Advantages Probably the most pleasant city in South America ?
Disadvantages Road from north is very poor
Cuenca is Ecuador’s most attractive city and easily the most enjoyable place in which to wander as a tourist. The city is packed full of churches, museums, convents, open squares, colonial buildings and colourful markets. It is divided by the very scenic Tomebamba River and offers a more peaceful and relaxed atmosphere than either Quito or Guayaquil. The city has plenty of moderately sized attractions that can be strung together to make your visit as busy or relaxed as you wish.The streets of the old colonial centre of Cuenca are paved with rectangular cobblestones and the main streets are the Calle Gran Colombia and Calle Mariscal Sucre. This area contains the main city square of Plaza Abdon Calderon which is dominated by the enormous Catedral de la Immaculada (or New Cathedral). This cathedral was started in 1885 and was intended to be the largest in South America. However, a slight miscalculation meant that two main towers at the front of the building could not support the envisaged domes. Even without these domes, it remains a large building and behind the front towers lie a series of sky-blue cupolas that give it a striking appearance when viewed from many different directions. The original cathedral, El Sagrario (or Old Cathedral), is on the opposite corner of this square and dates from 1557 when the present Cuenca was founded (it has recently been closed for renovation).
The church of El Carmen de la Asuncion lies across Calle Mariscal Sucre from the New Cathedral. A brightly coloured flower market is held here every day and is best visited early in the morning. There is no shortage for anyone wishing to see more churches. If interested, visit the Church of San Francisco, the Church of Santo Domingo and the Church of San Blas.The Museo de las Conceptas is located in the centre of the city in a 17th century convent building. It is a peaceful, pleasant museum with a large number of religious paintings and displays illustrating the simple life of convent nuns.
To the south, the Museo de Artes Populares is operated by CIDAP and is found off Calle Larga down a wide series of steps that lead to the River Tomebamba. This museum covers local craftsmanship and art. It is free and also has a shop. Other museums include the Museo de Arte Moderno located in the west of the city and built into an old convent building.The ruins of Todos Santos are located in the southeast corner of the city in a small park now owned by the Central Bank of Ecuador. The site features architectural ruins from the Canari, Inca and Spanish periods of the city’s history. The Museo del Banco Central is also located here and houses a major display of religious art, Incan and Canari archaeology together with items relating to Cuenca’s history. From this point, it is well worth just taking a stroll along the banks of the Tomebamba River for a greener and more scenic break from the city.
The best view of the city is from the indigenous village of Turi. On the edge of the village and overlooking the city is the Turi Church as well as the excellent Mirador de Turi giving wide panoramic views.For a trip out of the city, Ingapirca is the main Incan archaeological site in Ecuador and lies about 70km north of Cuenca. The ruins are not as grand as those to be found in Peru but are nevertheless historically important and fascinating to visit. The ruins themselves are mostly just a collection of low outline walls that illustrate the layout that once existed. However, there are a few more substantial buildings and the observatory (or temple) is an intriguing building that displays much intricacy in the stonework. It is thought that the building was originally built by the Canaris as an observatory but was later converted by the Incas into a temple used to worship the sun. It is elliptical in shape and the long axis lies exactly along the east-west line.
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