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.
- How to Build a Strong Social Network Abroad
- Kristen Shares Her Story About Living In Ecuador as a Single Woman from the United States
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.
- Cuenca Ecuador Neighborhoods
- Cuenca vs Cotacachi Ecuador Comparison: Finding the Perfect Expat Haven in Ecuador
Watch Our Video About
DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
Get the Free Move Abroad Checklist
PLUS, there are several other free perks in our Live Abroad Toolkit we think you'll enjoy!