Cuenca is a beautiful historic colonial city in Ecuador and the third largest city, behind Guayaquil and Quito. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and known as the city of gardens. The city, which is located in Southern Ecuador, is set in a valley surrounded by the Andes. The architecture of Cuenca dates back to the 18th Century, but a lot of modernizing took place in the 19th Century economic boom, when Cuenca became a major exporter of quinine and straw hats.
In route from (Baños to) Ambato to Cuenca, I passed by Chimborazo and was able to look back at that gorgeous beast of a mountain. Such mixed emotions…but one thing’s for sure, the countryside of Ecuador sure is pretty.
On my first day, I decided to take the bus tour of Cuenca to get a feel for the city. Despite my last not so successful double decker bus tour in Buenos Aires, this double decker bus tour put double decker bus tours back in my good graces. It was really lovely. My guide Leo (despite having poor taste in the sports teams he supports…UGA, seriously?! Come on, Leo!) was great. He pointed out all of the noteworthy sights in the city and filled the tour with tons of interesting facts; doing so in perfect Spanish and English. The tour concluded at the Turi Lookout, which if translated in Quechua means watch point, as it overlooks the entire city.
After the bus tour concluded, I wandered around the colonial city, stopping in Parque Calderon, wandering around the Catedral Nueva, checking out the local flower market and just generally meandering around the town admiring the architecture, local people and culture.
I was lucky enough to be in town for Cuenca’s 456th Birthday. On Friday morning, I headed down to Parque Calderon to watch the parade and all the exciting festivities for the Big 456! The parade lasted for about two hours and was lots of fun to watch, as it celebrated all the different districts surrounding Cuenca and their particular customs and specialties.
Cuenca is a really lovely city and should definitely be explored while visiting Ecuador. It’s no wonder it’s one of the leading international destinations that ex-pat’s choose for retirement.