Cuenca_Casa Cultura.JPG Cuenca -old door.JPG Cuenca roofscape.JPG Cuenca -pots for sale.JPG HotelIncaReal.JPG Cuenca-Modern_Art_Museum.JPG courtyard -Cuenca Museum of Modern Art.JPG Chordaleg balcony.JPG Tres Estrallas.JPG

 making a Panama Hat.JPG









In Quito
Local Trips
Northern Andes
Southern Andes
Pacific Coast

Arts and Crafts

IMG_0719.JPG : Cuenca

Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca
We visited Cuenca again in 2005 after a gap of some years and were pleased to find that it still retains all its charm. As before, we stayed in the the Hotel Crespo.

Cuenca is a beautiful Andean city, famous for its colonial architecture, its parks, churches and museums and art galleries. The old city still has cobbled streets and landscaped parks laid out on a grid set up 450 years ago. The buildings are typically colonial mansions with iron balconies and pantiled roofs with large overhanging eaves, laid out around beautiful balconied courtyards -you may be able to a glimpse of them past the heavy doors that front the streets.
Cuenca roofscape from Hotel Crespo.JPG
The city is a good place to stop and do a Spanish course if you want to get away from the hustle of Quito. For a briefer stay it is an ideal location for two or three days away from Quito -one day can be spent wandering the town, visiting museums, buying artwork and local crafts and enjoying coffee and lunch in one of the cities many restaurants, and another can be spent visiting a local site -perhaps Ingapirca, Chordeleg or walking and pony trekking in the Cajas National Park.

Cuenca Sights -colonial architecture, churches, parks, museums and galleries

Cuenca Sanctuaria Mariano.JPGCarmen de la Asunción -pretty baroque chapel (pictured) on Calle Mariscal Sucre at Calle Padre Aguirre, modest outside and ornate within, with the flower market just outside on the Plazoleta El Carmen.

Catedral de la Inmaculada -this extraordinary and huge edifice is actually quite recent, having been commenced in 1886 to designs of a German. Personally I find the architecture somewhat heavy, but the setting can't be faulted In front of the Cathedral, the beautifully maintained central square, Parque Abdón Calderón is one of the finest open open spaces in Latin America.

El Sagrario -the restored old cathedral on Av. Gran Colombia is one of the oldest churches in Ecuador, and dates back to the founding of the city in 1557. It was also used by the French Geodesic mission as a reference point in calculting the earth's circumference.

Cuenca-Modern_Art_Museum.JPGMuseo de Arte Moderno -situated in a restored convent , the museum is well worth a visit, with some interesting work arranged around landscape courtyards. We had an interesting time here as some of the alarms are fairly sensitive and easily set off! Located on Calle Mariscal Sucre at Calle Coronel Talbot, a brief walk from the centre.

Museo de las Conceptas -interesting, but bleak view of life as a catholic nun. The site is still run as a convent, but part has been given over as a museum. Impressive collection of religious art made by the young nuns from the 16th century onwards -you can step inside the world of the young girls whose lives were given by their families to be spent in the service of the church. Calle Hermano Miguel 6-33, between Calles Juan Jaramillo and Presidente Córdova.

Other museums worth a look include Banco Central, Casa de la Cultura, Museo Remigio Crespo, Artes Populares de América, and Instituto Azuayo de Folclore.

Hotel Crespo from Rio Tomebamba.JPGThe Barranco -fronting the River Tomebamba is a built up cliff face made up of many fine buildings, including Hotel Crespo. It is well worth a walk, both along Calle Larga at the top and also along the banks of the river below.

Mirador de Turi -you will need to catch a taxi out of town to this viewing point of the city. Not much else here, apart from the Vega workshop, which is worth a visit in its own right.

Tours and tour operators
We found Terra Diversa to be very helpful in providing information about tours. I suspect the tour companies are largely offering the same tours as each activity seems to be restricted to particular days of the week according to their subject -horse trekking, Ingapirca, Chordaleg etc. Of course you can also just hop on a bus to visit other nearby sites in southern Ecuador.

