Cuenca - A Haven of Culture and Tradition

Cuenca is Ecuador's third largest city and a place with tremendous history. Originally a Cañari settlement, the Inca's conquered the inhabitants and began to occupy the city. These Inca's stuck to tradition and absorbed the astronomical and agricultural achievements of the Cañari into their own culture. Not long afterwards, the Inca's decided to build an impressive city named Pumapungo - which means the door of the Puma - on the site. According to legends passed down by word of mouth, this city sported magnificent golden temples and other such buildings. However, by the time the Spaniards arrived it had been reduced to little more than ruins. In 1548, a new town was eventually built on the site and the city slowly grew in importance and size. This is the Cuenca we can see and visit today. Because of this well preserved history, Cuenca has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site.

Modern Cuenca is not very modern at all. It is a sort of time bubble wherein the past is effortlessly preserved in the grandest fashion. As you explore the cobblestone streets you will find gracious cathedrals towering above you or marble buildings with a wonderful colonial air. The people of the city are known for their traditional way of living and unchanged cultural values which compliment this historical town so well. They continue to display a good tradition of intellectual development which can be seen by the many notable writers, poets, artists and philosophers which have originated from here.

So why what could you expect from a Cuenca holiday? Well, besides the wonderful old-style atmosphere that pervades the city, the surrounding landscapes are positively breathtaking. Shopping is best done at the wonderful markets where you will find a variety of local foods and hand crafts for sale. There are many charming plazas where you can spend time relaxing and the architecture is simply captivating. For sight seeing, there are 52 churches and monasteries to visit and to the west of Cuenca is the Cajas National Park. Every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday you will have the opportunity of catching the Devil's Nose Train and taking a ride out to Devil's Nose and Chanchan. There are also quite a few interesting craft markets in the villages surrounding Cuenca which are well worth a visit. The El Cajas tour will take you to the National Ecological Reserve and the Ingapirca tour will allow you to see the best Inca ruins in Ecuador. There are also quite a few festivals held here at certain times of the year so it is a good idea to see if there are any such activities planned for the month you wish to venture to Cuenca.

Cuenca hotels are generally very comfortable but not many could be rated five-star. However, do not let that deter you as the friendly faces and helpful staff will always make you feel welcome in Cuenca.

 



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