We were first drawn to Cuenca because of its UNESCO World Heritage designation and its reputation for being one of the most livable cities in Latin America. Active, safe, affordable, with mild weather, and full of culture, we fell in love with this small city pretty much immediately. And we were extremely pleased with our choice to make Cuenca our home base to live (and work online).
After lots of research, speaking with native Cuencans as well as resident expats, we put together a list of what to see and do in Cuenca. The list includes our favorite restaurants and sight-seeing spots, which we’ve compiled into a map.
– Parque Abdon Calderon is the heart of Cuenca’s historical town center. On one side of the square is an older white cathedral from Spanish colonial times. On the opposite side is Cuenca’s new cathedral.
– Mercado 9 de October is one of Cuenca’s large indoor markets that opens daily. Three stories with fish, meat, fresh produce, cookshops, and snack vendors.
– Pumpapungo is a must see in Cuenca. It’s a historical-cultural museum of indigenous peoples in Ecuador. Continue out the back side of the building to visit the hillside Cañari ruins. Formerly, the hill was a sacred site for this powerful tribe. In the southwest corner of the same “park” there are further delights: a bird sanctuary and an outdoor Belgian waffle stand!
– Museo de Sombreros is one of the best places in town to see how Ecuador’s famous “Panama Hats” are made – and to get your own hat custom made. It’s a working shop and the staff are happy to demonstrate the hat-making process.
– Centro Municipal Artesanal is an indoor market with two stories of craft shops, selling a variety of art and gift items. Ceramics, wood carvings, paintings, textiles, hats, and little trinkets can be found here.
– Mirador de Turi is a great overlook in the south of Cuenca. From this church on the hill, you can see the whole city and even part of Cajas National Park.
– Amaru Zoo Bioparque is a zoo like you’ve never seen before. This wildlife refuge focuses on native, rescued animals. You’ll hike up and down a one-way loop on a dirt path through the park, which gives this zoo a much more natural feeling than most.
Those are really just a few of the highlights. Cuenca has so much to offer, from music and culture to outdoor activities and plenty of affordable food! For more information about things to do in Cuenca,Ecuador and where to eat, check out the following links:
– 5 Great Day Trips from Cuenca, Ecuador (included Cajas National Park, an epic waterfall hike, and neighboring shopping towns)
For more posts about Ecuador including Whale watching and the Blue-footed booby, you can find it here.
This is a guest post by Michelle and Jedd of Intentional Travelers. This 30-something couple left their full-time jobs to join the Peace Corps, then became digital nomads, doing work online as they travel the world.