Cuenca Ecuador

Cuenca Ecuador is one of the best guarded treasures of this country. The city has a Spanish Colonial Feel.

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Its buildings have a well preserved colonial look with colorful balconies. The city's incredibly preserved history, recently earned the honor of being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cuenca's well-preserved history and cultural traditions make it a fascinating tourist destination with a range of hotels and sites of interest.

The complete name of the city is Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca and is located in the Andean valley on Southern Ecuador (441 km south of Quito), at an elevation of 2.535 m.a.s.l.

It enjoys a typically warm weather, with an average temperature of 17°C. Its population is of approximately 400.000 inhabitants and its surface area is of 15.730 hectares.

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Cuenca Ecuador History

Cuenca's history begins long before the arrival of both the Spanish and the Incas. The city was originally an Indian Cañari settlement called Guapondeleg and is believed to have been founded around 500 AD.

Less than half a century before the conquistadors landed, the Inca, after a bitter struggle, conquered the Indian Cañari and occupied Guapondeleg and the surrounding area.

Though the Inca replaced Cañari architecture with their own, they did not exclude the Cañari or their impressive achievements in astronomy and agriculture.

Rather, they absorbed these elements of Cañari culture, as was customary when they conquered other cultures.

Shortly after the defeat of the Cañari, the Inca commander, Tupac Yupanqui, ordered the construction of a major city called Pumapungo, whose magnificence was to challenge that of the Inca capital of Cuzco.

Indigenous people told the Spanish conquerors stories of golden temples and other such wonders, but by the time the Spaniards found the legendary city of Pumapungo, all that remained were ruins, leaving the Spanish to wonder what happened to the fabled splendor and riches of the second Inca capital.

After being abandoned by the Cañari and then the Inca, Cuenca Ecuador was sparsely populated until the 1550's. The city of Cuenca that exists today was founded by the Spanish in 1557 under the command of the Viceroy of Peru, Mr. Andres Hurtado de Mendoza.

The peculiar features of its soil and the circumstances of later gradual miscegenation printed a unique idiosyncrasy on its inhabitants, who were carving and forging the actual Cuenca Ecuador over the years.

By now Cuenca is the economical and cultural center of a rich area in Ecuador, an Andean and tropical country at the same time, characterized by contrasts and wonders.

Cuenca Ecuador Climate

Like the rest of the cities in the Ecuadorian Andes Mountains, Cuenca enjoys a mild climate year-round.

Days are generally warm and nights are cool enough that you should pack a sweater.

The average daily temperature is 15 degrees C (58 degrees F). The rainy season is the same as Quito's and generally lasts from mid-October until early May.

During this time, mornings are typically sunny and afternoons cloudy with periodic showers.

Cuenca Ecuador Attractions

It is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Ecuador, a most peaceful and relaxing setting.

One of the first things you notice when entering the city is the magnificent skyline marked by shining church domes.

The easiest and most obvious thing to do in Cuenca is to simply stroll around the historic downtown, marveling at the architecture in and around the well-kept central park.

You can not walk far with running into a colonial church. Cuenca Ecuador has 52, one for every Sunday of the year.

The number of churches you visit will depend on your level of interest, but the La Inmaculada (the new cathedral) and El Sagrario (the old cathedral), both on the central park, should not be missed.

There are also several museums, including the Pumapungo museum complex (also known as the Central Bank Museum) which has very good exhibits for those interested in the complete history of the region and city.

You should also visit the Mirador Turi (Turi Overlook) where you can get an overview of the city.

The lookout point is on a modest hill to the south of the city and on a clear day, the view is spectacular. There is a small church at the site and some coin-operated binoculars.

Cajas National Park

A place where the waters reveal of the rivers, streams and lagoons, they seem to unite, to create a temple of the nature. Located 29 km west of Cuenca Ecuador, many people visit the park on the weekends for its trout fishing, rugged hiking, and camping.

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Indian Ingapirca Ruins

The Ruins of Ingapirca are about one hour and 45 minutes away from Cuenca, Ingapirca was both a religious and administrative center, as well as a fortress.

The ruins comprise strategic observation points, cemeteries, roads, storage rooms, priests' chambers and a plaza. The most impressive part of the site is the oval-shaped Temple of the Sun, which acted as an important ceremonial and ritual center for the Cañari and Inca cultures.

Gualaceo is specially known for its handicrafts and folklore. On Sunday there is a market where you will find piles of fine hand-woven shawls, colorful belts, shoe manufacturing, leather goods and many other items.

Chordeleg is the place for buying the finest gold and silver jewelry at very reasonable prices.

Cuenca's cobblestone streets, winding rivers, graceful ironwork balconies, and beautiful gardens are part of the pleasant atmosphere of this historical city.

The UNESCO declared Cuenca Ecuador a World Cultural Heritage Site on December 1999.

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