Cuenca is the first stage of our stay in Ecuador.
We stayed for 6 days in May 2019 but explored the area from the city.
Cuenca is a beautiful city in the Andes of southern Ecuador. It is well known for its colonial architecture and craftsmanship (there are the famous hats “Panama”).
From Peru there is a bus with the company Super Semeria.
We took it from Chiclayo (13h bus). He goes through Mancora.
The crossing of the border is done around 2am. The exit from Peru and the entrance to Ecuador are in the same office.
This bus company is pretty awful (drive like crazy (running in Peru), are on their phone while driving, do speeding …) but I think there is not much choice.
There are many taxis and buses.
The city is small, it is easy to walk.
From the bus terminal of Cuenca there are many agencies that offer transportation to Quito. There are buses leaving in the morning, one in the afternoon and three in the evening.
Duration: minimum 7h
Price: 12 USD
We stayed at the Latinos Brothers House Cuenca Hotel.
It is a typical house of the city, very original with a nice layout.
The rooms are spacious and clean. They lend shower towels.
There is a single shower for everyone (a shame but not a big deal) with hot water, and several toilets.
The kitchen is large and well appointed. There is everything to cook including an oven.
There is possibility to have breakfast for less than 3USD and it’s very good.
There is hot water available and a TV corner.
The staff is super nice.
Count 13USD the night in double room and 7USD in dormitory.
Address: Calle Luis Cordero Presidente Cordova, 010104 Cuenca, Ecuador
Here is a list of what we did in the city but also outside by taking buses from the Cuenca terminal. Take the time to stroll through the city, it is very pretty, there are many places with markets of all kinds and many churches.
- Free Walking tour
- Museum of Aboriginal Cultures
- Museo del Sombrero
- Museum Pumapungo
- Sigsig & Chordeleg
- Plaza de las Flores
- Mirador de Turi
- Parque national del Cajas
- Mercado 10 de Agosto
- Cathedral of Immaculada Concepcion
- Museo Remigio Crespo Toral
What: City tour with a guide. Rather nice if you want to have historical and architectural information. It also brings you to the market of 10 de Agosto to show you the typical dishes. Some traders even taste!
Where: Appointment every day at 10am in the main square.
How much: It’s free but they expect you to give a drink.
What: The Cordero-López couple, in 1970, decided to create a collection of archaeological objects. Their goal was to foster scientific research and safeguard Ecuador’s pre-Columbian past. This museum contains thousands of ceramics, pottery and other objects from various Ecuadorian cultures. He is very nice. We have some information about different cultures too and why some of the objects were made in such a way. They provide a very complete booklet in Spanish but we would have needed the night to read everything. The museum is in a beautiful old house.
Where: Calle Larga 5-24, Cuenca
How much: 4 USD
What: Small shop museum that traces the different stages of manufacture of the famous Panamas. You will see the tools used. There are people still working to make it. There is a very large shop with a wide selection of Panamas of all shapes and colors (and all prices …).
Where: Calle Larga 5-24, Cuenca
How much: Free.
What: This museum is very interesting because it gives explanations on the different cultures that one met in the country. They present the main characteristics of each, and make the kinds of staged with sculptures and plastic models. There are also temporary exhibitions and outside, in the pretty garden, you will find Inca ruins (remains of Tomebamba, one of the most important cities of the Inca empire) and an aviary with magnificent birds.
Where: Calle Larga, Cuenca 010107
How much: Free.
These are two villages not far from Cuenca.
We have been sold a dream but there is absolutely nothing in Sigsig and Chordeleg there are plenty of sellers of gold and silver jewelery (not especially pretty).
How: From the bus terminal, there is a fee of $ 0.10 to pay + $ 1.75 bus ticket from Cuenca to Sigsig. The Sigsig-Chordeleg ticket costs US $ 0.75. Chordeleg-Cuenca, 1USD.
Durée des trajets : Très variable. Pour aller à Sigsig nous avons mis 2h15 et sur le retour 1h.
What: A pretty square where ladies in Panama sell beautiful flowers. Locals buy them to make offerings in churches (among others). It’s always very animated. In the evening there are small sellers of street food.
Where: In front of Santuario Mariano church.
What: Mirador from which one can admire the city. It’s nice but not of great interest. Locals prefer to go there at night to see the lights of the city.
Where: Av Mirador de Turi, Cuenca
How: On foot, by bus or taxi (less than 3USD).
What: This is the most important and best preserved pre-Columbian archaeological site in Ecuador. This site is located in the province of Cañar. It was built by the civilization Cañari, then the Incas came to conquer the region and seized it. They then built the Sun Temple, which is in the center of the site, and it became a major religious, political, scientific, military and administrative center. The temple was built with volcanic green stone and is located on an oval slope whose main axis is oriented almost exactly in an east-west direction, where the light illuminates each angle, so as to fulfill its function cult-administrative. It is between the 20th and the 21st of June, the day of the summer solstice, that the sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky, and that the duration of the day or night is the maxim of the day. ‘year; it is then celebrated Raymi’s feast in the archaeological site. The Inti Raymi, the sacred festival in honor of Taita Inti, or Father Sun, is celebrated around this archaeological complex bringing together hundreds of people who celebrate various activities such as the election of Ñusta, folk dances and music Andean salons, gastronomic and artisanal.
