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Cuenca, Ecuador - Pristine Colonial City (UNESCO) With Many Things To Do

Ecuador travel blog by Mark Berman - June 2009 July 2015   » View Photoset (204 Photos)

Mark Berman, South America backpacker for 10yrs!
Your eyes will be open wide with amazement when you see the colonial center of Cuenca, that's why it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site!
Ecuador Photo - Flower pots on a balcony in central Cuenca and a nice facade.
Flower pots on a balcony in central Cuenca and a nice facade.
The city is clean and tidy with cobblestone streets, many historical buildings and churches, fabulous plazas and open spaces, cool graffiti art and is a photographers paradise to say the least. The airport is right in the center of town because there are no high-rise buildings to be found anywhere in the city - that makes for one nice uncluttered cityscape to enjoy!

Bus from Alausi

I arrived in Cuenca by bus from Alausi - 3hrs 40mins through typically green and beautiful Ecuadorian countryside. This was my 2nd time in Cuenca. I had spent a night and had seen some of the city a few years earlier after arriving from Puerto Lopez on the coast,
Ecuador Photo - Round window of Santa Mariana de Jesus College in Cuenca.
Round window of Santa Mariana de Jesus College in Cuenca.
this time I was really going to explore.

Exploring Cuenca on Foot

On foot is the best way to explore a city of course but you can also take a bus tour with Van Service to get an idea of the city's layout beforehand. The bus circles Parque Abdon Calderon (the central park beside the cathedral) every hour throughout the day.

Shapes, Forms and Textures

The best way for me to describe Cuenca is in terms of shapes, forms and textures, so here we go. Beautiful facades with arched windows, tiled roofs and wrought iron balconies with bright colored flowers, cobblestone plazas surrounded by and streets lined with these buildings, streetlamps that compliment the surroundings in a beautiful way, doors and windows with interesting designs, stone and brick walls, steeples and domes lining the skyline,
Ecuador Photo - The top part of the brick facade of Hotel Victoria in Cuenca.
The top part of the brick facade of Hotel Victoria in Cuenca.
fences and gates that add to the facades, great stone staircases leading from the city down to stone bridges to cross the river, tree-filled parks, clean air and open spaces...

City of Universities

Cuenca is a lively place with its student population, it is known as the city of universities because there are at least 4 here. It's busy at McDonalds beside Parque de la Madre where the students all hang out. I believe the nightlife and entertainment is pretty good too!

Food in the City

The central city has many restaurants and cafes to eat at, upmarket, mid-priced and cheap. At night they cook guinea pig in some plazas as a fastfood meal, but I've never had the enthusiasm to try it!

The City is the Monument

What makes Cuenca very different from other cities is the lack of statues, busts
Ecuador Photo - Colored tiled and a design beside stairs near the river in Cuenca.
Colored tiled and a design beside stairs near the river in Cuenca.
and monuments everywhere which makes a nice change. They don't need them, the city itself is the monument. If you have ever been to, for example Buenos Aires in Argentina, you will know that there are way too many statues and busts everywhere = bronze overkill.

Panoramic Views

For panoramic views of Cuenca, take a walk up to the Santa Ana Terrace on the roof of the cathedral, the stairs are inside the cathedral. You can also see much wider views of the city from Turi which is the hill that Van Service take you up during the city tour. Take your pick, they are both worth a look!

Great for Photographers

I set out to photograph Cuenca in a way that would be different. Different for me and different from other people. I spent 3 days walking around looking for as many sights and
Ecuador Photo - La Sociedad Alianza Obrera del Azuay building in Cuenca.
La Sociedad Alianza Obrera del Azuay building in Cuenca.
nooks and crannies as I could find and I got to know the city pretty well in this time, that's for sure. If you are a lover of fine colonial cities with amazing and well-kept architecture, then Cuenca would have to be at the top of the list if you are visiting Ecuador. Cuenca is a fraction of the size and hassle of Quito and is also much safer, you can't go wrong! Enjoy your visit or maybe you will be one of the many foreigners who come to live and retire here!

I Left Town

From Cuenca I flew up to Quito (45mins) and headed 2hrs south to Latacunga and Pujili by bus. The first time I was in Cuenca I headed south by bus through Loja to Macara.

