10 Best Day Trips In Cuenca

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Welcome to the enchanting city of Cuenca! It is the third largest city in the country and the commercial centre for most of southern Ecuador. Cuenca trades in agricultural products, cattle, hides, and marble, and its main industries include the manufacture of Panama hats, textiles, lace, leather goods, jewellery, and food products.

Nestled in the heart of the picturesque Andes Mountains in Ecuador, Cuenca captivates all those that visit with its rich history, stunning architecture and vibrant culture. As you wander through the charming cobblestone streets of the historic center, with the magnificent colonial buildings, picturesque plazas, and beautifully preserved churches, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

The UNESCO World Heritage site offers a perfect blend of historical grandeur and natural beauty that showcase the city’s colonial past. As you wander through the cobbled streets of Cuenca, you’ll be greeted by a tapestry of colonial architecture, adorned with colorful façades and intricate ironwork balconies. The city’s well-preserved historic center is a treasure trove of architectural gems, with its grand churches, elegant plazas, and ornate mansions.

Beyond its architectural wonders, Cuenca also boasts a vibrant cultural scene. The city is known for its thriving arts and crafts community, with local artisans showcasing their talents in the bustling markets and galleries. Don’t miss the opportunity to browse through the vibrant handicrafts, from intricately woven textiles to delicate ceramics and silver jewellery.

Nature lovers will be delighted by the surrounding landscapes of Cuenca. The Tomebamba River gracefully meanders through the city, offering picturesque views and charming riverside walks.

To truly immerse yourself in Cuenca’s vibrant culture, take a leisurely stroll through the bustling streets, where you’ll find local artisans selling their crafts and traditional markets filled with delicious Ecuadorian delicacies. Don’t forget to sample the local cuisine, including mouthwatering dishes like cuy (guinea pig) and hornado (roast pork).

Cuenca is a city that exudes charm and authenticity at every corner. From its architectural wonders to its rich cultural heritage, it promises an unforgettable experience for every traveler. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to be swept away by the magic of Cuenca!

1. Cuenca Historic Centre

Total Time – Full Day

Transported to a bygone era

Historic Centre of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca, Presidente Cordova, Cuenca, Ecuador

The captivating Cuenca Historic Centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site with a treasure trove of history and charm. As you wander through its winding streets and marvel at the architectural wonders, you’ll find yourself transported to a bygone era.

The heart of the historic center is the picturesque Parque Calderon, where the iconic blue-domed Cathedral Nueva stands proudly. Step inside this magnificent cathedral and be amazed by its intricate details and stunning stained glass windows. From here, explore the cobblestone streets lined with colourful colonial buildings, each with its own story to tell.

Cuenca is renowned for its vibrant arts and crafts scene, and no visit is complete without a trip to the bustling Mercado de Artesanias. Lose yourself amidst the vibrant stalls filled with handcrafted jewellery, textiles, and ceramics, all showcasing the immense talent of the local artists.

For a taste of Cuenca’s rich cultural heritage, visit the Museo de las Conceptas, housed within a former convent. Marvel at the extensive collection of religious art and artifacts, providing a fascinating insight into the city’s past.

Cuenca’s culinary scene is equally captivating, with traditional dishes bursting with flavour. Indulge in the local favorite, cuy, a delicacy of roasted guinea pig, or savor the mouthwatering flavours of Ecuadorian street food, such as llapingachos and empanadas.

End your day in tranquility at the tranquil Parque de la Madre, where you can unwind amidst lush greenery and enjoy the serene atmosphere.

Cuenca Historic Center is a destination that will ignite your senses and leave you with memories to cherish. Immerse yourself in its rich history, savour its vibrant culture, and let its timeless beauty captivate your soul.

2. Plaza de las Flores

Total Time – 2 Hours

The plaza transformed into a magical space,

Plaza de las Flores, Cuenca, Ecuador
Plaza de las Flores, Cuenca, Ecuador

Plaza de las Flores is a charming square nestled in the heart of Cuenca’s historical centre, and is a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a taste of the city’s vibrant atmosphere. As I strolled through the plaza, I couldn’t help but be enchanted by the lively ambiance and the colourful sights that surrounded me.

