|El Barranco- Cuenca, Ecuador.|
Cuenca was founded on April 12 of 1557 by Gil Ramírez Dávalos. Cuenca was initially named "Santa Ana de los Cuatro Ríos de Cuenca". Cuenca is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is due not only to its age, but to the many colonial houses, the stunning architecture and cobbled stone streets. Today, Cuenca is a very diverse city with beautiful old colonial structures located adjacent to modern apartment buildings.
Ecuador is divided into three regions, that of the Coast, Mountains and Amazon. Cuenca is situated in the south of Ecuador in Azuay Province amongst the majestic Andes Mountains with an altitude of 8400' (2560.32m). Cuenca has four rivers running through it: Tarqui, Machángara, Yanuncay and Tomebamba. Cuenca is known for having the cleanest drinking water in all of Ecuador. International Living magazine refers to Cuenca as the land of eternal spring! This is because the average temperature in Cuenca is 68°F (20°C). There are only two seasons in Ecuador-rainy and dry.
PLACES TO VISIT
Abdón Calderón Park
One of the first places you need to visit is Parque Calderon located in the center of the 500 year old UNESCO city of Cuenca. With its towering trees and flowering plants, it is peaceful, convenient to everything and a place of tranquility in the middle of a city of half a million people!
This is a lovely place to sit, have an icecream from Tutto Freddo across the street, watch all the people in their colorful clothes and enjoy the true culture of Cuenca.
DOUBLE DECKER TOURIST BUS
For the best introduction to Cuenca, see it from the top of a double-decker tour bus! For $5.00 you can have a forty minute tour through the historic district complete with an English speaking guide who will explain the colonial architecture along with the history of Cuenca. The tour starts at Abdón Calderón Park, and ends in Mirador de Turi, which is the overlook of the entire city.
Mirador de Turi
"THE BEST VIEW IN CUENCA"
Mirador means "viewpoint" and Turi means "brother" in Quecha. What you are going to see, from up here, will just be the most beautiful view of this precious city!
Outdoor Flower Market
In Padre Aguirre 7-24, you can find what National Geographic has said is the number one Outdoor Flower Market in the world! Here you can buy individual bouquets, wreaths or displays of any type of flowers seven days a week.
Cuenca´s planetarium, free to the public and located in Parque de la Madre, opened in November 2015. It is the best equipped planetarium in Ecuador and has had over 25.000 visitors in the first two months. It is open six days a week, but it is closed on Monday for maintenance.
PARKS IN CUENCA
If you are visiting Cuenca, you should not bypass one of the many beatiful and green parks.
(Don´t forget to visit beautiful Calderón Park, mentioned earlier.)
Parque de la Madre, where the new planetarium is located, just had an extensive renovation. The park now has all new play ground and exercise equipment, a basketball court and a running track with parking underneath. It is located about a 20 minute walk from the center of town.
Paraíso Park is the largest park in Cuenca. It has a duck/paddle boat pond, play ground and exercise equipment, a running track and many bushes, trees and flowers. There is acres of open space for picnics or to play a soccer game. For those family picnic days, when you left the food at home, there are various kiosks in the park that offer you different kinds of food.
"EL CAJAS" National Park
This is located 30km West of Cuenca with roads reaching higher than 4310m (13,550 feet). "Cajas" is derived from the quecha word meaning "gateway to the snowy mountains", or "caxa", quechua for cold. The Cajas provide 60% of the drinking water for the Cuenca area. This National Park is home to many endangered animals. Some of the 44 mammalian species are opossums, bats, pumas, coates, weasels, skunks, foxes, porcupines, llamas and others. The average tempereture is 13.2ºC with an average anual precipitation of 1072mm. It is a popular spot for hiking, climbing, camping, fishing and birdwatching.
There are three important theaters in Cuenca where you can see live concerts, operas and ballet performed by people from all over the world.
Carlos Cueva Theater
This is the newest theater of Cuenca, and it is located on the ground of Universidad de Cuenca. It has seating for 810 people, is open to the general public and it is almost always free.
Banco Central Theater
Another beautiful theater in Cuenca is the one located adjacent to Museo Banco Central also known as "Pumapungo". It was opened in the 80`s.
CASA DE LA CULTURA THEATER
Casa de la Cultura theater was created in 1945, and is the oldest theater in Cuenca. Like the others, it is open to the public and is almost always free.
Cuenca offers tourists a variety of restaurants whether it be local food or international cuisine. You can enjoy a quick local lunch or linger over a fabulous dinner in a beautiful setting.
Tiesto´s was ranked the number one restaurant in Cuenca for its "decadent" food. The element that makes Tiesto`s unique is that the chef-owner-Juan steps out of the kitchen to speak with customers at each of the tables in the restaurant.
EL JARDÍN RESTAURANT
Located for the last 8 years in La Victoria Hotel, El Jardin has 30 years of service in the city of Cuenca and recognized as one of the iconic restaurants in Cuenca. It is set apart not only for its´ cuisine, but also for the ambiance.
For the best pizza, pasta or any other Italian food, you should go to Fabiano´s. On any evening, you can find many Gringos in this establishment.
LA ESQUINA RESTAURANT
La Esquina Restaurant is an upscale Argentine restaurant with typical rural Argentinian cuisine served in discos de arado (cast iron skillets) along with their excellent food. They have an extensive wine list.
Villa Rosa Restaurant opened in 1991. This restaurant has excellent international cuisine with great service with a classy atmosphere.
MALLS & SHOPPING CENTERS
There are two important malls and three fairly large shopping centers in Cuenca. They contain only a few of the stores you are familiar with in your country. The food courts, however, have many of the same fast-food places you know such as Mac Donald´s, Subway, Pizza Hut, Burger King, KFC, etc.
MALL DEL RÍO
This mall, located on the east side of Cuenca, is the largest of all. Here, you can buy anything from groceries, high or medium price clothing, shoes, tools, computers, TVs, etc. There are a couple nice restaurants as well as a huge food court in this mall.
MONAY SHOPPING CENTER
Located on the east side of Cuenca, Monay Shopping is the second largest shopping center. This shopping center is also the newest one; it was built in 2013. Contrary to Mall del Rio, you are going to find more national stores than international stores here.
El Vergel Shopping Center
El Vergel is a two-level shopping center located within walking distance of Parque de la Madre and the new Planetarium. It contains a large Supermaxi, furniture and home decor stores and numerous clothing retailers as well as beauty shops, real estate and a bank. However, there is an absence of restaurants in this center, but many are close by.
Milenium Plaza, also located close to Parque de la Madre, has several sport bar/restaurants, few retailers, but is equipped with five theaters.
Located close to the airport, it has one of the largest hardware store in Cuenca (KIWI). It has a large Supermaxi, several stores and underground parking. Besides KIWI, there is a large toy store and a Christmas store that opens in early November, with the best selection of Christmas decorations in the city.