     

View all photos in the Cuenca Photoset


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Distances & times (if available) from Cuenca (Ecuador) to:


Map location: Cuenca, Ecuador. Cuenca is a beautiful colonial city that outclasses the capital Quito in many ways! It's an UNESCO World Heritage Trust site and has no high-rise buildings, it's great for taking photos!
 A : Alausi - Ecuador 79 kms 79 kms straight distance | 2hrs 51mins 2hrs 51mins by car (157 kms) | 3hrs 25mins 3hrs 25mins by bus (157 kms) (157 kms)
 B : Machala - Ecuador 115 kms 115 kms straight distance | 3hrs 11mins 3hrs 11mins by car (172 kms) | 3hrs 49mins 3hrs 49mins by bus (172 kms) (172 kms)
 C : Macas to Zamora - Ecuador 117 kms 117 kms straight distance | 4hrs 25mins 4hrs 25mins by car (205 kms) | 5hrs 18mins 5hrs 18mins by bus (205 kms) (205 kms)
 D : Loja - Ecuador 126 kms 126 kms straight distance | 3hrs 39mins 3hrs 39mins by car (218 kms) | 4hrs 22mins 4hrs 22mins by bus (218 kms) (218 kms)
 E : Guayaquil - Ecuador 146 kms 146 kms straight distance | 3hrs 52mins 3hrs 52mins by car (223 kms) | 4hrs 38mins 4hrs 38mins by bus (223 kms) (223 kms)
 F : Huaquillas - Ecuador 149 kms 149 kms straight distance | 3hrs 47mins 3hrs 47mins by car (226 kms) | 4hrs 32mins 4hrs 32mins by bus (226 kms) (226 kms)
 G : Vilcabamba - Ecuador 153 kms 153 kms straight distance | 4hrs 14mins 4hrs 14mins by car (249 kms) | 5hrs 4mins 5hrs 4mins by bus (249 kms) (249 kms)
 H : Riobamba & Colta Lagoon - Ecuador 141 kms 141 kms straight distance | 4hrs 20mins 4hrs 20mins by car (250 kms) | 5hrs 12mins 5hrs 12mins by bus (250 kms) (250 kms)
 I : Zamora - Ecuador 130 kms 130 kms straight distance | 4hrs 28mins 4hrs 28mins by car (263 kms) | 5hrs 21mins 5hrs 21mins by bus (263 kms) (263 kms)
 J : Ambato - Ecuador 186 kms 186 kms straight distance | 5hrs 35mins 5hrs 35mins by car (311 kms) | 6hrs 42mins 6hrs 42mins by bus (311 kms) (311 kms)
 K : Guaranda - Ecuador 144 kms 144 kms straight distance | 5hrs 26mins 5hrs 26mins by car (314 kms) | 6hrs 31mins 6hrs 31mins by bus (314 kms) (314 kms)
 L : Vilcabamba to Zumba - Ecuador 196 kms 196 kms straight distance | 5hrs 47mins 5hrs 47mins by car (323 kms) | 6hrs 56mins 6hrs 56mins by bus (323 kms) (323 kms)
 M : Banos - Ecuador 178 kms 178 kms straight distance | 5hrs 44mins 5hrs 44mins by car (325 kms) | 6hrs 52mins 6hrs 52mins by bus (325 kms) (325 kms)
 N : Puyo - Ecuador 191 kms 191 kms straight distance | 6hrs 12mins 6hrs 12mins by car (334 kms) | 7hrs 26mins 7hrs 26mins by bus (334 kms) (334 kms)
Driving times are accurate but approximate and are listed in the order of driving distance! Drive times are always affected by weather conditions, the terrain, time of day, altitude, dinner and bathroom stops, animals on the road, protests, a fast or slow bus driver, police checkpoints, border and river crossings, dropping off and picking up passengers etc. These drive times are obtained from Google Maps and are meant as a guide. Note however, times quoted in the main text of this page are exactly as the author experienced it.


My Hostel & Hotel Reviews for Cuenca, Ecuador:

Hotel Norte, Cuenca, Ecuador - Large Photo
Hotel Norte, Cuenca, Ecuador (July 2015 - 4 nights) - This hotel is like a big crash house full of rooms. They are not fancy but have a tv, bathroom with good hot water, wifi and it's close to the historical center. You can pretty much do what you want here, ie. smoke. The bed was not overly comfortable but I stuck it out for 4 nights without wanting to leave. $10USD is a good price for central Cuenca. Recommended if you are on a tight budget. Take it or leave it, it's up to you!
Hotel Los Helechos, Cuenca, Ecuador - Large Photo
Hotel Los Helechos, Cuenca, Ecuador (Jun 2009 - 1 night) - Very close to the bus terminal, nice room and possibly the hottest shower I have had in South America, recommended.

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Cuenca, Ecuador - Pristine Colonial City (UNESCO) With Many Things To Do. Cuenca is a beautiful colonial city that outclasses the capital Quito in many ways! It's an UNESCO World Heritage Trust site and has no high-rise buildings, it's great for taking photos!

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