Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador and has always been recognized as the main cultural center of the country.
This city has been chosen as the favorite destination to live after retirement. Mainly because it is a very quiet city that, despite being cosmopolitan, maintains a conservative air that enchants both locals and strangers.
Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca is the capital of the province of Azuay, in Ecuador.
It is a city with a little more than 300,000 inhabitants, crossed by four rivers and that explains its name.
Travelers often refer to Cuenca like the Athens of Ecuador. Easy to understand due to its beautiful architecture, cultural diversity and offer to art in all its forms: painting, music and literature. In addition, it has given the country big names, mainly artists.
It’s historic center was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1999 and the title is really well deserved, because its attractiveness and historical and cultural value are indisputable.
In addition, it is quite extensive, so it is not the classic historical city center that has three or four blocks, but covers a good part of Cuenca.
The size of the city is perfect: neither too big to overwhelm the crowds and traffic nor too small for one to miss having options to choose in terms of culture and gastronomy.
It is one of the places in South America on our return to the continent where you think “I could easily live here”.
Top 5 Reasons
1. The Historic Center
Cuenca has a very nice Historical Center, in which the cobbled streets, beautiful buildings, churches, squares and monasteries stand out.
The Historic Center of Cuenca covers 200 hectares and preserves its checkerboard layout, like the colonial historical centers of other cities.
In the Historic Center of Cuenca the new Cathedral stands out, located in the Calderón Park, the central park of the city.
The blue domes of this imposing church can be seen from practically the entire city and are the quintessential Cuenca icon.
In front of the new Cathedral is the old Cathedral, which was the first church built by the Spanish in 1557.
In the Historic Center of Cuenca you will also find several squares, such as the famous and colorful Plaza de las Flores, where you will find flowers from all colors.
2. The city of the four rivers
The official name of the city is Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca. This name is due to the fact that it is the four rivers that run through the city that have marked its life and its architectural distribution.
The most representative of its four rivers is the Tomebamba, which marks a natural division between the historical part of the city and the modern part.
In the Tomebamba River Ravine, you can see beautiful houses that seem to hang from the river, you will also find the Broken Bridge, another icon of the city.
The Yanuncay, Machángara and Tarqui rivers also run through the city and give it an energetic air, full of peace and beauty.
3. Turi: Cuenca from above
Turi is a rural parish in Cuenca, but it is practically part of the city. It is the main viewpoint of Cuenca, from its top you can see the city, with its tile houses, its rivers, its churches. It is a must when you visit Cuenca, and it is very easy to get to from the city center.
4. Ancient vestiges
Cuenca preserves several archaeological remains of the Cañari culture and the Inca empire. Cuenca was an important settlement of the Cañari culture, which called it Guapondélig.
When the Incas defeated the Canaris, they founded the city of Tomebamba, one of the most important in this region.
You will find Pre-Columbian remains all over Cuenca, like the Pumapungo museum, next to the Tomebamba River, or in Todos Santos, in the Historic Center.
From Cuenca you can also get to the ruins of Ingapirca, in the neighboring province of Cañar, the largest Inca ruins in Ecuador.
5. Art and culture
In Cuenca you will find a great variety of cultural options. One of the most important places, is the Art Biennial, one of the most famous in America.
Cuenca also has numerous museums and artisan shops. One of the featured artisan items is the toquilla straw hat. You will also find beautiful filigree jewelry and fabrics.
This is just a mouthful of what you will find in this beautiful and welcoming city.
We would like to recommend you our beautiful tour:
11 DAY HIDDEN TREASURES ECUADOR – that includes the visit to this gorgeous city, and so many other hidden treasures in Ecuador.