Sunday, April 12, 2009


Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador, behind Quito and Guayaquil. The historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Cuenca is not far behind Quito in terms of its colonial architecture. It's a busy city, and the traffic can be a bit overwhelming at times, but despite this is not a bad place to stop over for a couple of nights. Like Cuenca in Spain, the city got its name from being located in a river basin. Most of the water flowing down this way comes from the nearby Cajas national park, which we didn't have time to explore. The river flowing around the old city can be a pleasant place to walk on the city side - the other side seems to have become the main ring road. There are even some Casas Colgadas - not quite as impressive as those of the Spanish Cuenca.

The centre of the city has some beautiful streets and squares, and it is a good place for wandering around the narrow cobbled streets and seeing what you discover.

In contrast to Quito the old part of the city does have plenty of places to eat and drink in the evening, although the biggest concentration is to be found a few blocks outside of the heart of the city on the Calle Larga. Maybe at weekends this area is full of people, but we found it very quiet; although some of the restaurants and bars are very nice.

Other attractions include the Museo del Banco Central, which hosts a mixed collection of archaeological exhibits along with colonial art and ethnographic sections. The museum also occupies the site of part of the old Inca city of Pumapungo, but to be honest there is not a lot left to see.

Cuenca also claims to be the home of the Panama hat, and there are plenty of places offering hats for sale at all prices, depending on how finely made they are. I went for one at the lower end of the price range, we were heading to the Galapagos after Cuenca and I needed a good sun hat. It did its job very well and even survived intact the trip back home to Spain.

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