Cuenca Ecuador

Visit Cuenca Ecuador: Complete Guide (Things to Do, Facts, Getting There)

Cuenca Ecuador is a top destination for travelers & expats. Learn all about food, culture, attractions, travel, retirement and living in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Cuenca Ecuador

Cuenca Ecuador: Complete Guide

Cuenca Ecuador is located in the Andes mountains at an elevation of 8500 feet. The city is famous for its architecture, climate and people.

Favorite dishes in Cuenca Ecuador include hornado and fritada (roasted and fried pork), cuy (guinea pig), chicken and mote (boiled corn kernels – served as mote pillo and mote sucio).

Cuenca Ecuador
Cuenca is popular among South American, North American and European tourists. There is a large North American population of expats (estimates range from 3-5000) within the city. The majority are retired couples.

Tourists generally come from Argentina, United States, Canada, and Spain.

Tons of articles have been written about the colonial city of Cuenca, Ecuador. About how it’s so cheap, and how it’s such a great retirement place, etc.

Here is what you need to know about this great city.

7 Facts About Cuenca Ecuador

  1. Full Name and founding: Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca. Founded in 1557, by the Viceroy of Peru, Mr. Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza.
  2. Location: Southern Ecuador, Azuay Province. Ecuador is located on the north-west part of South America. Borders Columbia to the north, Peru to the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
  3. From Guayaquil: South-east 155 miles (250 km). 3 1/2 – 5 hours by bus, just 30 minutes by plane.
  4. From Quito: South 274 miles (442 km). 9 hours by bus, less than 1 hour by plane.
  5. Elevation: 8400 ft (2560 meters)
  6. Population: 417,632 – (331,028 urban and 86,604 rural)
  7. Climate: known as “the land of eternal spring” Cuenca and surrounding areas experience very little climate change throughout the year. Expect warm to hot days (67°F – 82°F / 19°C – 28°C) and cool evenings (as low as 51°F / 10°C).

Getting to Cuenca Ecuador

  1. By Plane: There are two international airports – Quito (Airport code: UIO) and Guayaquil (Airport code: GYE). Both airports have daily flights to Cuenca. Expect airfares of roughly $45 – $55 from Guayaquil (on the coast) and $55 – $68 from Quito (in the Sierra). Choose from TAME Airlines, LAN or Aerogal. All flights to the Galapagos Islands go through Guayaquil Airport.
  2. By Bus: Cuenca is well connected to the rest of Ecuador by a network of buses. Buses leave from Quito every hour, 24 hours a day – the trip takes roughly 9 hours and costs between $9 and $12. Buses run roughly $1 to $1.50 per hour of travel time. From Guayaquil, buses are leaving every 30 min for Cuenca. The trip ranges from 3 1/2 – 5 hours, depending on if it goes through Cajas National Park or through Cañar – cost is roughly $7-9 each way.

Take a free tour of Cuenca in this 12 video post.

Fountain in Parque Calderon, Cuenca Ecuador

Many people say that Cuenca looks a lot like a European city because of the Spanish colonial architecture.

Many of the buildings in the center are beautifully decorated in colonial style with red-tiled roofs, and little flower-filled wrought-iron balconies.

Interested to know the best of Cuenca? Check out Dena’s post about What It’s Like to Live in Cuenca.

What to Expect in Cuenca

In this article, we’ve put together the best of Cuenca Ecuador. You’ll read about:

  1. cuenca-ecuadorCuenca for travelers
  2. Attractions near Cuenca
  3. General information
  4. Food in Cuenca
  5. Cuenca restaurants
  6. Expats in Cuenca
  7. Living in Cuenca

Ready? Let’s get started!

View of Cuenca Ecuador from Turi Look-Off

1. Cuenca Ecuador for Travelers

Ecuador receives more than one million visitors each year. Cuenca (Ecuador’s third largest city) is a top destination for both travelers and expats.

Visitors to Cuenca will generally arrive either by bus or plane. We recommend booking your international flight direct through to Cuenca – saving you the hassles of making other arrangements once arriving in either Guayaquil or Quito international airports. Learn more about the Cuenca Airport.

