Geography & location
Cuenca, capital of the province of Azuay, is located in the sierra of the Andes in the Austro or southern region of Ecuador. It is approximately nine hours south of Quito and four hours east of Guayaquil. The city ranges from 2,350 to 2,550 meters above sea level. The dominant features of the city's geography are also the source of its name: the four rivers of Cuenca. These rivers are the Tomebamba, Yanuncay, Tarqui and Machangara, in order of importance. The first three of these rivers originate in the Páramo of Parque Nacional Cajas to the west of the city. These four rivers are part of the Amazon river watershed. Cuenca (meaning a basin caused by a confluence of rivers) is surrounded by mountains on all sides, with passes to the west, south and east.
Like the rest of the Ecuadorian Andes, Cuenca enjoys a mild climate year-round. Days are generally warm and nights are cool enough that sweaters or jackets are needed. The average daily temperature is 14.6 degrees Celsius - 58 degrees Fahrenheit. There are two seasons: rainy and dry. The dry season, with some variation, falls between June and December. The rainy season, which is characterized by bright sunny mornings and afternoon showers, falls between January and May. The heaviest rains come in the invierno of March, April and May.
|Historic Centre of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca*|
|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
Cuenca's stone streets
|Criteria||ii, iv, v|
|Inscription||1999 (23rd Session)|
|* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.|
** Region as classified by UNESCO.
Most tourists visit the historic area, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, between the river Tomebamba and the street Gran Colombia to the north, General Torres to the west, and Hermano Miguel to the east. This area's compactness, grid-like layout, and numerous readily identifiable monuments make it easy to navigate. Outside this area the city can be confusing, as there are dozens of narrow colonial streets with similar buildings.
Major fiestas of Cuenca come at the time of the "Mass of Children" that is carried out the day of the Arrival of Kings (January 6th - Epiphany Day), or in the commemoration of the independence of the city (November 3rd), during which processions, cultural acts and dances are organized. The nearby Cañar plantation (in the county of the same name) features the biggest Inca ruins in Ecuador.
- Old Cathedral (Iglesia de El Sagrario)
- It was built in 1557, but soon was too small for the faithful of the town. In 1880, they decided to build a temple to replace it. At the present time, the old cathedral is in process of restoration. It is no longer consecrated and is operated as a museum.
- New cathedral (official name: Catedral Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción)
- Its towers are truncated due to a calculation error of the architect. If they had been raised to their planned height, the foundation of this church to the Immaculate Concepcion, would not have been able to bear the weight. In spite of the architect's immense mistake, the New Cathedral of Cuenca is a monumental work of faith that began to be built in 1880. It is in Neo-Gothic style, and its blue and white domes have become a symbol for the city. Its facade is made of alabaster and local marble, while the floor is covered with pink marble, brought from Carrara (Italy).When the Cathedral was first constructed 9,000 out of Cuenca's 10,000 inhabitants could fit.
- Park Abdon Calderon
- It is in the center of Cuenca between the old and new cathedrals. On the park benches, people meet to converse and absorb its tranquility. The municipal offices are located nearby.
- Monastery of El Carmen de Asuncion
- In the atrium a colorful flower market supplements the beauty of the church which was founded in 1682. A sculpted stone facade and a golden pulpit make the church very attractive.
- Monastery and Museum of La Concepcion
- Tombs of the XVII century and a complete collection of religious art are part of this exhibition.
- House of the Ecuadorian Culture
- Municipal Museum Remigio Crespo Toral
- Museum of the Central Bank
- Museum of the Aboriginal Cultures
- Church of Santo Domingo
- San Blas.
- Ruinas de todos los santos
- In this old place, four niches of Inca origin exist. Their form is trapezoidal and they are built of stone. There are also remains of a colonial mill.
- Molleturo is a vast rural area (about 1000 square kilometres) situated in Ecuador’s southern Andes, and composed of several little villages (hamlets). The centre of the area is located at 1.5 hours of distance in car from the nearest bigger city (Cuenca). In fact, this distance is very little compared to ten years ago when there was no road for cars and it took people 3 days of mule riding to get to Cuenca. In spite of the advantages, the road had also very negative impacts on the ecological system, which is still very important for people's daily survival.
- The community of Jima is located near Cuenca and is a hiking hotspot for Southern Ecuador. Jima is located at the base of two beautiful green mountains at 8,800 feet. Hikes for all skill levels are available including a three day hike from the peaks of the Andes mountains down into the lush tropical rainforest of the Amazon basin.
- Less than 50 kilometers from Cuenca, town of Cañari origin, known for its weavers, embroiderers and potters. In the same area there is a stone corridor in snake form, built in pre-Inca time, known for gold and silver smiths and local jewelry.
- A national park where the rivers, streams and lagoons seem to unite, to create a temple of nature, in which the altitude varies from the 3500 to the 4200 m.a.s.l. It is a place for bird watchers and trout fishermen.
- Azogues is the capital of Cañar Province, 29 kilometers separate it from Cuenca. In this city of colonial atmosphere, one of the highlights is San Francisco's convent, built on the summit of a huaca (sacred mountain) of the prehispanic residents.
- Cañar plantation
- Their coloring market and the near ruins of Ingapirca (wall of Inca stone), are their biggest attractions. Cañar plantation is located 65 kilometers from Cuenca and it is usually the starting point for the trips to the famous ruins that, according to the experts, were used to control the native Cañaris. Stores, bathrooms, a tambo for the Inca, a temple dedicated to the sun, they are part of Ingapirca that was built in the XV century by orders of Huayna Capac.