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Cuenca is arguably Ecuador’s most beautiful city. Its colonial center is perfectly preserved and deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The highlight is the twin-towered baroque-style New Cathedral on the main square Parque Calderon. The city also has many excellent museums — Museo de las Culturas Aborigines has an enormous collection of Pre-Columbian archaeology, and you can learn the intricate process of making Panama hats at Museo del Sombrero. The best museum is Museo del Banco Central, which has a large collection of pottery, colonial art, an exhibition of Ecuador’s indigenous cultures and a display of shrunken heads. Above all, ...

Cuenca is arguably Ecuador’s most beautiful city. Its colonial center is perfectly preserved and deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The highlight is the twin-towered baroque-style New Cathedral on the main square Parque Calderon. The city also has many excellent museums — Museo de las Culturas Aborigines has an enormous collection of Pre-Columbian archaeology, and you can learn the intricate process of making Panama hats at Museo del Sombrero. The best museum is Museo del Banco Central, which has a large collection of pottery, colonial art, an exhibition of Ecuador’s indigenous cultures and a display of shrunken heads. Above all, Cuenca is a joy to walk around, particularly along Calle Larga next to the river where you'll find good bars and restaurants. Outside the city, there are two not-to-miss excursions — the ruins of Ingapirca, which contain the only preserved Sun Temple from the Inca Empire, and Cajas National Park, which has dramatic scenery and is ideal for hiking. Also outside town are the thermal baths of Baños, perfect for relaxing.

Ben Westwood
About the Expert

Ben Westwood is a former Daily Telegraph (London) travel journalist and author of several guidebooks including Moon Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands and Moon Cusco & Machu Picchu. He is also coauthor of the Rough Guide to South America.

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Ben Westwood for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Cuenca is a vibrant colonial city in southern Ecuador, the third largest in the country, and the capital of Azuay Province in the highlands of Ecuador at about 2500 m above sea level.
  • Language: Spanish
  • Currency: Ecuador Sucre
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Year-round, but driest June to September and wettest February to April.