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Cuenca

Practical information on Cuenca

  • Encounters with locals
  • Romantic
  • Viewpoint
  • Place or Religious Monument
  • Music
  • Museums
  • Handicraft
  • Place or Historical Monument
  • Unesco World Heritage
  • Essential
3 / 5 - 3 reviews
How to get there
1 hour's flight from Quito
When to go
All year round
Minimum stay
1 to 2 days

Reviews of Cuenca

David Debrincat Seasoned Traveller
459 written opinions

Cuenca is a peaceful, charming colonial town, which is also the third biggest town in Ecuador, the main town of the Southern region and the capital of production of the famous Panama hat.

My suggestion:
Cuenca is a very religious town. There are festivals all year round and there is a big procession on the first Saturday of every month.
My review

Cuenca is a pre-Hispanic town that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In those days it was lived in by the Cañari indians. Later, the Incas wanted to recreate the town of Cusco in Peru. It was called Guapondeleg, then Pumapungo, then became Cuenca in the 16th century and has since remained a prosperous agricultural city. It reminds me a bit of Mexican towns. Here the main square is called Parque Calderón and it is there you will find the cathedral and the courts. The facades are richly decorated and magnificent. Some are very colourful, others are built from lava rock. This is a real jewel of a town which you should visit during a trip to Ecuador. Legend tells us that under the Incas the buildings were constructed in gold. The best way to explore Cuenca is simply to walk around the streets, wander in the parks, admire the beautiful facades, and stroll around the numerous markets.

Cuenca is world famous for making Panama hats. During my visit to the town I visited a factory and a shop where they are repaired. Some of them cost more than $1,000 and are kept for a life time. Rather than buy a new one, Ecuadorians prefer to let the expert hands of the craftsmen work their miracle and give their headgear a new life. Visiting a workshop is fascinating.

Lorette Vinet Seasoned Traveller
59 written opinions

Cuenca is Ecuador's big southern town, and an expensive one at that. It's pleasant, airy, buzzing and home to numerous markets.

My suggestion:
I imagine this piece of advice applies to any holiday destination in Ecuador , but be forewarned if you go during Mardi Gras or the carnival. 'Bawdy' is an understatement...
My review

Second time lucky... If you want to know why, it's because the moment you alight from the bus you get drenched... You rush to your hotel, change clothes, tell yourself it's a one-off, go out and...splosh, you're soaked. Well, in any case that was the sum of my first trip to the town of Cuenca.

The following year, I decided to go back and catch up with a friend to celebrate Easter together. It was later in the season, the rainy season had abated and we toured the churches (7 during this religious week) and ate guinea pigs, the Ecuadorian festive favourite.

You may think I'm pulling your leg, but really, I loved my stay in Cuenca!

Stéphanie Charbit Seasoned Traveller
52 written opinions

Cuenca is the third largest town in the country and it is quieter, as well as smaller, than Quito. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the famous panama hats originally came from Cuenca!

My suggestion:
Cuenca is not very big and can easilybe visited on foot and without a guide! Make the most of your time there by spending at least one day in Cajas national park which is very near.
My review

I was very excited to be arriving at Cuenca of which I had heard a lot of good things. I intended staying there for two days, one of them in Cajas national park, which left me just one day to visit the town.

I went off to see the historic centre which has old colonial houses, lots of churches and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the main square, next to which is the flower market.

It's a bit warmer than the rest of the country (because you are "only" 2,500 metres above sea level) so I tried wearing my T-shirt without a jumper. It was nice, and the town was quiet. A quick visit to the market for a 2 dollar snack, including a fresh fruit juice, and then I went out of the centre to go and see the other areas. In Saint Blas square I ate a passion fruit mousse which I still dream about (de-li-cious!) and i walked along the banks of the Tomebamba on a little pedestrianised promenade. Cuenca is a pleasant place but a bit quiet for my taste!

Tours and travel ideas Cuenca