Highlights of Cuenca, Ecuador
Introduction to Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca, or Santa Ana de los cuarto rios de Cuenca, its full name, is Ecuador’s third largest city with a population of close to 500,000. The city is capital of the province of Azauy and is located in the Andes Mountains at about 2500m above sea level. Cuenca is south of Quito, the capital, by approximately nine hours while Guayaquil lies four hours west of Cuenca. The city center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Trust because of the many historical landmarks.
The city is known for its two universities and popularity with foreign tourists who visit and often times return to live there. The larger of the two universities is the Universidad de Cuenca which is a public university and has an enrollment of over 12,000. The city’s name Cuenca refers to the confluence of rivers and there are many in the area.
Cuenca, Ecuador Gallery
Guide to Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca is the most charming of all the cities and towns in Ecuador. Located in the heart of the Andes Mountains the city has centuries-old cathedrals, beautiful cobblestone streets, museums and galleries, a myriad of tree lined plaza and best of all warm and friendly people. Capital of the Azuay province and the third largest city in Ecuador, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Trust city because of all its rich preserved history. The city, even though it is Ecuador’s third largest, still feels like an old world town.
The climate in the region is excellent year round due to the altitude (8,200 ft above sea level), with days in the upper 70s and nights in the 50s. Of course like most of the region there is a rainy season and a dry season. The rainy season is from mid October to the beginning of May but do not worry, even though it is the rainy season, the days are normally sunny and the afternoons and evening rainy, but not continuous.
The city has become a haven for foreigners to visit and often times return to live. Recently it was named one of the top five destinations in the world for retirement living. Here you will find expats from all over the world because of the excellent year round weather, inexpensive cost of living, great healthcare, low cost housing and rich cultural environment.
One beautiful area not to miss is Parque Calederon the city’s largest plaza. Street vendors merrily hum away as they push their wares, musicians play to their own beat and photographers ask anyone and everyone if they want their pictures taken. Standing majestically over the plaza is the Inmaculada Concepcion Cathedral. The new construction on the cathedral started in 1885 to replace El Sagrario that was located on the other side of the plaza and dated back to the mid 1500’s.
Most visitors like the historic area that encompasses the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area is between Tomebamba River and Gran Colombia Street on the north side, to the west General Torres and Hermano Miguel on the ease. The grid layout, compactness and easily identifiable monuments attract many.
Cuenca like all of Latin American cities and towns, celebrates a number of festivals like the Mass of Children on the Day of Kings January 6th, the city’s Independence Day in November that has cultural acts, processions and dances.
Video of Cuenca, Ecuador
[youtube id="JmMda1MWzdI" width="730"]
History of Cuenca, Ecuador
Studies through archeological discoveries say the first to inhabit the area go back to 8000 BC. They were hunters and are evidenced by the tools like spears and arrows that have been found in the area. Later the indigenous population took advantage of the stable climate, abundant water and fertile soil to develop agriculture.
Cuenca was originally settled by Canari and called Guapondeleg and founded about 500 AD. Roughly translated Guapondeleg means land the size of heaven. About 50 years prior to the Spanish arriving, the Incas conquered the area and occupied Guapondeleg. Even though the Inca changed the architecture they did not stop the Canari from continuing their successful astronomical and agricultural achievements.
But when the Spanish came along the city was in ruins after having been abandoned by both the Canari and Incas. Some say it was the mythical city of gold and the Spanish thought it may have been destroyed by its inhabitants when they heard about the Spanish conquests.
Cuenca was founded by the Spanish April 12, 1557 by Gil Ramirez Davalos. The town was named after the home town of Andres Hurtado de Mendoza the then Viceroy of Peru. The settlement came decades after others such as Quito, Guayaquil and Loja. Cuenca was declared independent on November 3, 1820.
Getting to Cuenca, Ecuador
The bus station in Cuenca is named Terminal Terrestre and is very clean and organized. It is on Avendia Espana in the northeastern part of the city. The station is about a 20 minute walk from the historic center. There are daily arrivals and departures to major cities like Quito and Guayaquil. The ride to Guayaquil is 240 km and takes about 4 hours, while Quito the capital is 500 km and that ride is close to 10 hours riding south on the Pan American Road.
The airport is Aeropuerto Mariscal Lamar and is east of the bus station. It is only five minutes from the bus station and a brief taxi ride from most hotels in the area. Four major airlines fly to Cuenca; TAME, AeroGal, AirCuenca and LAN Ecuador.
Cuenca, Ecuador News
Cuenca, Ecuador Tours
Cuenca, Ecuador Weather