Lined with picturesque buildings adorned with flower-filled balconies, the plaza exudes a timeless charm that captures the essence of Cuenca. The vibrant flowers create a kaleidoscope of colours and is a visual feast for the eyes. Locals and visitors alike gather here to soak up the lively atmosphere, making it an ideal spot for people-watching and immersing yourself in the local culture.

The plaza is also a hub of activity, with artisans showcasing their craft and vendors selling an array of handmade goods. I couldn’t resist browsing through the stalls, admiring the intricate craftsmanship of the local artisans. From handmade textiles to beautiful pottery, there was something to suit every taste.

As the sun began to set, the plaza transformed into a magical space, with the warm glow of the streetlights casting a romantic aura. It was the perfect time to find a cozy spot at one of the surrounding cafes and indulge in some traditional Ecuadorian delicacies while enjoying the surrounding ambiance.

Whether you’re a culture enthusiast, a food lover, or simply seeking a place to unwind and soak in the beauty of Cuenca, Plaza de las Flores is a destination that won’t disappoint. It’s a delightful corner of the city that provides a glimpse into its vibrant culture and history.

3. Museo Pumapungo

Total Time – 2 -3 Hours

Transports you back in time

Museo Pumapungo, Calle Larga, Cuenca, Ecuador
Museo Pumapungo, Calle Larga, Cuenca, Ecuador

Museo Pumapungo is a museum that transports you back in time by offering a fascinating journey through the ancient Inca civilization and showcasing a remarkable collection of artifacts, textiles, and ceramics. As you explore the exhibits, you’ll gain insights into the daily lives, rituals, and traditions of the indigenous peoples who once thrived in this region.

The museum is located within a picturesque archaeological park, providing a serene setting to stroll through lush gardens and admire the beautifully preserved ruins. Take a moment to appreciate the intricate stone architecture and the impressive scale of the Pumapungo complex.

Don’t miss the chance to witness a traditional Andean cultural performance at the Intiñan Theater, where local artists showcase their vibrant music, dance, and storytelling skills. It’s a fantastic experience that brings the ancient traditions to life.

After your visit to the museum, take a leisurely walk along the scenic trails that wind through the park. Breathe in the fresh air and revel in the natural beauty surrounding you.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply seeking a deeper understanding of Ecuador’s cultural heritage, Museo Pumapungo promises an enriching and memorable experience.

4. El Cajas National Park

Total Time – Full Day

Rugged mountains and crystal-clear lakes

Parque Nacional Cajas, Azuay, Ecuador
Parque Nacional Cajas, Azuay, Ecuador

El Cajas National Park is a place I have always wanted to visit. Between the landscape of rugged mountains, crystal-clear lakes, and sprawling moorlands, it is just paradise for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike.

As you venture into the park, prepare to be captivated by its remarkable biodiversity. El Cajas is home to a wide array of plant and animal species, including unique high-altitude birds such as the Andean condor and hummingbirds. The park’s varied ecosystems, from wetlands to cloud forests, provide a habitat for a rich diversity of flora and fauna.

We embarked on a hiking expedition along one of the park’s numerous trails, each offer a different perspective of its natural wonders. As you treck through the lush forests and across the rolling hills, be sure to keep an eye out for the park’s iconic lagoons, shimmering like jewels amidst the landscape.

For those seeking a more adrenaline-fueled experience, El Cajas offers opportunities for mountain biking, horseback riding, and even kayaking in its pristine lakes. The park’s challenging terrain and breathtaking views make it a playground for outdoor enthusiasts looking to test their limits.

Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or a nature lover seeking tranquility, El Cajas National Park promises an unforgettable experience. Make sure you have time to spend a full day there to allow yourself to explore its wonders, immersing yourself in its natural beauty, and creating lasting memories amidst the Andean wilderness.

