THE ECUADOR VIBE - The Ecuador Vibe: CUENCA – AZUAY
Cuenca, originally known as ‘Santa Ana de los cuatro Ríos de Cuenca’, is an Ecuadorian city located in the province of Azuay. This beautiful city is made up of four rivers, the Tomebamba, Tarqui, Yanuncay, and Machángara. It is located at an altitude of 2550 meters (8366 ft) above sea level and has an incredibly temperate climate, neither too hot nor too cold.
It is also known as the "Athens of Ecuador" for its architecture, cultural diversity, contribution to the Ecuadorian arts and sciences, and for being the birthplace of many illustrious people in Ecuadorian society. Its historic center has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Cuenca is the third most populated city in the country behind Quito and Guayaquil. It is one of the most important administrative, economic, financial and commercial centers of Ecuador. The main economic activities of the city are commerce and industry but during the last couple of years, Cuenca has also become an international tourist attraction.
How to get there:
There are a few different transportation options to get to Cuenca. These include personal vehicles, taxis, ‘bussetas’, or buses which can be taken from Guayaquil or Quito. The distance from Guayaquil to Cuenca is 123 miles (196.9 km) and takes around 3 hours and 25 minutes along route E582. If you decide to take a plane from Guayaquil to Cuenca the flight time is around 45 minutes to an hour. Small buses, known as ‘bussetas,’ are also available from Guayaquil and hold around 12-16 people.
If you will be traveling from Cuenca to Quito (or vice versa) the distance is 292 miles (470 km) by bus, taxi, or personal car, and takes around 8 hours along the Panamericana/Troncal de la Sierra/E35 highway. If you would prefer to travel by plane from Quito to Cuenca the flight time is between 1-1.5 hours.
To get to Cuenca from Manta the driving distance is 242 miles (389 km) and takes around 6-7 hours. If you would like to fly from Manta to Cuenca the flight time is a short 30-40 minutes, although due to COVID-19 there are currently no flights available from Manta to Cuenca.
It is important to note that if you decide to use the bus while traveling through Ecuador, travel times will take longer than with a car or taxi.
Where to stay:
In Cuenca there are many 5 star housing options with beautiful buildings and architecture. Many of the buildings are from the Colonial era but there are also very modern hotels available. The top 5 recommended places to stay in Cuenca are:
HOTEL CRUZ DEL VADO
AZUL DE LA PLAZA
HOTEL BOUTIQUE SANTA LUCIA
HOTEL ORO VERDE
FOUR POINTS BY SHERATON
There are also lodging options in the well-known and famous inns located a bit farther from the center of Cuenca: Hosteleria Dos Chorreras and San Juan. These inns are known for their great service, being very affordable and comfortable. They will definitely provide you with a unique experience in Cuenca!
Where to eat:
Due to the fact that Cuenca is located in the Ecuadorian highlands (la sierra), some of the best tasting, traditional, and typical dishes are found here. Cuenca is well known for having some of the best food in the country, according to locals and foreigners alike! The top 5 recommended places to eat are:
Museo de la Gastronomía
La Hosteria Dos Chorreras
What to do:
The landscapes of Cuenca are some of the most beautiful in the Ecuadorian highlands. Cuenca offers many activities both for those who love outdoor adventures and indoor activities. If you enjoy adventurous activities we recommend Puenting or Canopying. Puenting is a popular activity that is done on the bridge “La Union” which is located between SigSig and the parish of San Bartolome. A rope is tied on each side of the bridge which creates a pendulum movement and you start by jumping from one side and flying to the other. Additionally, Canopy (or ziplining) is available in the sector of Bibín, (vía Ricaurte, km 7.8) through a guided excursion of 6 ziplines. Equipment is provided, excursions are conducted by trained professionals, and it is sure to give you the adrenaline rush you’ve been looking for!