Check out these top attractions for tourists in Cuenca:

path along river in Cuenca Ecuador
The Tomebamba river, near Parque de la Madre.
  1. Cuenca Video Tour: The best of Cuenca Ecuador in this 12-video city tour.
  2. The Flower Market: Prettiest Spot in Cuenca Ecuador (Video)
  3. Why I Love Cuenca’s Parque Calderon
  4. The Amaru Zoo

Learn more about travel around Ecuador.

Cuenca Ecuador: Awards & Recognition

Cuenca has received many awards and distinctions. Cuenca has been recognized as:

  • #1 city to visit in Latin America (Stern Magazine, 2009)
  • #1 adventure destination (Outside Magazine, 2014)
  • #1 open air flower market in the world (National Geographic, 2014)
  • #1 city of the future (Foreign Direct Investment, 2013-2014)
  • #1 for retired americans (CNN Money,  2012)
  • top 10 City to Visit (Lonely Planet, 2010)
  • #1 place for retirees (International Living, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013)
  • Cultural Heritage site (UNESCO, 1999)
  • #21 destination for travelers in Latin America (Trip Advisor, 2012)

8 Family Attractions in Cuenca Ecuador

Looking for something to do with your family in Cuenca Ecuador? Here are my 8 favorite attractions:


  1. Banco Central
  2. Amaru Zoo
  3. Mirador de Turi
  4. Parque Paraiso
  5. Cuenca Flower Market
  6. Casa de la Mujer
  7. El Chorro
  8. Cajas National Park
  9. Cuenca Orchidarium

1. Central Bank Museum (Museo del Banco Central)

The Banco Central Museum is a great place to take the family. Inside, you can learn a lot about the history and culture of Ecuador. There are displays of currency, artwork, crafts, clothing and a lot more!

Outside you can walk around the gardens, see some Incan ruins, stop at the fish pond and see all the pretty birds in the aviary. Don’t forget to get a picture of the llamas before you leave.

Some of the gardens at Banco Central

The museum includes exhibits featuring colonial artwork, walk-through displays of typical homes throughout Ecuador’s history, an Incan archaeological site, an aviary featuring common birds in Ecuador and a small group of llamas that graze in the open field.

The gardens at the foot of the hill are beautiful – featuring plant life from all over Ecuador. Great for an afternoon.

Find it on Calle Larga y Av Huayna Capac, not far from the center of the city.

2. Amaru Zoo (Amaru Zoologica)

The kids will love Amaru Zoo! There are lots of animals to see and some of them are not even behind an enclosure, like the monkeys and parrots.

The Andean Bear


More reading: Buyers Guide to the Best Sun Protection Hats – specifically for travelers to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

About halfway along the trail through the zoo, there is a place to rest and get something to eat (hot dogs, hamburgers, and chips.)

This zoo is on a hill so be prepared for a hike, bring sturdy sneakers. If it’s been raining, you might want to wait a day or so to visit because the trails get slippery.

Find it by taking the Autopista (Panamericana/Circunvalación Sur) from Cuenca heading to Azogues. You will be heading toward the Hospital del Rio (at Km 10 1/2) you’ll see a sign for the zoo and will exit the Autopista to the right. You’ll drive up a steep dirt road until you see another sign on the right to enter the parking lot for the zoo.

3. The Turi Look-off (Mirador de Turi)

At the Turi Look off you will see breathtaking views of Cuenca! If you explore Cuenca before taking a trip to Turi you’ll have fun locating some of those places from this vantage point, you could even make a game of it.

There is also a craft store where the kids can pick up souvenirs. And just down the hill on the left is a ceramics shop that mom will love.

Ceramic art by world famous Eduardo Vega

Find it by taking the Autopista (Pan Amaricana/Circunvalacion Sur) from Cuenca heading to Azogues. You’ll pass Mall del Rio on your left, a short distance after seeing Mall del Rio you will come to a traffic circle, turn right. You will pass the Body Care Gym and Spa (on your right) and continue up the winding road to Turi.

