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Travel Guide to Cuenca

History | Tourist information | Overview | Orientation | Places to avoid | Transport | Festivals | Write a review about Cuenca | Cuenca Travelers' Feedback

Sightseeing | Accommodation | Restaurants | Fun & Entertainment | Shopping | Activities | Tour operators | General interest | Excursions | Churches | Museums | Cajas National Park

Cuenca CathedralCathedral and ParkDowntown Cuenca The old CathedralAbdon Calderon ParkTomebamba river
Cuenca sightseeing

Cuenca is Ecuador's third largest city and the capital of the province of Azuay. In 1999, the UNESCO awarded Cuenca as a World Heritage Trust.

 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel History

At first, Cuenca was known as Guapondeleg, which means "an area as large as heaven" in the Cañari language, because Cuenca used to be a Cañari colony. The Cañari language is now extinct, but there are still some places in Ecuador that preserve their original names according to their location. Cuenca was one of the first cities that came under the Inca Empire domination. When the Incas arrived to this city, they named it Tomebamba, which means "River Valley of Knives". Nowadays, one of the rivers of Cuenca has kept this name. The ceremonial center of Ingapirca, which was built by the Incas, is located some sixty kilometers north of Cuenca, in Hatun Cañar. This place is considered to be the most important archaeological place in the country. Ingapirca and Tomebamba were the central northern part of the Inca empire. In 1557, the Spanish came and founded Cuenca, in Tomebamba and called it "Santa Ana de los Cuatro Rios de Cuenca". After the independence of Spain, Cuenca became the capital of one of the three provinces that formed part of the "new republic", being Quito and Guayaquil the other two.

 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Tourist information

Asociación Hotelera de Cuenca.- Accommodation and sights information. Address: Presidente Córdova and Padre Aguirre. Tel. 836925.

Cámara de Turismo.- City maps & regional info. Located at the Terminal Terrestre. Tel. 846742.

Ministerio de Turismo.- Maps of Cuenca and regional information. Address: Presidente Córdova and Benigno Malo. Tel. 839337

 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Overview

Ecuador's best guarded treasures, Cuenca, is also known as the "Athens of Ecuador" (La Atenas del Ecuador), because many notable writers, philosophers, artists and poets were born in Cuenca. Additionally, even though Cuenca is the economic center of Southern Sierra, it still maintains its old traditions. Many travelers like to visit the Azuay province and enjoy its beautiful landscapes, delicious typical food, buy handicrafts, or visit tourist centers.

Most of the streets in Cuenca are made of cobblestone, its buildings have an old colonial look with colorful balconies and its charming plazas and markets are very well preserved.

Cuenca is surrounded by four rivers, 52 churches and monasteries (See also Churches, and Museums in Cuenca)

 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Orientation
The Terminal Terrestre is located on España Avenue (A 25 minute walk of the city center). From the Terminal Terrestre, you can walk for 6 minutes in order to reach the airport, or, if you prefer, the buses take you to either the Terminal, or the airport. If you are going to travel to villages within the province such as: San Fernando, Deleg, Gima, etc. Frequent buses as well as city buses are available at the Feria Libre, located on Las Americas Avenue.

Cuenca Boundaries

Av. Las Americas is a very important avenue that goes north and west of the city. To the North of Cuenca, is Rio Machángara. Rio Tomebamba separates the colonial town from the universities, stadium and modern residential areas. To the west, is the Cajas National Park.
 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Places to avoid

When you are visiting Cuenca, you should follow these tips. First of all, if you are going to visit places past 22:00, try to do it in groups. Also, be very precautious if you are around El Puente del Vado (Av. 12 de Octubre and Av. Loja). And finally, try to avoid Mercado 9 de Octubre, which is very unsafe.

 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Transport

Cuenca Local Bus & Taxi

Local buses rates are between US$0.18 and $0.25.

Taxi: A short ride is around US$1.00; To the airport or bus station around US$1.60.

Cuenca Long distance travel


For a complete list, check Air line companies in Cuenca


To Guayaquil, 5 to 6 hours vía Zhud, ticket value around US$4.50. Also vía Cajas and Molleturo with the San Luis cooperative every hour, takes 3 to 4 hours, ticket value around US$4.50.

To & from Quito, 10 to 11 hours, ticket value around US$8.00, with Panamericana Internacional.

To Loja, 5 to 6 hours with San Luis cooperative, ticket value around US$5.00. To Riobamba, 5 to 6 hours, ticket value around US$6.00. To Machala, 4 to 5 hours, ticket value around US$3.00. To Ambato, 7 hours, ticket value around US$7.50. To Sucua, 10 hours, ticket value around US$6.50. To Macas, 11 hours, ticket value around US$6.80 with Turismo Oriental and Sucúa cooperatives. To Azogues, 1 hour, ticket value around US$0.80. To Saraguro, 4 hours. Ticket value around US$3.50. To Gualaquiza, 10 hours. Ticket value around US$6.50, To Alausí, 4 hours, ticket value around US$4.60. To Huaquillas, 6 hours, ticket value around US$3.50.

Cuenca Car hire

For a complete list, check our Car rental section

 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Festivals

During Christmas time, Cuenca offers a magnificent parade, called "Pase del Niño Viajero". This parade is considered to be the largest and best Christmas celebration in Ecuador. The procession begins at 10:00 at San Sebastian, follows along Simón Bolivar street, Plaza Calderón and ends up in San Blas. Lots of musicians accompany the procession and every neighborhood decorates trucks, horses and what ever they can find with plenty of symbols. Children dress up in colorful costumes or as typical biblical figures. Very nice!

New Year's Eve, is the same as everywhere else in Ecuador, besides the traditional burning of the "Años Viejos" which symbolize the old year (See our Holidays & Festivals section). They also have some other parades.

From April 10-13 the Foundation of Cuenca is celebrated. On Good Friday, there is a procession which finishes at Mirador Turi. Every two years, there is an international art competition in Cuenca, which starts either late April or the first days of May, and last for about 4 months. During this period, people can observe a great variety of exhibitions placed at the museums and galleries around the city.

In June, there is the Septenario, which is the religious festival of "Corpus Christi". This festival lasts for one week. During this celebration, Everybody go to Plaza Calderón at night to observe the fireworks and the "vacas locas", which are people carrying a structure in form of a cow, with lit fireworks. The "vacas locas" run through all the park and thousands of balloons are released into the sky. Additionally, there are many other attractions and games in the streets.

On November 3rd, Cuenca celebrates its independence. During this time, you can enjoy many street theaters, the night life is great with several events, art exhibitions and dancing all over the place.


History | Tourist information | Overview | Orientation | Places to avoid | Transport | Festivals | Write a review about Cuenca | Cuenca Travelers' Feedback

Sightseeing | Accommodation | Restaurants | Fun & Entertainment | Shopping | Activities | Tour operators | General interest | Excursions | Churches | Museums | Cajas National Park

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