Best of Cuenca

Top itineraries and travel advice in and around Cuenca
Like Quito, Cuenca is a striking Andean colonial city with a cobblestone-lined old town that’s landmarked as a Unesco World Heritage site. Unlike the Ecuadorian capital, however, Cuenca is much smaller and feels remarkably low-key, while not lacking for handsomely designed plazas and 17th-century architecture. Locals, in fact, feel they live in the prettier city. Given Cuenca’s location along four rivers, its Andean backdrop and proximity to misty páramo (mountainous grasslands), many travelers tend to agree.

Guided tours of Cuenca take in some of its finest buildings, including the Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción, a massive cathedral whose sky-blue domes are visible from all over town. Cuenca is an excellent base for day trips. You can visit the nearby towns of Gualaceo, Sigsig and Chordeleg, which are famed for their craft-making traditions. North of Cuenca, you’ll find Ingapirca, Ecuador’s best-preserved archeological site, home to ruins that predate the Inca. There is also a Panama Hat factory where you can see the painstaking work that goes into producing a quality sombrero de paja toquilla (toquilla-straw hat).
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Guest room at Hotel Casa San Rafael, Cuenca
Map of Where to Stay in Cuenca - The Best Boutique Hotels
Where to Stay in Cuenca - The Best Boutique Hotels

Easily one of the most beautiful cities in Ecuador, compact Cuenca is criss-crossed by rivers and surrounded by Andean slopes. Crammed with gorgeous colonial cathedrals, a relatively cosmopolitan variety of eateries, and lovely boutique accommodations for all budgets, the city makes an appealing place to linger for a few days.

Vicuñas in front of Mount Chimborazo
Map of Best of Ecuador: Quito, Quilotoa, Baños, Cuenca, & Guayaquil - 8 Days
Best of Ecuador: Quito, Quilotoa, Baños, Cuenca, & Guayaquil - 8 Days

This eight-day itinerary is perfect for travelers hoping to see Ecuador's most notable national parks and explore the country's most populous cities. You'll begin your trip with a free day in the capital of Quito before heading off to hike the Quilotoa and Cotopaxi Volcanoes and explore Ecuador's gateway to the Amazon. Then, make a stop at Mount Chimborazo, take a scenic train ride through the Andes, and take a walking tour of the historic port city of Guayaquil.

Quito's Plaza Grande
Coffee & Chocolate: A Taste of Ecuador - 13 Days

This 13-day tour of Ecuador will tap all of your senses, from seeing historical sights to tasting local chocolate and smelling fresh coffee. Start in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, to see the Cathedral and Plaza de San Francisco and participate in a chocolate tour. Outside of the city, learn about the process of how coffee is made at a local farm. Take the Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) train ride to see the scenic countryside, and stay in the colonial-era city of Cuenca known for its nightlife and dining.

Cuicocha Lagoon
Map of Ecuador Mountains to Coast: Andes, Quito, Cotopaxi, & More - 10 Days
Ecuador Mountains to Coast: Andes, Quito, Cotopaxi, & More - 10 Days

From Quito's colonial center to the volcanoes of Cotopaxi National Park, explore the best of Ecuador's mainland on this packed 10-day itinerary. Hike along the rim of volcanic lagoons, barter for Ecuadorian handicrafts at markets, and visit small mountain villages. You'll see cascading waterfalls, lush orchid farms, high altitude plateaus, and much more as you traverse the countryside.

Countryside near Riobamba
Map of Best of the Ecuadorian Highlands - 7 Days
Best of the Ecuadorian Highlands - 7 Days

Traverse the very best of the Ecuadorian highlands on this 7-day itinerary. Starting and finishing in the capital, Quito, you will encounter bustling markets, awe-inspiring volcanoes, centuries-old colonial towns and Inca ruins. There's great hiking along the way in terrain ranging from glaciers and high-level plateau through to forests and waterfalls.

Volcano in Ecuador
Map of Ecuador Cities & Volcanoes: Quito to Cotopaxi - 12 Days
Ecuador Cities & Volcanoes: Quito to Cotopaxi - 12 Days

Visit the cities and volcanoes of beautiful Ecuador on this 12-day adventure. Start in the nation's capital, exploring its well-preserved colonial center and other cultural highlights. Then, head out on a busy tour through small towns like Cotacachi, enjoying several indigenous markets and villages along the way. You will also check off wondrous volcanoes like Pasachoa and Cotopaxi, as well as the unique paramo ecosystem of Chimborazo. The final leg of the trip takes you to Ecuador's lovely third city, Cuenca, before going full circle and ending in Quito again.

Cordillera Occidental Andes Central Ecuador
Map of Ecuador: Amazon, Andes, and the Coast - 16 Days
Ecuador: Amazon, Andes, and the Coast - 16 Days

Explore the best of Ecuador in this 16-day tour through the Amazon, Andes, and Coastal regions. You'll visit beautiful colonial towns, indigenous communities, and experience ways of life both ancient and modern in this diverse country.

School of Fish in the Galapagos
Map of Best of Ecuador: Quito, Amazon, Cotopaxi, & Galapagos  - 14 Days
Best of Ecuador: Quito, Amazon, Cotopaxi, & Galapagos - 14 Days

Experience the best of Ecuador while getting to know its three main ecological regions: the Amazon rainforest, volcano highlands, and Galapagos Islands on this 14-day itinerary. Start the trip in Quito to see the UNESCO designated colonial city center, then head to the rainforest for three days at an ecolodge. Hike near volcanic lagoons and browse mountain markets, then catch a flight to Santa Cruz for three days of exploring uninhabited islands and spotting endemic wildlife.

Other popular travel destinations in Ecuador
Quito · Otavalo · Cotopaxi · The Amazon · Baños · Riobamba · Quilotoa · Guayaquil · Mindo · Papallacta · Yasuni National Park · Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve · Tena · Archidona · Lago Agrio · Isinliví · Cacha