Joaquin, Santa Ana, Sayausí, Sidcay, Sinincay, Tarqui, Turi, Valle, Victoria del Portete.
  • Rural Parishes
    • Bellavista, Cañaribamba, El Batán, El Sagrario, El Vecino, Gil Ramírez Dávalos, Brother Miguel, Huayna Cápac, Machángara, Monay, San Blas, San Sebastián, Sucre, Totoracocha, Yanuncay. Cuenca is the Cantonal Head)

Tourism in Cuenca

Sites to enjoy and see:

  • New Cathedral the Immaculate Conception
  • Cajas National Park
  • Calderón Park
  • Turi
  • Museum of the City
  • Otavaleños Market
  • Municipal cemetery
  • Sinincay Land of Craftsmen and Farmers
  • Chordeleg Community Museum:
  • Protective Forest of Mazán
  • Amaru Zoo
  • Historic Center of Cuenca
  • Church of Santo Domingo
  • The square of Las Flores
  • Tomebamba River

Gastronomy of Cuenca

  • Dead pig: This traditional dish of the area is desired by locals and foreigners and contains roasted pork skin, fried pork, sancocho soup, black pudding, it is served accompanied by two types por corn, a real delight.
  • Mote pillo: It is a traditional Azuay food, made with mote (corn) and egg. You can add roast beef. It is a product of European - American miscegenation
  • Roasted guinea pig: it is one of the most traditional dishes in the Austral region of Ecuador, and is considered exotic for foreigners, who are attracted by its exquisite taste. The guinea pig is eaten with its hands, once it is divided into prey. It is served with potatoes, mote (corn), lettuce and a drink.
  • Beverage Basin:
    Rosero: It is a typical Cuenca drink that is made with corn, fruits and spices, it is the perfect companion to any other typical dish of the city.
  • Desserts:
            Tortillas with morocho, red or a hot chocolate, a snack that is tasted in several areas of the Austro. We can find them of corn and wheat.
            Other meals: baked pork, potatoes, brown rice, potatoes, many kinds of corn, tamale and others.

Culture and traditions of Cuenca

  • Carnival in Cuenca (Thursday of Compadres and Comadres)
    • In the specific case of Cuenca, the Carnival has characteristics that make it unique, either because of the exquisite cuisine typical of the region or because of customs that still persist among some of its inhabitants. One of them, which has practically disappeared but being preserved, is the Thursday of compadres and comadres. This tradition, which began two weeks before Carnival (Thursday), was aimed at strengthening ties of friendship and solidarity. The compadres and comadres were chosen depending on the degree of kinship or friendship that existed with them. The chosen person was presented with a “guagua” (girl) of bread or sugar, which was delivered wrapped in the traditional way - in the form of a tamale - in a tray with flower petals. Along with the figure of bread or sugar, it was also customary to give some “treat” such as sweets, eggs, a chicken, etc. The ritual continued on the part of the elect, who when they were committed to such “honor”, ​​offered their visitors a glass of the delicious “mistela” (brandy with macerated fruit) and offered to attend the carnival parties at the home of those who had requested the compadrazgo.   
  •  Innocent saints
    • Celebration of Catholic origin that initially had a strictly religious character. However, with the passing of time, other elements of pagan character were incorporated into it. In Cuenca, the feast of the Holy Innocents presents a particular interest in the enthusiasm with which its inhabitants celebrate it. On January 6 of every year, many people from this city take to the streets with various types of costumes. In the afternoon the troupes are ready to perform a parade with performances and satires of picturesque or prominent characters from the previous year.
    • There are clubs and specific groups that are responsible for organizing the festival every year to reward the most original and creative group.    
  • Corpus Christi
    • Corpus Christi, is undoubtedly one of the most important and ancient religious and popular manifestations in the city. In Cuenca, this tradition has unique and special dyes, because for seven consecutive nights, after the day of Corpus, the "Septenario" is celebrated, which is a very famous holiday in the country for its color and its pyrotechnics. Many participate in this festivity, encouraged by the Archdiocese of Cuenca, religious communities; civil and military authorities, public and private institutions, educational entities and organized groups. The setting for the development of the festival is constituted by the New Cathedral and the Central Park "Abdón Calderón", where an essential component is the famous "Corpus sweets", which are sold in numerous places around the park during the Septenary. Although this is an old custom brought from Spain, in Cuenca - Ecuador it acquired characteristic and characteristic touches of this land and it is a sweet offering from the ingenious people to its creator. It is important in these times of globalization where we tend to homogenize certain cultural patterns from abroad, to preserve our own. The Corpus Christi or “Septenario” of Cuenca, is one of the most colorful celebrations in the country, reflecting the popular and religious culture of a people who love their traditions, which despite the passage of time, still do not disappear.
  • Baby Jesus’s pass
    • The Baby Jesus’s Pass in Cuenca is, without a doubt, one of the most important manifestations of popular religiosity in the country. This festival reflects, as few, the culture and traditions of a people that expresses their beliefs in multiple manifestations and forms of folklore. This celebration has as its central axis the cult of the Child God. Ceremonies in honor of a nascent God have their most remote origin in Hellenic and Romanesque cultures. Specifically, in Rome, on December 25, the birth of the Sun associated with the image of Caesar was celebrated. When Christianity prevailed as the official religion of the Roman Empire, this date continued in force, celebrating the birth of Christ. It is known that in Europe it was Saint Francis of Assisi who celebrated the Nativity of Jesus for the first time, with a recreation of the events in which humble people from the countryside represented the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus; Soon, this custom, encouraged by the Franciscans, spread throughout the Christian world. This religious order and others spread since the time of the Colony, in our country, the cult of little Jesus, through novenas, masses and arrangement of mangers.

