Cuenca - Things to do
Cuenca enjoys beautiful spring-like weather year round, its a city of almost half a million people--the third largest in Ecuador. The city sits in the fertile Guapondelig Valley where four small rivers converge. One, the Tomebamba, runs through the center of town, dividing the historic section to the north and the newer suburbs to the south. Cuenca is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved colonial cities in South America...and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The narrow cobblestone streets and Spanish Architecture, with balconied buildings and white gleaming monasteries and churches remain much as they‘ve been for hundreds of years. Cuenca is also the center for some of Ecuador’s ﬁnest handmade crafts including; jewelry, woven goods, furniture, ceramics, Panama hats, and more.!
Holidays & Festivals to celebrate in Cuenca
Cuenca, -South American Festival of the Arts held the 1st weekend (November 3) every year!
Cuenca’s Latin American Festival of the Arts is held the first weekend of November. It attracts the ﬁnest artisans, craftsmen, and musicians from all over South America. Folkloric dancers, singers, and musicians from many different countries will be performing for the crowds in every park and plaza in town. The River walk will be lined with artists and craftsmen displaying and selling their wares. This annual festival to celebrate Cuenca’s independence, has become one of the largest cultural fairs on the continent. Attending this festival is an unforgettable experience. It is a great place to shop for gifts for family and friends, take interesting photographs, and just plain people watch! You may want to spend several days enjoying the sights & sounds of this festival.
Christmas Season in Cuenca
The Christmas season comes to life here with colorful parades & processions through the streets and neighborhoods of the city on a daily/nightly basis. The twinkling lights of the Christmas decorations that are displayed all around town add to the festive atmosphere that engulfs the city. The delicious food and traditional music are sure to put you in the holiday Spirit. The festivities culminate with a huge parade that takes place on the Day of the Kings (January 6th) and is always a very memorable experience. Read more
New Years Eve
New Years Eve is a night to remember in Cuenca. In the evening you can walk around the city and admire all of the interesting paper mache sculptures that are on display throughout the many neighborhoods of Cuenca. Some are political, some funny, some scary, some happy, some sad, but all are unique. At midnight they burn the displays and dance around the huge bonfires . Fireworks light up the sky in every direction and music fills the air to usher in the new year. It is an energetic celebration not to be missed.
Things to do in Cuenca
The New Cathedral
You may want to visit the beautiful Cathedral de la Immaculada Concepcion, more commonly known as the Cathedral Nuevo (new). It is without question the most recognizable symbol of Cuenca with its sky blue domes, the prominent view form our rooftop terrace. The immense twin towers of the front facade loom over the entrance and dominate the main square. The interior is equally impressive with many massive marble arches, stained glass windows, wood carvings, paintings, and gold leaf altars. Read more
Parque Calderon, & Plaza del Flores
Parque Calderon, on the main square is located in the center of Cuenca. A short walk from our front doors, (4 blocks)it’s great place to relax and do a bit of people watching. Across the street from the New Cathedral is the Colorful Plaza del Flores (flower market). Rated as one of the Top10 outdoor flower markets in the world by National Geographic. Read more
Decker Bus Day or Evening Tours
The double decker bus tour through the narrow street of Cuenca will take you past many of the historic buildings and then continue up Turi Hill known as the “balcony of the city” to admire the amazing views overlooking the red tiled roofs of the city. The buses leave from in front of the old Cathedral across the street from Parque Calderon.Read more
San Francisco Artisan Market
Cuenca is a mecca for artists and craftsmen that come from all over the world to practice their craft here. They work in silver, gold, straw, clay, stone, metal, wood, leather, canvas, and textiles. They paint weave, sculpt, mold, weld, and carve and in the process create some amazing artwork. The San Francisco Market, chocked full of handmade goods.