5. Mirador de Turi

Total Time – 1 – 2 Hours

Captivated by its stunning views

Mirador de Turi, Avenida Mirador de Turi, Cuenca, Ecuador
Mirador de Turi, Avenida Mirador de Turi, Cuenca, Ecuador

On a hilltop overlooking the charming city of Cuenca, Mirador de Turi is a must-visit destination that offers breathtaking panoramic views and a unique cultural experience. As I stood at the viewpoint, I couldn’t help but be captivated by its stunning views.

The ascent to Mirador de Turi is an adventure in itself. I followed a winding road that led me through picturesque neighborhoods and upon reaching the top, I was greeted by a stunning view that showcased the city’s red-tiled rooftops, historic buildings, and the majestic Tomebamba River flowing through the valley.

The viewpoint also features a beautiful white chapel, which adds to the charm of the place. I took a moment to soak in the tranquil atmosphere and appreciate the architectural beauty of the chapel against the backdrop of the cityscape. It’s a peaceful spot for reflection and a perfect place to capture stunning photographs.

As the sun began to set, the sky transformed into a palette of vibrant colours, casting a warm glow over Cuenca. It was a magical moment, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe and gratitude for having the opportunity to witness such natural beauty.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a photography enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, Mirador de Turi is a destination that should not be missed. The stunning views and serene ambiance make it an unforgettable experience.

6. New Cathedral of Cuenca

Total Time – 1 Hour

Kaleidoscope of colours

New Cathedral of Cuenca, Cuenca, Ecuador
New Cathedral of Cuenca, Cuenca, Ecuador

The New Cathedral of Cuenca is a magnificent structure and I couldn’t help but be captivated by its grandeur and architectural beauty. This iconic landmark, also known as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, is a testament to the rich history and cultural heritage of this enchanting city.

The New Cathedral stands proudly in the heart of Cuenca’s historic center, with its towering blue domes and intricate facade drawing visitors from near and far. As I stepped inside, the interior revealed a breathtaking sight. The high vaulted ceilings, adorned with intricate stained glass windows, flooded the space with a kaleidoscope of colours, casting a mesmerizing glow over the pews below.

Exploring further, I discovered the stunning main altar, a true masterpiece of craftsmanship. The ornate details, intricate woodwork, and delicate sculptures showed the dedication and skill that went into its creation. The New Cathedral is not only a place of worship but also a living testament to the artistic prowess of the past.

I took my time to wander through the various chapels and alcoves, each offering a unique glimpse into the religious and cultural heritage of Cuenca. The peaceful atmosphere invited contemplation and reflection.

As I left the New Cathedral, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of gratitude for having witnessed such architectural splendor. Whether you have a spiritual connection or simply appreciate the beauty of historical landmarks, a visit to the New Cathedral of Cuenca is an experience that will leave an indelible mark on your heart.

7. Calderón Park

Total Time – 2 – 3 Hours

Enchanting urban oasis

Calderon Park, Mariscal Sucre, Cuenca, Ecuador
Calderon Park, Mariscal Sucre, Cuenca, Ecuador

As I strolled through the charming streets of Cuenca, my eyes were drawn to the vibrant energy coming from Calderón Park. This enchanting urban oasis captured my heart with its lively atmosphere, picturesque surroundings, and a touch of historical charm.

Calderón Park is a bustling hub where locals and visitors come together to relax, socialise and immerse themselves in the cultural tapestry of Cuenca. The park’s centerpiece is a magnificent bronze statue of Abdón Calderón, a national hero and symbol of Ecuadorian independence.

I found myself drawn to the park’s lush green spaces and blooming flower beds, which provided a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Families picnicked on the grass, children played in the playground, and couples enjoyed romantic strolls along the pathways.

The park also hosts various events and festivals throughout the year, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the region. From vibrant music performances to traditional dances, there is always something captivating happening in Calderón Park.

I couldn’t resist indulging in some local street food from the food vendors lining the park’s perimeter. The aroma of freshly cooked empanadas and grilled meats filled the air, tempting me with their mouthwatering flavours.

