Azoques, Sierra Region
If you prefer to get away from the mainstream cities when on holiday but don’t want to leave that big-city atmosphere behind, why not give Azogues a try? Azogues is the administrative capital of the Cañar province. Situated just over 30 kilometers north of Cuenca, Azogues has the look and feel of a bigger city but without the usual tourist drive. In fact, Azogues is a major exporter of Panama hats and you will find these practical sun hats abound in this fair-sized city. Panama hats are mass-produced for export all over Azogues city.
Most visitors to Azogues will start their tour at the foot of the hill that rises to the one side of the city. Here you will find the beautiful San Francisco de la Virgen de las Nubes Church. Not only is the church a good example of Ecuadorian architecture but the nearby plaza also serves as a marketplace and a meeting place for the locals. This is a great place to shop and you will find all sorts of handicraft stalls and shops as well as numerous small animals for sale. There is even a handicraft shop that is run by the nuns of the church. They sell embroidery, knitting and other hand-crafted items to generate additional revenue both for themselves and the church. The plaza is also surrounded by a number of other great buildings. Many of these are built in a sort of colonial style with painted ceilings and other stunning features. Definitely take your camera along for this trip.
Azogues has a number of great restaurants where you can choose from a variety of cuisine and prices to find your ideal meal. It is advisable to book in advance for some of the more posh hotels and bed & breakfasts since these are popular with people stopping by for business purposes. However, if you are not staying in Azogues for business but merely for a leisurely holiday, you may want to do more than just visit the plaza. There are a number of small attractions situated on the outskirts of Azogues that are definitely worth visiting. Biblián is a beautiful little place that has been built into the rocks above La Virgen del Rocío to exploit the natural views. You can also go rock climbing in Cojitambo or swimming and camping at the Hosterí El Camping grounds – though you should make a reservation if you plan to do so.