For general tourist information visit the tourist office in Calle Hermano Miguel 686.
  • Tourist information -official tourism portal for the area (Spanish)
  • Terra Diversa -provide travel information and tours -trekking, riding, mountain biking - in a relaxed setting with coffee shop with library and internet access at Hermano Miguel and Honorato Vasquez.
  • Expositiones Apullacta - Cuenca based travel agency, can provide tours to Ingapirca, Chordaleg, Gualaceo, Cajas, Yunguilla or further afield.
  • Metrotours -tours both within the city and surrounding areas -nicely presented website gives a clear idea of the what each tour offers.
  • Montaruna Tours -Swiss run tour company offering riding tours.
  • Seitur -their website gives little away!

Shopping: Arts and Crafts
Cuenca handicrafts market.JPGThere are some great buys to be had in Cuenca, especially ceramics, jewellery and art work -the best known are listed below but it is worth just exploring to look for bargains by other artists too. Cuenca is also noted for the quality of its Panama Hats (toquillas).
There is an interesting handicrafts market in Mercado Artesanal -located at Plaza Rotary on Gaspar Sangurima and Mariano Cueva, this is a great place to buy pots (and a few other things too)! Market days for the city are Thursday and Saturday.
  • Ariel Dawi -Argentinian born artist living and working in Cuenca.
  • Artesa -Cuencas best known ceramic manufacturer. Well worth a look.
  • Artes de la Tierra - a group of Cuencan artists who produce fine objects in ceramics and wood. Ceramics are designed and produced by Maria Augusta Crespo, Juan Guillermo Vega and Lorena Tamariz; furniture and wood carvings are the products of Ernesto Jaramillo, an Architect who works with a selected group of skilled artisans designing and building unique carvings and wood cabinets.
  • Camari -fair trade co-operative selling craft and artisanal products.
  • Eduardo Vega -ceramics on sale from his workshop near Mirador de Turi.
  • Homero Ortega -panama hats hand woven in Cuenca and claimed to be the finest in the world. Factory tours available.
  • Paja Toquilla -panama hats on sale at Juan Jaramillo and Hermano Miguel.

Crespo timber panelling.JPGHotels
The are a number of excellent hotels in the city, often in beautifully restored colonial buildings. We have stayed a couple of times in the elegant Hotel Crespo (pictured) noted for its extensive wooden panelling and views out over the Tomebamba from the guest rooms.
More hotels in Cuenca.
The city has a number of good hostals for the budget traveller. As well as accommodation, most will arrange for Spanish classes and tours. See our list of hostels in Cuenca.

HotelIncaReal.JPGSee our hotels listing too, as many of the best restaurants can be found in these. The city is blessed with some dream situations for restaurants in the courtyards of the old colonial buildings. Often they are not well advertised from the street, so you need to keep your eyes peeled as you walk around, and look past into the courtyards -pictured opposite is the courtyard of the Hotel Inca Real.
As well as looking in the city centre, it is well worth taking a walk along the Barranco to find restaurants with views over the Tomebamba river. There are a number of interesting places here -Hotel Crespo, El Jordan and the Austrian owned Wunderbar amongst others.
A short walk out away is Las Tres Estrellas (pictured), where we had a real meatfest at a very reasonable price, accompanied by "canelazo", a typical drink made with Ecuadorian sugar cane spirit and cinnamon.
  • Tres Estrallas.JPGEl Jardín -expensive high quality restaurant on the ground floor of Hotel Victoria.
  • El Jordan -describes itself as the best restaurant in town, serving arabian and international cuisine in an elegant setting overlooking the Tomebamba.
  • Café Eucalyptus -international tapas restaurant and bar.
  • Crespo -slightly stuffy restaurant in the city's top hotel but with great views over the Tomebamba.
  • Hotel Inca Real -elegant patio restaurant in the courtyard of an historic hotel building.
  • Mansion Alcazar -gourmet restaurant in the restored hotel.
  • Los Capulíes. live andean music on weekends compliments typical Cuencan food in this bar and restaurant in a two hundred year old mansion on Calle Borrero.
  • Others worth looking at, but do not appear to have a website: Wunderbar (Austrian bar), El Maiz (typical Cuenca), El Pedregal Azteca (Mexican), Montebello (Mediterranean), Raymipampa (Ecuadorian), Villarosa (international).


Air: Mariscal Lamar Airport is just 2 km near the bus station, and can be reached by a short taxi ride. There are flights to Quito and Guyaquil with Tame, Icaro and Austro.

Bus: Located on Av España, near the airport in the northeast of town, the Terminal Terreste has buses running to Quito and Guayaquil as well as local destinations including Cajas National Park, Ingapirca and Chordeleg.

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