Cuenca, located in the southern region of Ecuador, is a colonial city that boasts a rich cultural heritage, stunning architecture, and a diverse culinary scene. With its well-preserved historical center and picturesque surroundings, Cuenca has become a popular destination for travelers seeking a unique and authentic experience in South America. Here are the best things to do in Cuenca and the best times of year to visit.
Best Things to Do In Cuenca, Ecuador
1. Explore the Historical Center
Cuenca’s historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, filled with stunning colonial buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, and picturesque plazas. Start your exploration at the Parque Calderon, the city’s main square, and continue on to the Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepcion, the city’s largest cathedral, and the Iglesia de San Francisco, a beautiful church with a bell tower that offers panoramic views of the city.
Best time to visit: The best time to explore the historical center is during the dry season, which runs from June to September.
2. Visit the Museums
Cuenca is home to several museums that showcase the city’s rich cultural heritage. The Museo de las Culturas Aborigenes is a must-visit, with its collection of pre-Columbian artifacts and exhibits on the history and culture of the indigenous people of Ecuador. Other museums worth visiting include the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, which houses a collection of contemporary art, and the Museo del Banco Central, which has an impressive collection of colonial art and artifacts.
Best time to visit: Museums are open year-round, but it’s best to visit during the dry season, from June to September.
3. Take a Stroll Along the Tomebamba River
The Tomebamba River runs through the heart of Cuenca and is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Take a leisurely stroll along the river’s banks, enjoying the views of the city’s colonial architecture and the surrounding mountains. You’ll also find several parks and green spaces along the river, perfect for a picnic or relaxing break.
Best time to visit: The river walk is a great activity year-round, but it’s best to visit during the dry season, from June to September.
4. Visit the Turi Mirador
For panoramic views of Cuenca and the surrounding mountains, head to the Turi Mirador. This hilltop viewpoint is accessible by car or foot and offers stunning views of the city, especially at sunset.
Best time to visit: The Turi Mirador is a great activity year-round, but it’s best to visit during the dry season, from June to September.
5. Sample Local Cuisine
Cuenca is known for its diverse and delicious culinary scene, which combines traditional Ecuadorian dishes with international flavors. Be sure to try the city’s famous hornado, a slow-roasted pork dish, and its street food specialties like empanadas and churros. For a more upscale dining experience, head to one of the city’s top restaurants, like Raymipampa or Tiesto’s.
Best time to visit: The culinary scene in Cuenca is great year-round, but it’s best to visit during the dry season, from June to September, when outdoor dining is more pleasant.
6. Visit the Ingapirca Ruins
Located just outside of Cuenca, the Ingapirca Ruins are a must-visit for history buffs and anyone interested in learning about the Inca civilization. These ruins, which date back to the 15th century, are considered the most important Inca site in Ecuador.
7. Enjoy the Hot Springs
Cuenca is surrounded by natural hot springs. The best time to visit is during the dry season from June to September when the weather is more pleasant for outdoor activities.
Cuenca is a fantastic destination with plenty of cultural and natural attractions to offer visitors. The best time to visit is during the dry season from June to September, but each season has its own unique events and activities.