Cuenca is the most popular city in Ecuador, with expats from both Europe and the USA. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its combination of historic buildings, pathways along the river, and quaint bridges make the city an absolute pleasure to walk around. Bring comfortable shoes and you should be able to get around to visit all of these great destinations.
A walking path along the Tomebamba River, one of four rivers in the city, connects many neighborhoods in Cuenca. A popular stretch lies between the Calle Larga and the University of Cuenca. Keep your eyes open for beautiful historic homes, and don’t be surprised if you catch someone washing their laundry on the shore.
Famous for its classic blue domes and rose-hued alabaster facade, the New Cathedral is one of the most visited destinations in Cuenca. Although the church is fairly new (it was only completed in 1975) it took almost a century to construct. Take the time to tour the entire church, including the rooftops and the underground mausoleum.
Located in the middle of town, the Parque Arquelogico de Pumapungo holds an impressive collection of ancient Incan structures. The archaeology site includes a multi-terraced pyramid structure that was likely a palace and the residence of a great Incan ruler. Ancient baths and a mausoleum have been identified underground. The park also includes extensive gardens, ancient aqueducts, and a small aviary of Ecuadorian parrots.
A visit to the Todos Santos neighborhood is a history lesson in both pre-Columbian and Colonial Cuenca. Tour the ancient Cañari-Incan ruins and the Todo Los Santos Church before walking the local streets, picking out the oldest buildings along the way.
Smell the Roses
Located on the west side of the New Cathedral is the most colorful flower market in Cuenca. Even on a cloudy day, the vibrant colors of locally grown roses, orchids, and other beautiful flowers overwhelm the eye. This is one of the most picturesque spots in the city.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
The traditional Panama hat is an Ecuadorian invention. Locals call them sombreros de paja toquilla, or straw hats. Learn all about the history and making of the Ecuadorian Panama hat at the Museo del Sombrero, or visit one of the many shops selling these mementos.
There are several locations around town where you can buy keepsakes to take home with you, but the best artisans’ market is indoors, just off the Plaza San Francisco: the Centro Municipal Artesanal. Several vendors have small shops selling traditional dolls, colorful baskets, intricate jewelry, hand-loomed textiles, and the work of local painters and artists.
Visit the Mirador del Turi for amazing views over the city of Cuenca. There are several ways to do this, including by taxi, local bus, and tour bus. Many travelers to Cuenca make this a day trip, but the view at night is spectacular, even on a cloudy day.
The most impressive Incan ruins in Ecuador, at Ingapirca, are located an hour and a half outside of Cuenca. The Temple of the Sun, a golden-green edifice built in the style favored by the Inca for religious and ceremonial structures, stands as a centerpiece among an ancient city first built by the local Cañari tribe. The hiking trail outside of the main park leads to the best views of this impressive monument.
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
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