Four rivers cross the valley that’s home to the idyllic city of Cuenca, hidden in the Andes in Ecuador. Preserved houses, colonial buildings, archaeological sites and cobblestone streets dating back to the period of the Spanish invasion (1532) set the tone in the city, which moves at a slow pace. The welcoming residents are proud of their art, architecture, culture and ancestral Inca and Cañari traditions. Due to its cultural wealth, Cuenca has earned recognition as a World Crafts City by the World Crafts Council and its Historic Center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But Cuenca is not just about history. Our host destination for the REMOTE Immersion 2023 has so many interesting and fun things to do, attracting travelers of all sorts. We listed some of Cuenca’s best attractions for those who want to immerse themselves in its charms. In one of the most beautiful cities in Ecuador, there’s always something to fall in love with!
Read more: REMOTE Cuenca 2023: Our Next Destination
Stroll around the Historic Center:
A simple walk through Cuenca’s Historic Center is a delightful experience. The oldest buildings in the city, dating from the 18th century and renovated in the economic prosperity of the 19th century, are concentrated in an area of about 200 hectares. The Historic Center, founded in 1577 after the expulsion of the native communities, was planned according to the guidelines issued by the King of Spain, Charles V, 30 years earlier. In its streets, visitors can also find museums, street markets, squares and the beautiful New Cathedral, where 150 spiral steps lead up to a terrace with amazing views.
Eat and have fun at traditional markets:
Famous for its authentic culture, food and handicrafts, Cuenca is an enchanting destination for those who love exploring markets. While strolling around the Historic Center, it’s easy to come across flea, street, food and handicraft markets that epitomize the essence of Ecuador and its people. Markets such as 10 de Agosto, 3 de Noviembre and 9 de Outubro offer the most diverse fresh foods, flowers, grains and typical dishes to be eaten on-site. The Hippie Market is held every day starting at 9 AM in a square known as Plaza de los Hippies and the Feria Libre (outside the town) has a flea market vibe with all sorts of things. To find traditional crafts, travelers head for the Centro Municipal Artesanal Arts & Crafts or the Rotari Market.
Explore Cuenca’s museums:
As a typical city with strong culture, art and heritage, Cuenca also has a wide variety of museums. The Museum of Aboriginal Cultures has about 5,000 pieces on display, corresponding to all periods of Ecuador’s indigenous history. It’s the most complete archaeological museum in the city of Cuenca and in the region. The Economuseo Casa del Sombrero was built on the site of the first toquilla straw hat factory and is a tribute to Ecuador’s traditional straw hats. Installed in a 17th-century building that used to be the convent infirmary, the Fundación Museo de las Conceptas introduces us to the everday life of the Madres Conceptas nuns.
See Cuenca from above:
Located about four kilometers from the center is the Mirador de Turi, an overlook where tourists can view the houses and colonial buildings of Cuenca from above. The late afternoon is a great time to visit and watch the sunset with the mountains in the background.
Visit the small villages around Cuenca:
Cuenca is surrounded by small villages where locals work, exhibit and sell their handicrafts using techniques passed down from generation to generation. Taking a day trip to such places as Chordeleg, Gualaceo, Paute and SigSig in the Azuay province is an opportunity to immerse yourself in Ecuador’s ancient culture and connect with local communities.
Hike and connect with nature at Cajas National Park:
This is an oasis of mountains and water located just 30 kilometers from Cuenca, with altitudes that range from 3,160 to 4,450 meters above sea level. The 28,544-hectare national park contains amazing biodiversity and landscapes and is the perfect place for beautiful walks and hikes. The majority of El Cajas is a mix of moorland and wooded areas of paper trees (known locally as Quinoas). Cajas is also filled with bodies of water: There are about 165 lagoons over one hectare and 621 smaller ones.
Contemplate the El Chorro de Giron Waterfall:
El Chorro de Giron is one of the hidden gems around Cuenca. Giron is a canton of the province of Azuay surrounded by mountains and plenty of greenery. It’s home to the breathtaking Yunguilla Valley, where the El Chorro de Giron waterfall is tucked away. The hike is 2.5 miles round-trip, but adventurers can climb to the top of the waterfall on a more demanding trail.
Explore the Pumapungo Archaeological Park and Museum:
The site where Pumapungo Archaeological Park is located has witnessed the passage of three important occupations: the Cañari, the Incan and the Spanish. The ruins are of the old Incan city called Tomebamba. Unfortunately, they were largely destroyed in the Incan civil war. In front of the site stands the stunning Pumapungo Museum, an archaeological, ethnographic and anthropological museum of the Ecuadorian people.
Take a thermal bath in Baños de Cuenca:
About eight kilometers southwest of Cuenca we find the parish of Baños, home to medicinal hot springs of hypothermal volcanic origin. The water flows at a temperature of 75°C (the hottest in the country) and undergoes a cooling process at the different spas and resorts that use it in swimming pools, hot springs and sauna baths.
Learn more about REMOTE Cuenca: CLICK HERE