The twelve best tourist spots in Cuenca and its surroundings, a city revered for its colonial architectures, archaeological sites and impressive nature reserves.
1- Abdon Calderón Square and The Cathedrals:
Cúpulas Catedral Nueva. CC. En el Flickr de lobitadelsur.
A green oasis stands out in the heart of the colonial city along with magnificent buildings such as the Municipality, the New Cathedral and the Old Cathedral.
The New Cathedral is a monumental piece of work that can be seen in the square. A cathedral erected in 1885 and famous for its three impressive renaissance domes that are covered with tiles from Czechoslovakia. A few steps away is the Old Cathedral. A colonial-era cathedral built with stones from the Inca city of Tomebamba.
2- Plaza de las Flores (Cuenca Flower Market):
Mercado de las Flores. By Clave Turismo Ecuador
Located in the heart of Cuenca’s Historic Center, at one side of the majestic New Cathedral and adjoining the colonial Church and Convent of El Carmen de la Asunción, the iconic Flower Market of Cuenca was considered in an article about outdoor flower markets by the world-prestigious National Geographic Magazine in the summit of the “Top Ten” Best Flower Markets of the world. This charming space is filled with the dazzling natural colors of hundreds of giant roses, orchids, jasmines,lilies, carnations and many more flowers, along with the genuine sympathy of the lady vendors. Certainly this lovely plaza is a “must see” location in Cuenca.
3- Museum of Aboriginal Cultures:
An interesting museum that displays its nearly 5,000 historical pieces of the Aboriginal cultures of Ecuador that transit through the Paleoindian, formative regional development, integration, and Inca periods.
Some of his most interesting pieces correspond to the funerary vessels of the Tolita Culture and the bone and antler ornaments of the Cañari culture. It is also worth noting that close to the access, there is a museum shop where you can buy replicas in ceramics, silver, and books related to Aboriginal cultures.
4- Museum of Concept:
Museo Las Conceptas. Foto Municipio de Loja.
Another of the museums highlighted among the wide cultural offers of the city and located in the facilities that served as a nursing facility to the former Monastery of the Concepts building that has two floors and built between 1875 and 1927.
It is an interesting place for its architecture of courtyards, galleries, various collections of religious art, and period objects of the daily life of this convent. It is worth noting among the latter, curious collection of toys and figures that were part of the skills or belongings of the young religious who entered the convent since its foundation in 1599.
Barranco. CC. En el Flickr de Maurizio Costanzo – mavik2007.
Another heritage jewel of the city is an area surrounding the Tomebamba River between the Vado and the Bajada de Todos Santos. It is an area of willows and groves with ancient bridges and picturesque colonial architectures, that descend to the river with stone staircases.
About 120 architectural structures in this area are protected as city assets. One of them is the El Puente Roto, dated 1849, destroyed in 1959 by the same river, thus acquiring its current appearance of being unfinished. Other places of interest are Las Bajadas del Padrón and del Centenario, Parque de la Madre, the archaeological site of Todos Santos, and the famous Cruz del Vado Square that has a beautiful view point type balcony from which you can see the lower and modern part of the city.
6- Pumapungo Museum and Archaeological Park:
Parque Arqueológico de Pumapungo. CC. En el Flickr de lobitadelsur.
Located side by side, they are two of the places of Cuenca must-sees especially for history lovers. The Archaeological Park allows an appreciated look back to centuries of historical ruins of the ancient city of Tomebamba which was northern administrative center of the Inca Empire.
The Museum, meanwhile, allows you to tour various rooms which show the cultural richness of the different pre-Hispanic cultures such as the Cañari and Inca that inhabited the site in previous centuries.
7- Long Street (Calle Larga):
Calle Larga. CC. En el Flickr de Dogymho.
Winding behind the Tomebamba river corridor known as the Barranco, this attractive avenue of 1500 meters long begins at the intersection of Tarqui Street ends at Avenida Huayna Cápac.
Long Street stands out for its cultural offering and bordering sites. Sites such as the PumapungoMuseum, the Museum of Aboriginal Cultures, the Manuel Agustín Landivar Museum and the Remigio Crespo Toral Museum. It has a vibrant offer of entertainment with most of the city’s bars and restaurants concentrated in and around the Calle Larga area.
8- Turi Viewpoint:
Iglesia de Turi. CC. En el Flickr de Pablo A. Araujo G.
Located just 4 kilometers from Cuenca, Turi possesses a beautiful natural terrace located in a small mountainous elevation of the Parish of Turi. It is a place from where you get the best panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.
While the main attraction of the site is the viewpoint, the parish has other sites of interest such as the Church dated 1930, the Grotto of the Lord of Bethlehem, and several craft shops.
9- Baños Parish:
Located 8 kilometers from the city, Baths Parish (Baños) is one of the places in Cuenca where one can relax, rest, and enjoy the benefits of its natural hot springs and mineral properties benefits.
Although it is a small parish, it has numerous spas and inns where swimming pools, Turkish baths and saunas are located. Their restaurants are of typical cuisine and complement the attractiveness of the parish.
10- Cajas National Park:
Parque Nacional Cajas. CC. En el Flickr de notafish.
About 33 kilometers from the city is one of the most fascinating places of Cuenca for nature lovers. It covers over 70,000 acres that provide scenarios that combine barren landscapes and the summits of the Andes Mountain Range.
There are 232 lagoons scattered in the valleys of the Cajas and a rich biodiversity of wildlife that include species such as white-tailed deer, bear of glasses, pumas, llamas, deer of the moor, moor rabbits, Andean tapir, condors, hummingbirds and Andean toucans.
11– Ingapirca Ruins:
Ruinas de Ingapirca. CC. En el Flickr de Theodore Scott.
The Ingapirca ruins are located 80 kilometers from the city Cuenca. It is the most important archaeological complex of Ecuador and is made up of a set of Inca ruins that would have functioned as a place of worship, veneration to the sun god, and was built 500 years ago on one of the Cañari settlements.
This most important site contains the imposing Temple of the Sun, a structure of padded and overlapped ashlars on an elliptical plane 37.10 meters long. Steps, foundations, and labyrinths of walls of ancient structures that intermingle with the greenery of the landscape end up complementing the extraordinary scenery.
12- Gualaceo and Chordeleg:
Forty minuts east of Cuenca over a paved road bring you to the picturesque towns of Gualaceo and Chordeleg, recognized as some of Ecuador’s top quality artisanal centers, where all the manual skills of the local people of the zone, especially the women, can be admired and of course purchased directly from the hands of the creators of these articles. Gualaceo, surrounded by the lovely Santa Barbara River, is a superb center for the finest quality woven and embroidery articles, including dresses, blouses, shawls and the ancestral “macanas”, most of them hand-woven with the antique Ikat techniques. Also in the area one can find the famous straw hats and high quality footwear. A short distance away is the quaint town of Chordeleg, Ecuador’s most bustling center of fine-quality jewelry, especially in silver, gold and other precious metals. Travelers can visit the goldsmith workshops and dozens of jewelry shops offer wonders in quality hand-made objects. Another very relevant handicraft of Chordeleg is the pottery that also reaches very high-quality levels. This is a most enjoyable and well worth day or even half-day excursion when visiting Cuenca.
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