Hats in Cuenca
Homero Ortega & Sons - Panama Hats
Ecuador’s best-known hat seller. The company exports around the world and has a huge selection of high-quality straw hats. They give tours and have a fascinating museum charting the history and manufacture of hats, where you can see each part of the complex production process. Located a block north of the bus station.Website
Panama Hat Museum (Museo del Sombrero)
You can also walk over to Calle Larga and visit the Panama Hat Museum and workshop where Panama straw hats of the best quality are made. Website
Banco Central Museum & Pumapungo Archeological Park
Banco Central is Cuenca’s most polished and absorbing museum. The ground ﬂoor contains a room dedicated to the Inca city of Tomebamba (located here prior to the Spanish arrival) displaying some beautiful Inca artifacts. Also on the ground ﬂoor is a collection of 19th century art, dominated by religious paintings and some portraits, along with some wonderful folk art pieces depicting Indigenous people dancing, roasting a pig and celebrating. On the ﬁrst ﬂoor we ﬁnd displays that illustrate the diversity of Ecuador's indigenous cultures using day to day objects and reconstructions. The displays include shrunken heads from the oriente, masked dancers from the southern sierras, and a collection of festival costumes and musical instruments. Located directly behind the museum is the Pumapungo Archeological park which is where many of the artifacts in the museum were uncovered. Read more
Artesia Pottery Factory and Edwardo Vega Studio for Ceramics
You may wish to visit some of Cuenca's most prominent artists in their studios. There are many opportunities to visit several different types of artists. You may want to visit the Artesia Pottery factory where pottery is molded and decorated by hand then glazed before being baked in the kiln.! and not to be forgotten is a visit to the studio of one of Ecuador’s foremost artists and ceramists, Edwardo Vega. Vega has done many ceramic murals throughout the country as well as many smaller pieces as displayed in his Turi gallery.
Cajas National Park & Dos Chorreras Hosteria
Cajas National Park, only 25 miles northeast of Cuenca, is one of Ecuador’s most beautiful wilderness areas. A wild primeval landscape of craggy hills and glacier -scoured valleys studded with a breathtaking quantity of lakes glinting like jewels against mottled earth and rock surrounding them. Read more
Dos Chorreras Hosteria and Restaurant is a favorite rustic retreat for both locals and visitors alike, the specialty of the house is trout and it is prepared fresh in a variety of different ways. A trout pond runs through the center of the dining room, and the views of the surrounding mountains are sensational.Website
You May wish to head north, through the enchanting highlands, encompassing the towns of Azogues and Canar. The local women are famous for wearing beautifully embroidered skirts and blouses and the men their woven belts embellished with intricate motifs. you may visit Ingaapirca, (meaning Incan stone wall) the most northern fortress-temple remaining from the Incan Era, built in the 15th century. Sun-worshippers built this stone center on a promontory high above the Canar valley, 60 miles northeast of Cuenca at an altitude of 10,595 feet. It was an important stop on the road between Cuzco & Quito. You will want to make a quick stop at the on-site museum to admire the stone fortress with several trapezoidal doorways and stone walls perfectly ﬁtted together with incredible precision without the use of mortar, in the traditional Incan manner of construction. You will see the elliptical platform known as the Temple of the Sun used for religious and ceremonial purposes, and the barracks. Read more
Valley of Gualaceo
The valley of Gualaceo is 22 miles from Cuenca at an elevation of 7,446 feet. Located in the Valley are the villages of Buicay, San Bartolome & Chordeleg. Read more
where weavers produce the ﬁnest shawls, purses, & scarves, using traditional backstrap looms handed down from generation to generation, all natural dyes, and a special technique known as ikat. Read more
where some of the world's best guitars are handmade and beautifully ﬁnished. Read more
a small town known as the center for gold & silver work. Delicately worked ﬁligree jewelry is an art that has been practiced here since pre-Hispanic times. Numerous shops keep tradition alive and it is a good place to shop for earrings, bracelets, necklaces, pendants and other jewelry. Read more
Piedra De Auga Thermal Springs-
MON - SAT: 9:30AM TO 08:00PM SUN: 9:30AM - 7:00PM
Spend a day relaxing at the hot springs. Located 7.5 miles to the west of Cuenca, in the small village of Baños and nestled perfectly on the hill above the city. The mountains provide a stunning backdrop to all of the bath facilities. With the close proximity to Cuenca, these baths are incredibly easy to visit! It’s possible to take the city bus, but if in a hurry, a taxi is cheap as well.
The hot springs at Baños sit right on an old volcano crater, with the fault line providing the source of the mineral rich water. There are multiple hot springs to choose from, ranging from budget friendly to luxury. Visit website