Where: At 2h-2h30 from Cuenca by bus.
How: From the Cuenca bus terminal, there is a bus going there. The bus costs $ 3.50 and you have to pay $ 0.10US for bus terminal taxes. There are not many buses leaving and returning from the site. There is one who leaves at 9h or 12h30 and he leaves the site at 13h30 or 15h45.
How much: The entrance of the site costs 2USD per person; the tour is guided and lasts just under 45minutes.
What: It is a park where you can do a multitude of hikes from 3h to 12h. It is possible to spend a day there or to sleep on the spot. There are many lakes, and a rich fauna and flora.
Where: It is less than an hour from Cuenca by Bus.
We went to the 10 de Agosto market to buy our fruits and vegetables.
The market is big, clean and nice. There is everything; there is even meat.
Upstairs there are small restaurants where you can have lunch for less than 5USD.
The market closes at 18:30 and is open every day.
Address: Calle Larga 1147, Cuenca
What: This great cathedral dominates the main square of the city. The locals also call it the “new cathedral”, compared to the “old cathedral” on the other side, which had become too small for the city. Its construction was poorly managed by the architect of the time who had badly evaluated the weight of the two towers. She is interned and there is a crack due to the overweight of the materials, if you look up in the middle right in facing you. The facade of the cathedral was made of pink stone and marble imported from Italy.
Where: Mariscal Sugar, Benigno Malo Cuenca
How much: The entrance is free but it is possible to climb on the roof (2USD) to have a view of the domes and the city.
What : After a careful process of restoration and museography, the former home of the illustrious poet, diplomat and academic Cuenca “Remigio Crespo Toral”, built at the end of the nineteenth century, regained its splendor and is elegant and stately. It is divided into five floors and has two facades: the one facing Calle Larga and the one facing the Tomebamba river. The first one leads to the zero floor, in which the social life of the family was developed and whose main space is the yellow room, connected to two small rooms that were intended for music and a liquor store. In this hall is currently exhibited what turns out to be a summary of the patrimony guarded by the museum: 12,000 years of history represented by an obsidian projectile from the Paleoindian period, a pottery cañari piece and the first “Cabildo de Cuenca” book. On this floor there are also the galleries of plants (so-called because they are spaces where Remigio Crespo’s wife, Doña Elvira Vega, cultivated different types of floral decorations with care), the study / hall of Crespo, a family room, a room and a cellar that was used for paintings and furniture. On the top floor, a space that was once for the study of the poet and a couple of rooms for his children, rests today what is considered the “brain” of the museum: the Historical Archive of the city of Cuenca. From the ground floor is also accessed through magnificent stairs, to the first floor of the basement, which corresponded to the rooms of the Crespo Vega family, to the places of daily coexistence, to the dining room, and to the service rooms. The second and third floors of the basement were intended for service areas, warehouses, kitchen and covered terraces. They are located in the reserves of the Museum, which are very well protected as a showcase, so that the public can observe them and thus have a closer experience with the archaeological and artistic heritage of the Museum. The sumptuous dining room also stands out in these spaces, where a table adorned with English crockery and indigenous pottery has been symbolically displayed, subtly demonstrating the inclusive character that marks the Museum today.
Where : Calle Larga y Presidente Borrero
Price : Free.
There is a nice cafe downstairs where you can enjoy the view of the river. Cakes are very good 😉
Community Tour: Kushi Waira
Small special section for an exceptional meeting with members of the Kushi Waira community during a day trip.
To retrieve information from the site, Kushi Waira is a division of the Jambi Runa Community Health Foundation. The Jambi Runa Foundation operates in six communities in the Parish of Tarqui, Azuay Province, Ecuador, including the communities of San Francisco, Chilcachapar and Chilcatotoras.
It is a non-profit organization with the following vision in the indigenous communities of Ecuador:
– To offer a better life in
-Encourage community participation, solidarity and reciprocity
-Promote community health and well-being
-Strengthen their communities – Prevent migration
-To strengthen their cultural identity
-Create sustainable sources of income
The organization enables men and women, farmers and indigenous organizations to contribute to health promotion by organizing local tourism programs (in Kushi Waira), producing and selling cheese (in Nukanchik Kawsay) and by sharing the local culture (at Mama Kinua).
Kushi Waira is in operation to help realize this vision. The center manages several community-based micro-tourism programs that create jobs for Aboriginal people. Twenty percent of the revenue generated by the cultural center is used to provide health care for children, the elderly and pregnant women.
After 30 minutes taxi from our arrival at Kushi Waira. This community is one of 12 families who have tried to preserve their traditional values and to be discovered who want to know more about Cañari culture.
We are welcomed by Alfonso. He is very happy to receive us and invites us to discover the itinerary of the day in his traditional house. His wife, also very smiling, and dressed in a traditional way, brings us a small glass of “Canelazo”, which is a traditional liquor to welcome guests, made with alcohol from sugar cane and spices.
