Authored by Ron Schmitz

Ecuador… as you spend time here, you will say “EcuADORE”!  

Think “Amazon and Andes and Atlantic”!

Think Galapagos Islands and Canari and Inca historical ruins!

Think year round Spring-like climate, with daily average temperature ranging from 55 to 70F! Even in the rainy season, mornings are sunny with afternoon or nightly showers.

Think UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site, with ancient Canari and Inca history, older than the Spanish occupation. 

Cuenca’s Spanish name is Santa Ana de los cuatro rios de Cuenca (Saint Anne of the four rivers). This multicultural city’s population is about 300,000. As you enjoy the balmy weather and lively local life, be sure to wander along one of the restless mountain rivers that grace the city. Cuencanos take pride in their green spaces, especially along the rivers where you can stroll or bike in a “Garden of Eden-like” atmosphere.

Cuenca has maintained its focus on the charming colonial center where you can relax in Parque Calderón, the main plaza, and enjoy the vistas of the Old and the New Cathedrals. Next to the New Cathedral is the bustling and colorful Flower Market (Ecuador is a leading exporter of roses). You will also find the Ecuador Tourism Office next to the park. Get your maps, get oriented to the many art and historical museums, and consider day trip options (Cajas National Park or Ingapirca Inca Ruins, for example). Then wander the ancient streets, admiring colorful architecture enhanced by finely carved wooden doors, iron balconies, or delicate facades.

Be sure to take frequent breaks; have a rich Ecuadorian coffee, snack on an empanada or tamale or humita - splurge on a rich pastry or local ice cream. Relax - you are on holiday! Perhaps you are investigating a retirement destination? You will also find Ecuadorian as well as international cuisine in a multitude of cafes throughout the city. Throughout Cuenca you can feast your eyes on tropical flowers and blooming trees. Feast your taste buds on an amazing variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables found in the charming mercados (markets).

As an experienced traveler, you know that Panama hats are not made in Panama; they are made in Ecuador. These classic hats are ‘everywhere’ but there is a Museum of Hats and several factories, including the famous Homero Ortega & Sons plant near the main bus station, with excellent daily tours. In addition, there are many private galleries with unique and elegant paintings, sculptures, and other artisanal works of local artists. Major collections of cultural artifacts are found in the Museo del Banco Central and Museo de las Culturas Aborígenes Calle Larga, a main street near the city center.

Cuenca embraces 52 churches, one for each week of the year! Of course both the New Cathedral and the Old Cathedral (now a museum and concert hall) are worth a visit. On Sundays, you can enjoy the lively music and joyful atmosphere of the ‘standing room only’ Masses at the New Cathedral. Or you can take a rest stop and enjoy the cool and peaceful environment of other churches like the tranquil Todos de los Santos (All Saints) church on the Tomebamba River cliff.

As you stroll around Cuenca, you will notice many taxis and buses. They are very reasonably priced and dependable. Taxis are metered, with a slightly higher rates at night;  for bus fares, you need a card with estimated US dollar value for expected usage (each ride is 25). Be prepared for a lively ‘carnival’ ride, and hang on tight! Enjoy the rock and roll ride!

Viva Cuenca y Ecuador Siempre!

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