|Travel Ecuador : Cities :|
Cuenca is one of Ecuador’s most attractive cities and has a lot to offer to the traveler. It has beautiful churches, interesting markets, and great hiking in the Cajas National Park nearby. It also has Ecuador’s most important Inca ruin, Ingapirca within around an hour’s drive from the city.
Cuenca is the kind of place that you can easily spend a couple of days wandering the beautiful colonial streets and spending time in the churches and markets, taking in the atmosphere. Cuenca has a big market, 10 de Agosto, where you can get a good feel for local life. It also has a pretty flower market to visit.
A lovely place to spend a few days, Cuenca can be a bit quiet at night time. Many Ecuadorians living outside of Cuenca have homes in the town, which is part of the reason for this tranquillity.
Cuenca can be busy over the public holiday that celebrates its independence in early November. At this time, it is wise to book a place to stay ahead of time.
Hotels in Cuenca are divided between the old and new towns. The old town offers a good number of pretty hotels set in colonial buildings. However, it’s not all about luxury in the old town, and it is also possible to find budget hostels in this area. Out of the colonial center there are a lot of budget and mid-range options to suit all budget levels. The places in the newer part of town perhaps don’t have as much character, but they are generally cheaper.
Cuenca is a really lovely place to eat out with a great variety of different restaurant options for the traveler. From small, quaint cafés to a wide range of international cuisine, Cuenca has it all. In additional to good Ecuadorian options, it is possible to find options that you can’t find in a lot of Andean towns, such as Mexican and Asian food. The restaurant selection here really is diverse, and it is possible to find something to suit almost anybody. A good deal of the better restaurant options are found in the old part of Cuenca.
Cuenca is surprisingly quiet at night for a town of such size and importance in Ecuador. Do not expect a great variety of places to go for dancing and drinking. Some of the restaurants do stay open a bit later and therefore offer a place to go and hang out when everything else is closed, but overall, Cuenca is not a party town.
Cuenca is well serviced by different transportation options. There are very regular buses running between Quito and Cuenca, a journey of around 12 hours. There are also good bus links between Cuenca and Loja further south, for those on their way to Vilcabamba or Peru. Buses leave with some frequency to Guayaquil.
Cuenca has an airport and it is possible to fly from Quito, a journey of just less than an hour. There are regular flights throughout the day with a number of different local airlines. This option is significantly more costly than the bus but saves a lot of time in a shorter trip.
Cuenca is a sizeable town and so there is some crime here. In particular, keep an eye on your belongings and be mindful at all times of petty theft such as pickpockets. Avoid losing out by only carrying the cash that you really need at any one time. Ladies should avoid carrying a purse at night. The streets around the 10 de Agosto marketplace can be a little unsavory at night time and are best steered away from.