After this warm welcome and Alfonso’s explanations, we begin the walk to go up Ingacuca and Hurcu Achapana: the sacred mountain just behind the cottage and from which we can see the valley and the surrounding mountains. Alfonso explains that in their culture they all have a small plot of corn (they grow without pesticides). We see big houses a little scattered. He tells us that it is the young people who go abroad and build big houses, but unfortunately these people are no longer interested in their traditions and that is why they try to make sure that the children of the village and others elsewhere know the culture and try to preserve the traditions.
We then follow a path called ” Jambiñan ”, which means path of medicine in Quechua. Alfonso will show us some of the 150 medicinal plants of the small mountain that serves as a pharmacy. He will explain their healing properties, and how they are used (infusions, inhalation …). We will find some plants that we had already seen in Peru in the Amazonas region. These plants have been used by the inhabitants of the region for thousands of years, well before the Spanish colonization.
He will also show us that on some trees we can find dozens of other plants. Winds carrying pollen on trunks. We will also see that some plants can grow in different ways in the same environment.
At the end of the path, we sit on a bench and Alfonso asks us questions about religion, how the church is perceived in Europe etc. Questions that left him feeling resentful about colonization and how it had happened. He explains why nature is so important to them. It’s really very interesting.
After these reflections, he invites us to take off our shoes and to meditate with him and to practice the rituals dedicated to Taita Inti (the sun), Mama Quilla (the moon), Pachamama (mother earth), Kuillurs (the stars), who are the Gods of Cañaris. We must first reach out and stand up straight to receive the energy of the Tierra Madre; close your eyes, out of respect for the ‘Tierra Madre’ and then inhale through the nose and exhale through your mouth to purify our body. We then make movements with our hands and feet, then jumps. Alfonso will tell some words in Spanish that we will repeat and play instruments.
After this moment of unique meditation, we take another path that will lead to a part of the Inca Trail (“Ingañan”) that leads to Cusco in Peru. From there we can see the valley and the different colors that the earth takes.
We find the wife of Alfonso, still smiling, and this time it brings us the traditional meal, which is called “pampamesa” in Quechua. Alfonso spreads a white sheet on the grass on which he will lay the various dishes (“pollo criollo”, “mote casado”, “pepa de sambo”, “aguitas aromaticas” …), his wife serves us the and before we start breakfast we recite some words to thank the “Tierra Madre” and we pour some water on the ground to share with her.We find that the meals in Ecuador are composed of a lot of corn, in all its forms.
We take this opportunity to discuss with them all sorts of things (contraception in Europe, the fact that they are never sick because they have a rhythm and healthy food, medication in Europe etc …).
After this very good meal, we return to the cottage where Alfonso will show us and we will demonstrate many traditional musical instruments. He explains to us that they manufacture them in the village. He is part of a band called ” Kikintaquina ” which means ” Our music ”.
After this musical demonstration, his companion joins us to show us traditional dances, while he plays music. We will be invited to dance with her and share this nice moment.
We will then go all together in the garden to play the game of blindfolding the person, turn it on itself and then let it seek the musical instrument hidden with a stick. Once found, if the person dances well, she wins the musical instrument. We managed and left with a pretty flute.
We then return to the house and there Alfonso and his wife brings different stones to grind which are used to prepare flours and sauces. He shows us how to use it and we imitate it and taste what we have prepared (we mixed the flour with sugar cane, it was very good, and soaked pieces of cooked corn (“mote”) in the spicy sauce).
We come out and they propose to us to do a ceremony with plants to purify us and remove bad waves. We extend our arms and close our eyes while Alfonso recites words in Spanish, turning around us with a ceramic pot in which aromatic plants burn; then while he recites other words, his companion “strikes” us with bouquets of plants (which smelled very good); then Alfonso wrap up the ceremony by playing a wind instrument.
The day at Kushi Waira will end with this ceremony, and we will leave delighted with this meeting.
Back in Cuenca, we will go for a walk and have a big sweet snack before going back to the hostel.
Where : Carolina Bookstore, Hermano Miguel 4-36 y Calle Larga (at the top of the Escalinata) à Cuenca
How to book : At the Bookstore or contact:
Tour Coordinator: Alfonso Saquipay
Alfonso’s Home Phone: +59372440411
Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Price : 20 -40 USD
Website : http://www.kushiwaira.com
In addition to learning many things about Canary culture, you will share extraordinary moments with two generous people.
We loved this day, we tasted local specialties, discovered musical instruments, discovered a new culture and exchanged our views on different topics of everyday life with people who have never been to our country. . We also saw ancient rituals and discover traditional dances.
It was a great moment of sharing that I wish everyone to live.
To have a nice coffee break with a good cake enjoying a nice view of the river in a beautiful house, go to CASA MUSEO REMIGIO CRESPO TORAL in Calle Larga y Presidente Borrero.
Near the the mercado 10 de Agosto (Calle Juan Jaramillo), there are two very good bakeries, the one near the corner of the street is better (try they pan de leche).
If you like architecture, go to Calle Simon Bolivar. There you will see beautiful old houses with their nice balconies. Enter in some of the buildings (ask for permission and enjoy their patios. There are also several cool coffees there.