Sunday, April 10, 2016

What to See While You're in Cuenca!

My sister and her husband visited us for three weeks and I thought it would be a great time to introduce Question #27 from the book, Living and Retiring in Cuenca: 101 Questions Answered   --  Second Edition

We also spent three days in Guayaquil, where we visited the Botanical Gardens, Parque Historico, Malecon 2000, Samborondon, and Plaza Lagos, which was my personal favorite. 

I'll save our time in Guayaquil for another post as the majority of our time was spent in Cuenca. Stay tuned...

Question: Can you suggest some things to do while we’re in Cuenca? 

Answer: El Centro is a great place to start your visit. Parque Calderon, in the heart of the historic district, is where you can enjoy a splendid view of the New Cathedral (Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception) with its pink marble pillars. On certain holidays, you can even go up to the lookout towers. Across the park from the Nueva Catedral (New Cathedral), you will find the Iglesia del Sagrario (Old Cathedral). It was built in 1557 and currently serves as a museum, housing works from colonial and contemporary artists. Occasionally, the Cuenca Symphony performs there. It is a favorite music venue because of the excellent acoustics.

Nueva Catedral

For $2.00 you can go up to the terrace of the Nueva Catedral for the best view of the city.
The staircase winds up many flights, which reminded me of the
For $2.00 you can visit the Old Cathedral, which is more like a museum filled
with artifacts and murals, including life-sized sculptures of the disciples. 

Now you can make your way over to the flower market, which is located at Sucre and Padre Aguirre next to the New Cathedral and the Carmen de la Asunción Monastery (founded in 1682). The flower market is still one of my favorite places in El Centro. And the church, Iglesia Carmen de la Asunción (Santuario Mariano) is one of the most impressive churches in Cuenca and features Baroque and Renaissance architecture.
Since it was the week of  Palm Sunday, there were lots of palms
to choose from that were woven by hand with flowers mixed in. 
Palm weaving near the Nueva Catedral

We celebrated Easter and my sister's birthday at Mansion Alcazar on
Simon Bolivar.

La Pergola -- Mansion Alcazar

Take a stroll down Calle Larga (the longest street in the city) and enjoy some of the best restaurants and hotels in Cuenca. Off the main street, you will find the Barranco district—the cliff overlooking the River Tomebamba where 120 of the oldest structures in the city are located. At night, the lights and bridges make it a spectacular photo spot.

Calle Larga

Other areas to visit are:

Mirador de Turi. The double-decker tour buses leave from Parque Calderon next to the Old Cathedral and take you through the city up to Turi where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city. Day and night tours are available.
The church of Turi (which means brother in Quichua) was built in 1930. You can approach the viewpoint via the Turi steps, which are always an option to bring you to the top; plan on a few stops, though, as the steps are steep. While in Turi, you can visit the lovely restaurant and souvenir shop.
Turi is also the home of Eduardo Vega, the world-renowned ceramicist, who not only has residence there, but also his work studio. Cost to visit the studio is free (minus the souvenirs you'll want to buy). 

It's more fun to take the yellow or red tour bus up to Turi, but if you want to save $5.00
you can take one of the blue buses for 25-cents that says "Turi" or "Tres Puentes."
My sister and her hubby at the Mirador de Turi.

Iglesia de Turi

Eduardo Vega's Studio on the road to the Mirador. It's a great place to buy souvenirs.

Eduardo Vega was kind enough to pose for a picture with us. 

Pumapungo Museum: Pumapungo is an archaeological museum located in Cuenca’s historic district at Calle Larga and Huayna Capac Streets, next to the Banco Central. The museum is spectacular and even has a collection of shrunken heads. The Temple of the Sun and the Convent of the Sun Virgins, which were all part of one of the most important and beautiful cities of the ancient Incan Empire, are located just outside the museum.

Entrance to the Pumapungo Museum 
Pumapungo Runins 

Pumapungo Ruins and Garden 

Following a trail down a flight of stairs, you’ll reach a bird sanctuary and park where you can enjoy some of Ecuador’s most exotic birds.

Look-out Tower 

Some of the exotic birds at the Pumapungo Park

The Belgium Waffle Guys were closed the day we went. They are open Thursday - Sunday.
By now, you might need a break and a snack. Enjoy a waffle from the Belgian Waffle Guys, who have a restaurant in the park.
Other notable museums are the Aboriginal Cultural Museum (Calle Larga and Mariano Cueva), the Monasterio de las Conceptas (Juan Jaramillo and Presidente Cordova), and the Museum of Modern Art (Mariscal Sucre and Colonel Talbot). When visiting the art museum, take time for lunch at San Sebas Café in the plaza.
Aguas Termales de Baños (the town with the thermal baths). No trip to Cuenca is complete without a trip to Baños and the thermal baths. Hostels and spas offer volcanic mud and vaporized massage services. Located fifteen minutes outside of Cuenca, these hot springs rise from a geological fault named Loma de los Hervideros. Our favorite is Piedra de Agua, which has a lovely restaurant, three pools, mud baths, underground caves, and spa services in a tranquil setting. On Tuesdays, Piedra de Agua features an international visitor’s special—two-for-one—which includes all the spa amenities, including the mud baths, underground pools, and saunas. With the special, the price is only $16 per person.
Other notable favorites are NovaAqua (the newest “pool” on the block) and Hosteria Duran, which has turco baths, a hostel, and a restaurant.
Amaru Zoo. If you’re traveling with children, you have to visit Amaru, which is on the Cuenca-Azogues Highway (Km 10). It’s a bio park built along the mountainside and has cultural activities for kids, along with flower and amphibian reserves. Allow at least two hours.
Chordeleg, Gualaceo, and Paute. For day trips, you have to visit Gualaceo where leather goods are made: shoes, purses, and jackets. On the way into Gualaceo, there’s also the Orchid Factory (as I call it)— Ecuagenera,  where you can see hundreds of different varieties of orchids in all stages of development. Also, if you would like to spend the night in Gualaceo, we highly recommend Hosteria Santa Barbara, which is a palm-tree lined oasis and resort facility.
Chordeleg is known for its silver and gold jewelry, which you pay for by the ounce. If you’re looking for souvenirs to take home, this is the place to pick them up.
Paute is a great place to have a picnic lunch along the river. The weather there is warmer than in Cuenca, and the view is amazing. In fact, many expats relocate from Cuenca to Paute to live in the country and escape city life.
Longer day trips include. Ingapirca, Cajas National Park (up to 15,000 feet) with lunch at the Dos Chorreras Lodge (awesome fresh trout), Giron Waterfalls, and Yunguilla Valley. One of our favorite places to stay is Jardin del Valle in Yunguilla, which is relaxing and exotic; the lovely Bambu Restaurant is nearby.

My sister and her husband loved Cuenca so much -- they'll be back! 

Waterfalls going over the Cajas

Dos Chorreras (Two Waterfalls) 

Roadside company!

Dos Chorreras Lodge

Until next time...hasta luego, 

Connie & Mark 

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