Enjoy a full day to discover, at a leisurely pace, the beauty and charm for which Cuenca has been recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site. This is a walking tour in the colonial downtown area of Cuenca, an opportunity to enjoy the warmth and hospitality of its people, the colorful parks and plazas, religious monuments and handcraft shops.
Cuenca is Ecuador’s third largest city; however, it still retains its lovely little town and provincial air. Its red tiled roofs, cobblestone streets, flowery plazas and museums make it very special.
This comprehensive tour includes the Plaza of San Sebastian, a colorful artisans market, where handicrafts are sold. Then, the culture seized our guests, by visiting the Museum of Modern Art, featuring an excellent collection of contemporary fine art; the original building was the “House of Temperance” where alcoholics were once shut inside its thick walls in an effort to cure them.
Guests made a stop at Plaza San Francisco, where small handcraft shops can be visited and the exquisitely embroidered skirts of the cholas cuencanas are for sale. Next, the guests visit the flower market at the small plaza in front of the carved stone entrance to the church of El Carmen de la Asunción. From here, a stroll to the main square, surrounded by the imposing blue-domed Cathedral, the Court of Justice, the Municipal Palace, the Governor’s Palace and the Church of El Sagrario.
Also, visit the ruins of Todos Santos, where in different archaeological strata are vestiges of the rough Cañari construction, the classical Inca stone walls without mortar and remains of Spanish arches (Places and order of visits may vary and change).
Lunch is served at one of the restaurants of the area, and in the afternoon, drive up to the hill of Turi, a viewpoint where guests can admire the city and have an explanation of Cuenca's geography and history. On the way, guests made a short visit to the ceramic shop of Vega. Later, they visit a museum and a workshop where Panama hats of the best quality are made.
- Ground transportation and guide
- Dress in layers (T-shirt, blouse, sweater and coat)
- rain protection.
- Sun protection (SPF 40) even if the day is cloudy.
- Hat or cap.
- Good walking shoes.
- Altitude: 2,550 meters (7,750 feet)
- Average Temperature: Day 10° to 25° C / 50° to 77° F. - Night 6° to 10° C / 43° to 50° F.
With an altitude between 2,100 and 3,000 meters (7,000 to 10,000 feet) the weather is surprisingly comfortable all year round. The days are warm and nights cool. In the highlands the dry season extends from July through October with temperatures in the 70s F (20s C) during the day and in the 50s F (10s C) after the sun sets. During the rest of the year, you can expect showers in the afternoon.
Dressing in layers is ideal in the highlands. Dress is generally informal for travelers. Lightweight wools are recommended for day; a sweater or a warm jacket after dusk. Good walking shoes are essential.
The hotels, country inns and haciendas used on our tours are the best available at each location. Although rooms at haciendas may not have all the amenities, they are located on superb ground evoking a bygone age. All have private facilities and hot water.
Because Ecuador is located right on the equator, sun rays are direct. Fair-skinned persons should always use sun protection in the highlands, even if the weather is cloudy, and wear sunglasses. Hat or cap are highly recommended.
Although most hotels and cities have perfectly suitable water, to avoid stomach problems, don't drink tap water and don't eat uncooked vegetables or fruit you cannot peel. Bottled mineral water, with or without carbonation, is available at all hotels/haciendas.
Travelers with heart conditions or high blood pressure should check with their doctor about high-altitude travel.
Why is this tour so special?
- It is the second city in Ecuador declared by UNESCO a World Cultural Heritage City.
- Its people, cultured as the city, are very kind and the best hosts or guests can expect.
- Nice weather all year round.
- Every place in Cuenca is full of beautiful architecture, cozy hotels and good food.
- Multiple expressions of culture and art are present always.
- The best straw hats (Panama Hats) and premium crafts and pottery are found here in Cuenca!!
- A cultural treasure in the Andes, no doubt about it!
- Marvel at Cuenca’s winding rivers and beautiful gardens are part of the pleasant atmosphere of this historical city.
- Cuenca was settled along the Inca highway that linked Cusco with Quito
- Preceding their ancestors’ skills, the finest gold and silver jewelry is made still by hand. Those jewels can be found through the city and surrounding areas.
Some Special Highlights
COLONIAL DOWNTOWN CUENCA
The Historical Center is located on the second terrace of a big alluvial cone, which was formed by the erosive action of the rivers during thousands of years. It is characterized by the presence of narrow cobblestone streets and picturesque colonial and republican style buildings, which give the city a special charm. This is also the commercial centre in the city, where most of the shops, banks, boutiques and hotels are found.
THE NATIONAL ETHNOGRAPHIC MUSEUM OF THE CENTRAL BANK OF CUENCA
The purpose of this Museum is to offer a profound vision of Ecuador, through objects of daily use. The imaginary voyage that the visitor will experience through Ecuadorian regions and cultures, was in times past the multiple and real itinerary of the people who built and defined Ecuador's identity.
This Museum is the human face of Ecuador, a multiethnic and pluri cultural country, a living mosaic of the mestizos, resulting from the fusion of the original inhabitants who were here thousands of years before the arrival of the Europeans, and later with people from Africa.
The visit of the museum starts at a Shuar dwelling, a universe of symbols of life and mythology of the Shuars. The pillars of the house join the lower world with the upper world, its elyptic shape represents the path of the sun. It has no internal walls, but the space distribution is rigorous: the feminine area or ekent to one side and the masculine area or tankamash on the other.
Cuenca Ecuador Tours & Hotels
With the placid atmosphere of a small city, Cuenca fascinates its visitors
Ecuador's most beautiful city, Saint Anne of the Four Rivers of Cuenca, is located in the valley of Guapondelig (meaning “plain as wide as the sky”). At an altitude of 2,550 meters (7,650 feet) above sea level, Cuenca enjoys a mild climate and a fabulous geographic position. Surrounding the city of Cuenca are hills like Cullca to the north and Turi to the south, which are great lookout points. Cuenca has the placid atmosphere of a small city, both deeply religious and artistic, which fascinates the visitor. The beauty of its landscape combined with the harmony between old and modern architecture, has prompted, UNESCO to name Ecuador's third largest city, Cuenca, a World Cultural Heritage Site.
Houses stretch down the slopes along the Tomebamba, one of the four rivers that cross Cuenca, whose banks are covered with multicolored laundry under the riverside willows and linden trees. Both the Hispanic colonial downtown and the new homes in the residential neighborhoods, show how Cuenca keeps traditions of bygone eras close to its heart, but accepts the presence of modernity that abound in the city: new hotels, banks, art galleries and shops. Cuenca's cobblestone streets, graceful balconies, blossoming gardens and religious art treasures invite you to visit it, on foot and at a leisurely pace.
Cuenca's handicrafts are outstanding in variety, color and quality. These treasures, inspired by local imagination are created in straw, horn, cloth, embroidery, knit, clay, wrought iron, leather as well as gold and silver jewelry.
The region of Cuenca was already inhabited nine thousand years ago. The Cañari people settled here due to its favorable climate, abundant water and ideal land for cultivation. Extraordinary pieces of ceramic of this period, notable for their design and technique, are to be found in the museums. In the middle of the 15th century, the Incas came to this area and founded the city they called Tomebamba and a few years later, in 1557, the Spanish claimed the city and renamed it Cuenca.
Additional excursions surrounding Cuenca include the impressive Cajas lake district, the subtropical valleys of Paute, Gualaceo and Yunguilla, plus the legendary Inca ruins of Ingapirca.