Cuenca, Ecuador is not just a city; it’s an experience that combines history, culture, and a vibrant community into one captivating package.
If you’re considering a visit or even a move, there’s much to know about what makes this place unique.
From the local food and architecture to the day-trip adventures that surround this Andean city, here are the top 10 things we miss most about Cuenca that stood out during our visit there.
#10 Diverse Culinary Landscape
Cuenca offers a rich array of dining options that range from international to local cuisines. One notable example is Paradise Indian Restaurant, owned by our friends Chinnu and Abin.
The city also provides choices for those with specific dietary needs, like vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.
And for those on a budget, the traditional Ecuadorian ‘almuerzo’ lunch specials start at just $1.50.
#9 Historic Architecture
As you wander through Cuenca, you’ll be struck by the diverse architectural styles that reflect various periods of the city’s rich history.
The blend of colonial, baroque, and modern elements tells a multi-layered story of cultural influences and changes over time.
While there are contemporary constructions and modern condos, Cuenca maintains a harmonious balance with its architectural heritage, ensuring that the city’s historical charm remains intact.
#8 Local Markets: Mercados
One of the most authentic experiences in Cuenca is visiting the local mercados.
Beyond just shopping for fresh produce, these markets offer a lens into daily Ecuadorian life. Regular visits also allow you to get to know local vendors and practice your Spanish.
#7 Small-scale Retail Experience
The shopping experience in Cuenca is far from generic. The city abounds in small, specialized shops, which often turn shopping into an adventurous scavenger hunt.
While larger malls do exist, these small businesses offer a more personalized experience and are a significant part of local life.
#6 Green Spaces
Cuenca is home to a variety of parks, each with its own unique character.
From prominent parks like Parque Calderon to smaller neighborhood green spaces, these areas are community hubs that often host activities and events.
The city is also expanding its green footprint with new botanical gardens.
#5 A Multitude of Activities
The city’s cultural fabric is rich, offering activities from music and dancing to festivals and parades.
For those interested in more structured activities, there are classes available in everything from Spanish and dance to yoga and crafts.
Opportunities for volunteering and community involvement are also plentiful.
#4 Day-Trip Opportunities
Cuenca’s location in the Andes makes it a great base for various day trips.
For nature lovers, Cajas National Park provides scenic views and hiking trails.
Other nearby places worth exploring include Girón with its waterfalls and the artisan towns of Gualaceo and Chordeleg.
#3 Hot Springs in Baños de Azuay
Just a short cab ride away, the hot springs in Baños de Azuay are a local favorite.
Not only are they affordable, but many find the waters to be therapeutic.
For a unique experience, try the cave at Piedra de Agua.
#2 Reasonable Cost of Living
Though the cost of living can vary depending on lifestyle choices, Cuenca remains relatively affordable, especially when compared to other Ecuadorian cities like Cumbaya and Manta.
However, it’s worth noting that there are now more high-end restaurants that cater to tourists, which can be pricier.
See Also: Cost of Living in Ecuador
#1 Community and Friendships
One of the most enriching aspects of Cuenca is its welcoming community. Both locals and expats are generally open and friendly, making it easy to forge new relationships.
There are numerous events, language exchanges, and communal activities where you can meet people.
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Cuenca, Ecuador is a city rich in diversity, from its culinary options and architectural styles to its community-oriented atmosphere.
Whether you’re there for a visit or planning a more extended stay, the city’s unique blend of historical charm and modern amenities offers something for everyone.
And perhaps the most invaluable aspect of Cuenca is its people—both locals and expats—who add layers of depth to the city’s already captivating aura.
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Hola todos! Welcome to my author bio page! Let's see. Where to begin... I grew up in the country on a lake outside a small Kansas farm town. As soon as I could, I got the hell outta there! Since then, I've lived and/or worked in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Denver, San Francisco, and Ecuador. I started and sold a dotcom, wrote a book about it, started a YouTube channel, and now I write a lot. Amelia and I have embraced the Unconventional Life and we want to help you do it, too!