When you get to the top you will see a white Church to the left and the look-off to the right. You can also take the stairs to the top, they are located just past the Body Care Gym at the base of the hill.

4. Paradise Park (Parque Paraiso)

There are many beautiful parks in Cuenca, but Paradise Park is the biggest. It’s a wonderful place to take the family for a picnic or a game of soccer/frisbee.

There is a nice trail through the woods along the river and lots of playground equipment. With wide-open green space, it makes for a nice break from the city, especially for the kids.

It’s very spacious with walking trails, a duck/paddle boat pond, playground equipment, a running track, open spaces for a friendly game of soccer (football), exercise equipment, lots of trees, flowers, bushes and soft green grass.

There are often vendors in the park selling bubble liquid and cotton candy. On the outskirts of the park there are food vendors selling french-fries and other treats.

Find it by going down Avenida 10 de Agosto, and swinging around the traffic circle just in front of the park. You’ll enter the parking lot off to the right. The park is at the end of Avenida 10 de Agosto where the Tomebamba and Yanuncay rivers meet.

5. Cuenca Flower Market

The flower market is a gorgeous spot to visit with the family. It’s an outdoor market in the heart of Cuenca, full of fresh flowers!

Your kids will enjoy walking around and smelling all the beautiful flowers. Be sure to have your camera ready, the women in traditional clothing selling flowers to your family is a photo opportunity not to be missed!

Find it on Calle Sucre in the Plazoleta del Carmen, in front of the church El Carmen de la Asunción across from the New Cathedral. It’s located between Parque Calderon and the San Francisco market.

6. House of the Women (Casa de la Mujer)

Casa de la Mujer is a building full of artisan shops. You’ll find something for everyone at this souvenir hunters paradise. From leather purses to Panama hats, from tagua figurines to silver jewelry… all under one roof.

It’s inside so it’s a great place to take the family on a rainy day.

Find it just a couple of blocks from the center of the city. It’s located on General Torres between Presidente Córdova and Mariscal Sucre, just past the flower market and behind the San Francisco market (if you are coming from the direction of Parque Calderon).

(The next three locations are not in Cuenca, but are a short distance from the city.)

7. The Waterfall in Giron (El Chorro de Giron)

El Chorro is a beautiful waterfall not far from Cuenca. The first waterfall is an easy hike for the children and they are sure to love seeing the water falling and crashing into the small pool at the bottom.


It is located at a hosteria, which is a hotel/motel type area. You can get a nice meal there and stay overnight if you like.

You can hire a taxi or rent a van service to take you there.

Find it about a 40 minute drive from Cuenca heading south toward the Yunguilla Valley.

8. Lake Llaviucu (Zorrocucho,) Cajas National Park (Parque Nacional Cajas)

Hiking around lake Llaviucu in the Cajas National Park is a wonderful way to spend time with your family.

The hike is easy for kids, and they will love seeing the birds as they walk through the woods. It can be cool and damp so bring extra sweaters.

Find it driving west toward Guayaquil. There is a sign for the lake on the left as you enter the Cajas National Park. About 20 minutes from Cuenca.

9. Cuenca Orchidarium

When I stepped in to the room, it smelled so good! It was such a sweet smell, it made me feel good inside. That has never happened to me before.

There were some flowers that were as big as my head. And others that were smaller than my pinkie. They were all so colorful, and had such a variety of shapes and sizes, that it blew me away! This is one of my favorite places – right up there with the butterfly farm in Aruba.

About the Orchidarium in Cuenca

  • Horario: De 08h00 a 12h00 y de 14h00 a 18h00 de lunes a viernes. (Schedule: 8am to 12pm and 2pm to 6pm Monday to Friday).
  • Dirección: Av. Víctor Manuel Albornoz, Quinta de Balzay.
  • University of Cuenca: contact the University for up-to-date hours and contact information.

Have you visited any of these attractions? Are there any you would add to this list? Please share by commenting on this post.

