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

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

Mark Berman, South America backpacker for over 11yrs!
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 - The unmistakable 2 blue steeples of San Alfonso Church in Cuenca.
The unmistakable 2 blue steeples of San Alfonso Church in Cuenca.
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 - Inside the cathedral in Cuenca - Catedral Metropolitana.
Inside the cathedral in Cuenca - Catedral Metropolitana.
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 - Person laying down with a bird sitting on them, mural beside an old wooden door in Cuenca.
Person laying down with a bird sitting on them, mural beside an old wooden door 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 - A special monument above the river with views of the hills in Cuenca.
A special monument above the river with views of the hills 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 - Flowers for sale in central Cuenca at the Plaza de las Flores.
Flowers for sale in central Cuenca at the Plaza de las Flores.
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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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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