Whether you’re seeking a peaceful retreat, a cultural experience, or simply a place to people-watch, Calderón Park offers it all. It’s a must-visit destination in Cuenca, where you can soak up the city’s vibrant spirit and create lasting memories.

8. Museo de las Culturas Aborígenes

Total Time – 2 Hours

Witnessed a traditional dance performance by indigenous artists

Museo de las Culturas Aborigenes, Calle Larga, Cuenca, Ecuador
Museo de las Culturas Aborigenes, Calle Larga, Cuenca, Ecuador

Stepping into the Museo de las Culturas Aborígenes is like embarking on a captivating journey through Ecuador’s rich indigenous heritage. I recently had the privilege of immersing myself in the fascinating exhibits and learning about the ancient cultures that once thrived in this region.

The museum showcases a remarkable collection of artifacts, artwork, and cultural relics that provide a window into the traditions, beliefs, and daily lives of Ecuador’s indigenous peoples. From intricately woven textiles to intricately carved pottery, each piece tells a story of resilience, creativity, and profound cultural significance.

As I explored the museum’s various galleries, I was captivated by the diversity of indigenous cultures represented, from the coastal communities to the Andean highlands and the Amazon rainforest. The informative displays provided valuable insights into their customs, spiritual practices, and contributions to Ecuador’s cultural tapestry.

One of the highlights of my visit was witnessing a traditional dance performance by indigenous artists, who skillfully showcased their heritage through captivating movements and vibrant costumes. It was a mesmerising experience that allowed me to appreciate the living traditions and the deep connection between past and present.

9. Puente Roto

Total Time – 1 Hour

Walking across the bridge, you marvel at the panoramic views

Puente Roto, Puento Roto, Cuenca, Ecuador
Puente Roto, Puento Roto, Cuenca, Ecuador

Puente Roto is the iconic bridge that captivates all that visit with its historic significance and picturesque setting.

Puente Roto, which translates to “Broken Bridge,” dates back to the colonial era and bears the scars of time, telling stories of the past. With its weathered stone arches and crumbling pillars, Puente Roto exudes an air of mystery and intrigue.

Walking across the bridge, you marvel at the panoramic views of the Tomebamba River and the surrounding landscapes. The bridge serves as a vantage point, offering a stunning perspective of the city’s skyline and the majestic mountains beyond.

Despite its broken state, Puente Roto remains a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. It serves as a gathering place where people come to relax, take photos, and soak in the tranquil atmosphere. I found myself drawn to the bridge’s rustic charm, sitting on one of the benches and simply enjoying the serenity of the surroundings.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a photography lover, or someone seeking a peaceful retreat, a visit to Puente Roto is a must. The experience is a brief escape from the bustling city, allowing you to connect with Cuenca’s past while appreciating the natural beauty that surrounds it.

10. Hat Museum (Museo del Sombrero)

Total Time – 1 – 2 Hours

Drawn to the vibrant display of colourful hats

Museo Del Sombrero De Paja Toquilla, Calle Larga, Cuenca, Ecuador
Museo Del Sombrero De Paja Toquilla, Calle Larga, Cuenca, Ecuador

The Hat Museum (Museo del Sombrero) in Cuenca is a unique and fascinating experience that celebrates the artistry and cultural significance of hats in the region.

Stepping inside the museum, I was immediately drawn to the vibrant display of colourful hats from different eras and cultures. From traditional Panama hats to intricately woven straw hats, the collection showcased the craftsmanship and creativity of hat-making traditions.

The museum provided an immersive journey through the history of hats, offering insights into their cultural significance and the techniques used to create them. Exhibits explained the role of hats in local traditions, such as the iconic Panama hat, which originated in Ecuador but gained international fame.

What impressed me the most was the opportunity to interact with the exhibits. I could try on various hats and learn about their unique styles and features. The museum also offered workshops where visitors could learn basic hat-making techniques and create their own small souvenir hats.

Visiting the Hat Museum was not only educational but also a lot of fun. It’s a perfect place to explore the rich hat-making heritage of the region and appreciate the artistry behind these stylish accessories.

Continent: South America

Cuenca, Ecuador