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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:







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:

  1. Tiestos

  2. Museo de la Gastronomía

  3. El Capitan

  4. Moliendo Cafe

  5. 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!

Another beautiful and popular outdoor activity is birdwatching, which is located in Cajas National Park. El Cajas National Park is located in the Cordillera Occidental of the southern Ecuadorian Andes, only 35 km from Cuenca, heading northwest. In addition to birdwatching, Cajas also offers sport fishing, rock climbing, camping and hiking. The Park has 12 hiking routes specifically for tourists, 4 which are easier walking paths and 8 more which are more demanding hiking paths.

The cultural activities that Cuenca offers are undoubtedly the most attractive things to do in the city. Museums, churches, archaeological sites, and the hand painted crafts from Cuenca are well known worldwide. If you have time, the production of jewelry, hand embroidered, and hand-painted ceramics produced in Chordeleg are also worth checking out.


The architecture, art, gastronomy, beautiful historic buildings, and history make Cuenca a perfect place to travel, discover, and live.

Most of the people who have had a chance to visit or live in Cuenca are astounded by the people, its climate, and the natural landscape that surrounds it.

Each year, the city hosts approximately 200 cultural events. They range from jazz and blues concerts to art exhibitions, religious processions and craft fairs. Many of the events are free and the thriving arts scene attracts young artists from all over the world.

In short, the friendliness, events, weather and culture will surely make you want to visit this unique city.

Adapting to a new way of life

One of the characteristics of Cuenca which makes it a popular choice for tourists either to visit or live is the serenity that comes from its people and the natural beauty that surrounds it. For more than a decade now, Cuenca has gained fame among foreigners looking for a place to enjoy their retirement.

In Cuenca retirees will find an incredible and efficient public transportation system, large museums displaying Incan ruins, superb medical care, and the best markets in terms of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Housing in Cuenca is the most surprising because of its low prices. For example, a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath apartment costs less than USD 400 per month. For retired foreigners this is a fabulous deal because with as little as $1000 a month, they can live a high class lifestyle, dining out, traveling, and exploring the city.

Cuenca is our most highly recommended city when foreigners ask about traveling or living in Ecuador. The city is filled with beautiful landscapes all around, dependable water and electricity services, and great sanitation.

In this link you can watch a series of videos about the new changes to the immigration law in Ecuador and how they can affect you.

Or, you can book a 15 minutes FREE OF CHARGE appointment here!

The EcuaAssist Team


The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.


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