2. 7 Cuenca Day Trips

Ingapirca EcuadorOne of the great reasons to visit Cuenca is all of the nearby day trips.

From 30-60 minutes away there are a dozen amazing places. Here are nine of our favorites.

  1. Chordeleg – Makes a Great Day Trip From Cuenca
  2. Visit Paute Ecuador: Guide to Attractions, Things to Do, Getting There
  3. Visit Yunguilla Valley
  4. Cuenca Attraction: El Chorro de Giron
  5. Hiking in the Andes: Ecuador’s Cajas National Park
  6. Ingapirca: Ecuador’s Largest Incan Ruins
  7. Gualaceo: Just Outside of Cuenca

Video of Cuenca Sidetrip: Paute

Hiking Outside of Cuenca Ecuador

3. General Information: Cuenca Ecuador

Park Cuenca Ecuador

Although Cuenca lies just south of the equator, it isn’t as hot as you might imagine. Due to the altitude, it can get cool at night. See what weather to expect in this Annual Weather Chart.

Do you have a question about Cuenca EcuadorHere are answers to some of the common questions about Cuenca:

  1. What Language in Cuenca?
  2. How to Drink The Tap Water in Cuenca
  3. What Vaccines Will I Need In Cuenca?
  4. What Are Cuenca’s Newspapers?
  5. Is it Cold in Cuenca Ecuador?
  6. Is Cuenca Safe for Expats?

A few years ago, we were featured on House Hunters International.

4. Cuenca Ecuador Food

Since arriving in Ecuador five years ago, we’ve come to love the food here. Grilled beef, traditional Andean dishes and seafood are all readily available and surprisingly inexpensive. Full meals start at $2.00 and cost an average of $2.50 – $4.50 each.

Encebollado in Ecuador

  1. Pork and Cuy: Street Food
  2. Yuca Bread
  3. Guaba Fruit: Ecuador’s Delicious Ice Cream Bean
  4. Cuy in Ecuador: How to Eat Guinea Pig
  5. Making Wood Oven Pizza
  6. Dragon Fruit
  7. Encebollado (tuna soup)
  8. Higos con Queso (figs with cheese)
  9. Ecuador Chocolate
  10. Cubanito Coffee
  11. Ecuador Desserts

Learn more about the typical dishes in Ecuador in our huge guide: Travelers Guide to Ecuadorian Food.

Seafood in Cuenca

Making Pizza in a Wood Oven

5. Half Day Walking Tour of Cuenca (Kid-Friendly)

This self-guided walking tour is great for a half day of exploring Cuenca with your family. Whether you have a morning or an afternoon this tour will put you in the right place at the right time.

walking tour of cuenca
We have done this walk many times, it’s one of our favorites.

Ready to begin your walking tour of Cuenca?

Half Day Kid-Friendly Walking Tour of Cuenca: After breakfast/lunch head to Parque de la Madre on Avenida Doce de Abril, where this walking tour starts.

Running track Parque de la Madre Cuenca Ecuador

Fun at the Park and a Walk Along the River

Assuming it’s around 9:00 am (or 1:00 pm) when you arrive at the park and you spend around an hour there, at around 10:00 am (2:00 pm) you’ll head across Doce de Abril and turn left to take a nice walk along the Tomebamba river.

This is a picturesque walk and there is a wide sidewalk with some benches.

path along river in Cuenca Ecuador
The Tomebamba river, near Parque de la Madre.

Within about 15 minutes (you will see Banco Pichincha on your left, turn right and cross the bridge over the Tomebamba river, this will be the second bridge you come to) you’ll reach the stone steps leading up to Calle Larga. 

When you reach the top of the steps just keep walking up the hill and go straight across Calle Larga. You will be on Benigno Malo.

Cuenca below Calle Larga

Ice Cream and Feeding the Pigeons At Parque Calderon

Within four blocks you will reach Parque Calderon. All around the park you will see beautiful colonial architecture!

Park Cuenca Ecuador
It will probably be getting close to 11:00 am (3:00 pm) when you arrive at the park. The kids might want to grab an ice-cream to enjoy in the park.

