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CUENCA UNFORGETTABLE

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CUENCA UNFORGETTABLE


In Cuenca it's easy to forget one is living in the 21st century; The city streets, the tall cathedrals and the marble-lined and whitewashed buildings give it a colonial air unparalleled elsewhere in Ecuador. As well as being Ecuador's cultural "Mecca", Cuenca is the capital of the province of Azuay, the third city in size in the country, and the economic center for the southern sierras. These distinctions, together with the incredibly well preserved state of the city, recently earned Cuenca the honor of being named an "Archaeological World Heritage" by the UNESCO.

Cuenca is a city in southern Ecuador, capital of Azuay Province, and is located in an Andes Cordillera valley at 2,535 m altitude. The city supplies a large part of the quinine produced in Ecuador, as well as the famous "Panama Hats", thus called after their original distribution place. It also has sugar refineries, wool textile mills, fur and ceramics factories, and produces cereals, potatoes and dairy products. Founded in 1557, it is a bishop's see and home to two universities. Cuenca displays its original picturesque colonial appearance, especially the ancient mansions whose walls still bear inscriptions with old Spanish proverbs. Population (2,000) - 345,353 inhabitants.

Cuenca is built over the ancient city of Tomebamba, the birthplace of Huayna-Capac , son of the famous emperor Tupac Yupanqui, who decided to found it over the cañari settlement of Guapondelig, because of the respect and admiration he felt for the social, economic and cultural development of the peoples who, under the Confederation of the Cañari Empire, he found in this territory.

Shortly after the defeat of the Cañari Empire, this same ruler, Tupac Yupanqui, decreed the building of a magnificent city that he would name Pumapungo, ("Doorway of the Puma"), and that would defy Cuzco, the capital city of the Inca Empire (in the territory of present-day Peru). When the Spaniards arrived in these lands they heard stories from the local inhabitants about amazing golden temples and other wonders. However, when they eventually found the legendary city, they only found ruins that clearly showed this city had once been the splendid second capital of the Inca Empire.

After being abandoned by the Cañari Empire, Cuenca remained sparsely populated until 1550. Today's Cuenca was founded in 1557, later than another of Ecuador's important cities, Loja (founded in 1548).

Cuenca's population and importance grew constantly during the colonial era, reaching a peak in the first years of Ecuador's independence; it became the capital of one of the three provinces that constituted the fledgling republic. The other two were Guayaquil and Quito.

Cuenca's climate is very stable throughout the year. Days are generally hot and nights quite cool. The average daily temperature is 15° Celsius; the rainy season that lasts, generally speaking from mid-October to the beginning of May, has typically sunny mornings and cloudy afternoons with scattered showers.

Since Cuenca is the capital of the province of Azuay, we can recommend some circuits to give you a better idea of its people, life and customs, among them:

City circuits

Central Bank Museum
This museum offers an interesting exhibit of historical photos of Cuenca, antique musical instruments and exhibitions by local artists.

Museum of Aboriginal Cultures
This museum displays articles of archaeological interest, particularly of pre-Columbian art, among which figure ceramic items.

Museum of Popular Arts
This museum displays traditional art items from local ethnic communities, including musical instruments and costumes.

Museum of the Conceptas
This museum displays the religious art and all the other religious items in a 17th century convent.

Calderon Park
Cathedral - Cuenca EcuadorThis Park is located across from the old Catedral de la Inmaculada (Immaculate Virgin Cathedral), which has now been remodeled and redecorated with impressive blue vaulting.

Del Carmen "Plazoleta" (small square)
In this place there is a colonial market run by the local church, plus a flower market.

Ingapirca Inca Ruins
These Inca ruins northwest of Cuenca consist of a circular stone fortress wall. The Incas governed the native peoples of Ecuador for about a century before the arrival of the Spaniards in the 1530s.

Other circuits

Among other circuits outside the city, we can mention:

"El Cajas National Park", very close to Cuenca and displaying fascinating fauna and flora.
Cities south of Cuenca:
Giron, San Fernando, Santa Isabel and Pucara, all tourist-friendly colonial towns.
Cities northeast of Cuenca:
Chordeleg, Gualaceo, Paute, Guachapata and El Pan

In Cuenca we can find some very cozy restaurants and bars that seem to invite us to explore them and have a beer or two. Another interesting thing about Cuenca are the market days, on Thursdays and Saturdays in the surroundings of St. Francis and other churches.

A visit to Cuenca takes us out of our world and back in time to relive Spanish colonial days. Be sure to visit us, because you'll really enjoy it.
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