The wonders of Cuenca

  • Cuenca is magical and bright. Since I arrived I felt that atmosphere of tranquility and security, of a city of good and warm people. And I was not mistaken, as I walked through the cobblestone streets, I was able to receive the welcoming and friendly greeting of its inhabitants, who directed me to the must-see places to try good food, dance and rest. I was about to live a unique and unforgettable experience!
  • My trip was pleasant, I came to know Galapagos, the beaches and the Amazon. My first point to visit the Andes was Cuenca, I chose it because they had told me it was a cosmopolitan city, where I would find people from other countries and cultures. So it was.
  • I entered through the El Cajas National Park. A wonderful nature reserve, where you need only a couple of hours to practice sport fishing, enjoy a hike through the moor, capture fantastic photos of the abundant flora and fauna, and finally savor a delicious fried trout with a coffee "warm", yes, very warm as the Cuencans say. We also made a stop at Llaviucu, a magical place for natural tourism.
  • After entering the nature for a few hours, I continued the trip, and in 20 minutes I was entering the historic center of the city, one of the best preserved sites in Latin America. There was much to see and know. For a few minutes I thought where to start …
  • They had already told me that the city was very tidy and with several tourist information sites. I walked to the iTur located in Calderón Park, where they gave me a map, and good information to explore the city in an orderly and planned way.
  • Then I began my tour of the Central Park, the historical and traditional space of the city, where the monument to the boy hero Abdón Calderón rests. I visited the Old Cathedral of El Sagrario, which now functions as a Religious Museum; Then I ventured up the 152 spiral steps until I reached the terrace of the Immaculate Cathedral. From there I watched the daily life, and the run-run of the basins. I also looked at other temples in the city, such as the Cenacle Church, Santo Domingo, San Francisco, San Alfonso, San Blas, and the Carmen de la Asunción Church, which at its feet has the famous Plaza de las Flores, the best market in Outdoor roses in the world, according to the National Geograpic magazine.
  • I could not leave the Historic Center without walking through the courtyards, corridors and balconies of the San Luis Seminary, a space that gave me a unique view of the rosette of the Cathedral. In this heritage palace I found excellent restaurants, with typical and gourmet dishes, at a good price and without a doubt, with flavors and smells that I loved. Trying the mote pillo, upon arriving in this city, was a great dream, because everyone told me that I should taste it and I was not wrong to accept the suggestion, it really is a delight.
  • It was almost noon, and I wasn't even exhausted, rather I was very excited to continue exploring the Athens of Ecuador. While walking down the street, I remembered many the many times I was told that Cuenca was the city of the living neighborhoods. So I decided to look at the map and head towards one of them; That's how I started my second adventure. I went straight to the San Sebastián neighborhood.
  • Upon arrival, I observed a spectacular museum, where art is exposed in its maximum splendor. I wanted to take a picture, but there were many, it could not be otherise, with so much work, sculpture and corridors to see.
  • But my goal was to discover the neighborhood. I was very interested in a bar, as people from different cultures and countries lined up to enter. I cheered up and asked one of them why the tumult, to which he replied, "in Cuenca they sell the best craft beer in the country, and I don't want to go without one." I also decided to take one and yes, it is the best. As in this place, with chairs and tables in the open air, there are many in the city, this one being popular in San Sebastián, and one located in the Plaza de la Merced.
  • Well, and after the detail of craft beers, I went to the El Vado neighborhood. Here my gaze was fixed directly to the Cross, which is the top badge of this very popular sector in Cuenca. Its streets are full of tinsmiths and manufacturers of straw hats and cloth.
  • I took advantage of the proximity and visited the Conceptas, a museum of statues of nuns, which scared me, seemed alive. After a few laughs with the museum guide I understood that it is the only museum of its kind in Cuenca, where it is exposed through wooden sculptures, the way they lived in the past; and well, I guess today, the nuns in their cloisters. The whole house that connects with the church of the same name is suitable to tell the story of the well-known "brides of Christ.”
  • They also suggested that I visit the Todos Santos neighborhood, they said that I should try the wood bread that was the best in the area. And so I did it, I went with that goal; however, when I arrived in the sector, the rectangular wooden structure with which the church is built, struck me. The temple is beautiful. Its magical interior. The guide told me that it was the first church built at the east entrance of Cuenca, and it is the only one in the city that has marble hearts, of Mary, Joseph and Jesus together.