We really like Tutto Freddos/Nice Cream, they have lots of flavors of both hard and soft ice-cream.

If that sounds good just keep walking Benigno Malo with the park on your right, as you near the next street (Simon Bolivar) Totto Freddos will be on the corner to your left.

The ice cream will help keep the kids tummies from growling during the shopping you’ll be doing before lunch.

We often pick up some bread to feed the pigeons at Parque Calderon. There is a bakery called Panesa near Totto Freddos where you could grab some and head back to the park.

To get to Panesa just turn left as you come out of Tutto Freddos and cross Simon Bolivar, you will still be on Benigno Malo and the bakery will be half way down the block on your left. Mom will probably notice the Payless shoe store on the right.

Parque Calderon feeding the birds

Now that you have your ice-cream and bread, you can head back and enjoy some time at Parque Calderon (turn to your right as you come out of the bakery).

Parque Calderon in the middle of Cuenca

Outdoor Flower Market and Cultural Shopping

Around 11:45 am (3:45 pm) you’ll be heading toward the flower market. To get there head toward the Catedral de la Inmaculada Conception (the one with the famous blue domes) and walk toward the left corner.

You will cross the street and be on Mariscal Sucre. As you walk with the Cathedral on your right you will see the flower market on your left. As you cross the street and walk into the market notice how the air smells.

Cuenca Ecuador flower market
Cuenca flower market looking at flowers
After enjoying the flowers for a little while walking down Mariscal Sucre a little farther (away from Parque Calderon) at the end of the block (you will be on the far corner of the flower market) turn left.

As you turn onto Padre Aguirre you will see shops selling cultural clothing and souvenirs on your right. As you walk a little farther you will see a large open market, this is the San Francisco market.

Turn right into the market as soon as you come to it (the street you will be walking is San Francisco) continue straight, the next street you come to is General Torres, cross it and you will be in front of Casa de la Mujer.
Casa de la Mujer is a covered shopping center where you will find something for everyone in the family.

casa de la mujer Cuenca
After about an hours worth of shopping, you’ll probably want to get something to eat. We usually head back to Tutto Freddos for pizza, or for something traditional, Raymipampa which is right next to Tutto Freddos.

Raymipampa Cuenca downstairs
Take a complete tour of Cuenca in this 12-video city tour.

Will You Take This Walking Tour of Cuenca? I hope you like this walking tour as much as we do! If you give it a try please let us know what you think by commenting on this post.

12 Rainy Day Activities in Cuenca Ecuador

rainy day activities cuenca ecuadorSo it’s raining in Cuenca, Ecuador. (This happens kinda often.)

What is there to do in a wet and cloudy Cuenca?

Here are our twelve favorite things to do in Cuenca – on a rainy day.

  1. Go for Coffee: There are lots of great places to go for coffee. Aside from having a cup of coffee at home, we like Frutilados and Tutto Freddos – both face Parque Calderon.
  2. Cuenca Orchidarium: This isn’t just for flower lovers – the variety of orchids are impressive. Have you seen the monkey-faced orchid?
  3. Go for Seafood: There are only few places in the city to get good seafood. Must try: encebollado mixto (tuna and shrimp soup).
  4. Casa de la Mujer: See a selection of local handicrafts, including leather, silver, wood, and straw (hats). This isn’t my favorite place, but it isn’t a bad spot to wait out a shower.
  5. Watch a Movie: Choose from either Mall del Rio or Millennium Plaza and catch a Multicines movie. You’ll be impressed by the quality of these theaters. Mall del Rio also has a bowling alley and two games rooms.
  6. Visit a Museum: You might consider Banco Central or the Panama Hat Muesum (both on Calle Larga).
  7. Cajas National Park: It always seems to be raining in the Cajas so it doesn’t really matter when you visit. 🙂
  8. Study Spanish: Maybe not quite as exciting as the others – but a good rainstorm might be just the time to sit down and start studying. Our favorite way to study is with Pimsleurs via Audible. Read why here.
  9. Visit Paute or Yunguilla: Both of these areas are known to have a climate distinct from Cuenca’s and are nearby. Paute is about 30 minutes from Cuenca and Yunguilla is just over an hour away. You might just leave the rain behind.
  10. Visit Baños de Cuenca: When the water is warm (and wet) it doesn’t matter much if it is raining. Just a few minutes from the city center, you can visit either Piedra de Agua or Hosteria Duran.
  11. Go Silver Shopping in Chordeleg: Just a 40-minute bus ride from Cuenca is the silver center of Chordeleg. They use the filigree technique – and it is really impressive.
  12. Go Tile-Sliding at Parque Calderon: This is a new family favorite. When it rains, the tiled park gets surprisingly slippery. With a small runoff, you can easily slide 6-10 feet – maybe more. To us iced-up Canadians, it reminds us a lot of home. 🙂 Watch Dena enjoying the slippery tiles of Parque Calderon in the video below…

