A vibrant colonial city set in the south of Ecuador, Cuenca is the country’s third largest city and is packed with historic landmarks and rich heritage. In addition to the cultural highlights and intriguing windows into the past, these are complemented by the abundance of inviting cafés and alluring galleries that can be found tucked down cobbled streets, all perfect to dip into after a long day sightseeing.
The city centre itself listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts the spectacular New Cathedral of Cuenca. Characterised by its striking blue and white domes, it’s a relatively recent addition to the cityscape, with construction starting in the late 1800s and lasting for the best part of a century. Nevertheless, it remains a must-see piece of neo-gothic architecture. Nearby is the Old Cathedral, with a much longer history which dates back to the 1500s, though nowadays it has been restored and functions as a museum. The local markets are also interesting to visit, and here you can find fresh local produce and numerous arts and crafts, including hand-made Panama hats.
For some exploring amid dramatic natural landscapes, Cuenca is also an ideal base for discovering the beauty of the nearby El Cajas National Park. Consisting of jagged hills and valleys, as well as over 250 lagoons, here you can find many well-marked trails that make for some great hiking opportunities, with an abundance of flora and fauna to spot.
What to do
- Marvel at the New Cathedral
- Explore the Ingapirca Inca ruins
- Visit the city's intriguing museums
- Tour Cuenca's markets
- Walk the trails of El Cajas National Park