  • It was time to go for bread, which already smelled between the corners and streets of the neighborhood. It is impressive to arrive and observe in the middle of the city, and in heritage houses wood-fired ovens inside where the bread is cooked. Literally on this site I applied the famous adage “from the oven to the mouth”, and chose a delicious mestizo bread. You will find a variety of sizes, smells and flavors. A delight made with eucalyptus firewood.
  • While tasting the bread, the Cañari settlement, now called the archaeological complex of ´Todos Santos´, caught my attention; in the middle of the modernity of the city. Here is the imposing stone arch of the old wheat, barley and corn mills.
  • On the way and almost to the limit of this neighborhood with the modern part of the city that starts from the great Huayna Cápac avenue, I entered the Pumapungo Museum, ideal place to know the cultures of our country. Outside the Museum, in the back I could tour the well-known archaeological complex of Pumapungo, and the Ethnobotanical Park. Orchards, archaeological remains, furnaces, natural lagoons, its medicinal plants, walls, trails and the sculpture of Huayna Cápac left me exhausted by its charming history.
  • I had to rest a little before taking the double-decker bus that would take me on a tour outside the city. For this I chose Paseo Tres de Noviembre, a wonderful natural space, where the famous Barranco is, adorned with hanging houses and the Broken Bridge. It was the ideal place to rest and relax for a few minutes. As time went by I watched everything, people playing sports, world travelers playing their music on the steps of the Parque de la Madre, in exchange for a coin, couples declaring their love, and artists painting the landscape. It was a real pleasure to be in this place and observe so much diversity to the sound and sound of the Tomebamba River.
  • To continue on my tour in the double-decker bus, I bought corpus sweets, candies, foam and other sweets typical of the city, to regain energy and strength, as they say this causes sugar.
  • I continued on my tour and closely photographed the flowery balconies of the heritage houses, the orange roofs, the squares and parks, appreciate the constructions of the old and modern Basin, which show the passage of time. Of course, getting to the famous Turi Viewpoint at nightfall was simply wonderful. The sensation of being able to touch the city from above, broke every scheme, even the most intense cold was lost in the euphoria of having reached the highest point of the city to see it and now to be able to tell it. It was unforgettable.
  • Night came, and throughout the day many convinced us to enjoy the night city. All the options were attractive, there are no restrictions for you to have fun, there are places of entertainment for all ages, tastes and styles. We went out to Long Street, with some friends I made during my tour, and I set out to have a good time. There was everything. Bars, restaurants, cafes, trova music, rock concerts, electro music halls, my favorite by the way, and all very close. Nothing else we had to decide where to enter, everyone invited us to their premises, waiters, bartenders, chefs and administrators. Everyone kindly offered us to spend and taste delicious food, cocktails, snacks, listen to music of various genres, or at the same time the DJ of the night.
  • First we entered a restaurant, to taste a typical Cuenca dish; Then we enter a bar to try craft beer, coffee and now, "activaditos" as they say in Cuenca, we went from farra, until the hours allowed.
  • I had forgotten to tell you that when I arrived in the city, I stayed in a spectacular hotel in the historic center. Actually, his story is great. Before it was an inn house for muleteers, and its best story is the inner courtyard that was used to tie the horses, now converted along with the entire heritage property, into a luxurious hotel. This space, with gigantic windows and balconies full of flowers, gives you privileged views of the sky-blue domes of the Immaculate Cathedral. Cuenca has this and many more hotels with quality services, which welcome tourists with open arms, because this city has positioned itself in South America as the “Best Vacation Destination”, recognized by the World Travel Awards, considered the Oscar of tourism.
  • I'm leaving but to return to this beautiful city, where what really matters in life is: live, enjoy, discover and feel. Because Cuenca is a cosmopolitan city, to pamper yourself, enjoy life, and get into the natural. A city to fall in love with, because it is surrounded by magical places, and authentic flavors. Cuenca a destination without limits, a city to rest; A city that caught me for its aroma, color and flavor.
  • See you soon Cuenca, the “most beautiful city in Ecuador”. See you on November 3 at your Independence parties.

Cuenca history

  • In 1557 Captain Gil Ramírez with the company of a group of Spaniards and the caciques Diego, Juan Duma, Luis and Hernando Leopulla; on the ruins of Tomebamba a city with the name of "Santa Ana of the rivers of Cuenca" in honor of the Spanish city of Cuenca was recast.
  • In 1730, the French Geodetic Mission passed through this city.
  • In 1828 Fray Vicente Solano, who is the forerunner of the arts movement in the city, introduced the first printing press and founded the first newspaper called “Eco del Azuay”.
  • The marchista Jefferson Pérez won the first Olympic gold medal of Ecuador in 1996.
  • The City Center of  Cuenca was declared Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO on December 1, 1999.

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