Ecuador's most beautiful city is normally referred to as the "Athens of Ecuador" because many notable writers, philosophers, artists and poets were born here. Founded by the Spaniards in 1557 on the grounds of an important Inca center, Cuenca retains its colonial atmosphere with its cobblestone streets, graceful ironwork balconies, flowered plazas and courtyards, shady plazas, museums and religious art treasures. Yet the people, the markets, and the Andean setting leave no doubt that you are in Ecuador. It is the third largest city in Ecuador marked, not by high-rise buildings, but by shining church domes dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, the earliest buildings dating back to 1557. Leather, pottery, and jewelry can be found in several markets. Several Inca ruins, temples and museums provide evidence of Ecuador’s rich cultural heritage. The Tomebamba River divides Cuenca in half with the colonial quarter to the north and the modern suburbs and university to the south.
Activities in/from Cuenca include:
Visit the colonial quarter
The Inca site of Ingapirca located 40 miles from Cuenca
Excursions to the nearby traditional villages of Gualaceo and Chordeleg
Hiking and bird watching in Cajas National Park
Like the rest of the Ecuadorian Andes, 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 60F. 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 light, periodic showers.