History and Natural Splendor Gualaceo
Cobblestone streets wind through the historical buildings and structures of the town of Gualaceo. The locals are warm and inviting, eager to share the relaxed atmosphere that blankets the town. There are approximately forty thousand residents in Gualaceo and due to it being so picturesque and tranquil the town has been nicknamed El Jardin Del Azuay, meaning “The Garden of Azuay”. The exact origin of the name of the town is debatable; however, historians do agree that the town’s name translates to “Macaw’s Settlement”.
The town is located in the Azuay Province of Ecuador and is nestled in a beautiful valley surrounded by towering mountains, luring thousands of recreational hikers to the town to take advantage of the challenging trails and paths. The Santa Barbara River runs through the valley, providing clean swimming waters and the ideal location for the town’s riverfront area.
Gualaceo has a rich history as it was already in existence before the Tahuantinsuyo Inca Empire overran the settlement that belonged to the Kingdom of Quito. The Inca only had control of the area for two years, from 1531 to 1532, until the Spanish occupation which extended to all the corners of the Kingdom of Quito. Mining settlements were established along the river by the Spanish in 1534, and the town was a mining camp until 1549. In 1757 the town was recognized as a Cuenca parish, and is today located an estimated thirty-five kilometres from Cuenca. It became a canton in 1824.
Fortunately Gualaceo was able to retain its beauty and boasts breathtaking landscapes and simple, quiet lifestyles. The town is developed and does have its own educational system and is known for its traditional art and talented artisans. Every morning, the open air market opens for business, where everything from clothing, arts and craft, fruit and vegetables are sold. Some of the sites to visit while exploring Gualaceo include the peasant-artisan village of San Juan de Gualaceo, where exceptional hats, rugs, dolls and embroidered products are produced. The area also offers hiking routes and horseback riding. The Patacocha National Park and Aguarongo Protected Forest are recommended attractions here as they are home to numerous bird species and animals, with lovely walking trails.