As part of our three months stay in Ecuador, Cuenca was on our to do list to visit. We have travelled to quite a few UNESCO World Heritage Cities in the last few years and we were expecting great things, she didn’t disappoint us.
Cuenca and why you should visit:
A city located in the Southern Andes of Ecuador where the Historico Centro’s hub is Parque Calderon. Where cobblestone streets, and colonial architecture lead you down to Calle Largo and one of the winding rivers that hugs the city and Historico Centro.
The New Cathedral, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception stands majestic in Parque Calderon. The city boasts of 52 churches, one for each Sunday of the year. For as little as USD1 you can climb to the top for that 360 panoramic views of the city that you can get from nowhere else.
To the left of the Cathedral at Plaza de las Flores you will find the daily flower market. The fragrant offerings tempt us but as travellers vases are not part of our luggage and we can only stop, look and enjoy the aromas.
A few blocks away is the Mercado Centrale. The market is a hive of activity not only with the freshest produce and meat and fish but with local food stalls offering juices and local Ecuadorian dishes. Along the back wall there are leather stalls selling saddles, bridles alongside key and lock shops, shoes and clothing.
Back out into the side street there are pet shops mixed with local bakeries where you can buy wholemeal rolls for as little as 12 cents.
Head down towards Calle Larga and wander through the several museums located on this historical street such as Paja Toquilla Hat Museum and the Museum of Aboriginal Cultures etc.
There is a City Bus Tour that operates frequent schedules daily. Two routes are on offer Cuenca Sur and Cuenca Norte, the cost is USD8 per person. Both tours give you the opportunity to visit parts of the city that you may not venture to unless you have a car. On the Cuenca Norte tour, you can visit the Museo Sombrero Homera Ortega and even purchase yourself an authentic Panama Hat. On the Cuenca Sur route, you travel to Turi high up on the mountain where you can taste a local brew and view the sights of the city from this level.
We stayed close to Centro in Hostel La Cigale and Restaurant in a double room with ensuite for USD31 including breakfast. The Restaurant was opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner and had a good vibe in the evening. Pop in for afternoon tea and enjoy their daily specials of cake and tea and coffee or at 5-8pm their happy hour specials. The menu is varied, fresh and has vegetarian options. It is a good sign when the restaurant fills up with locals at, 6PM and it can be difficult to get a table.
Don’t rush Cuenca. We ran out of time to visit the weekend market at Gualeco, the ceramic, goldsmith’s and silversmith’s at Chordeleg and the town of Sigsig famous for its straw hats and figures production.
Have you been to Cuenca? If you visit you must visit Le Petit Jardin for a gastronomic delight.
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