Rainy-Day Tile-Sliding at Cuenca’s Parque Calderon

rainy day activities cuenca ecuador
Have you tried this?

With a surprise rainstorm just around every corner, don’t forget to bring your umbrella. Need a good one? Here are some of the best travel umbrellas.

Your Turn: What’s your favorite rainy day activity in Cuenca? Please share it in the comments below!

6. Expats in Cuenca Ecuador

Over the past few years we’ve interviewed a few of the expats living here in Cuenca. These profiles help give a glimpse into the challenges and benefits of living in Cuenca.

Learn about living abroad through the eyes of these expats.

  1. Ecuador Expat Profile – Gary Sisk
  2. Behind the Scenes: House Hunters International in Cuenca Ecuador

Read more Ecuador expat profiles.

Living in Cuenca, Ecuador

7. Life in Cuenca Ecuador

Here are a collection of our top posts about living in Cuenca, Ecuador. Since moving here in 2009, this is one of our favorite topics to write about.

While some of these topics will apply to travelers, they are written with long term expats in mind.

  1. eduardo-vega-turi-cuencaWhat’s it like to live in Cuenca Ecuador? 9 Reasons We Chose Cuenca
  2. Reality Check: Housing in Cuenca
  3. Is Cuenca Safe for Expats?
  4. Guide to Using Taxis in Ecuador
  5. How to Travel in Ecuador: Using City Buses in Cuenca
  6. Health Concerns in Cuenca Ecuador: Dentist, Dry Air, Hospitals

Learn more about living in Ecuador.

Cuenca Ecuador’s Parque Calderon

While we love Cuenca, it (obviously) isn’t perfect. The climate, altitude and crime have affected many travelers and expats.

We continue to write about specific concerns for visitors and how they can avoid the problems. Although there are some challenges we love living here.

Cuenca Ecuador
So there you have it. Our top 56 posts about Cuenca, Ecuador.

Keep reading: Guide to Ecuador’s 18 Largest Cities

Parishes (Parroquias) of Cuenca Ecuador

As you are planning your move to Cuenca, you’ll start to notice that attractions and real estate are listed by parroquia. In this section, you’ll learn about each of the 36 parishes in Cuenca.


What is a Parroquia?

A parroquia is a subdivision of a canton, commonly translated as “parish” in English. Learn more: What is a Cantón & Parroquia in Ecuador?

The 36 Parroquias of Cuenca Ecuador 

Cuenca is divided into a total of 36 parroquias: 15 urban and 21 rural.

The only maps I could find are below. The maps available on the site of Alcaldía de Cuenca (Cuenca’s mayors office) are identical. The problem with these maps is that there are no points of reference.

While they can help to place one parroquia in reference to another, they aren’t of a lot of use to someone unfamiliar with the city.

Note: I’m going to try to identify specific landmarks and principal avenues – but I’ll probably get some wrong. Please help me out in the comments.

Cuenca’s 15 Urban Parroquias

Cuenca’s urban parroquias are: Bellavista, Cañaribamba, El Batán, El Sagrario, El Vecino, Gil Ramírez Dávalos, Hermano Miguel, Huayna Cápac, Machángara, Monay, San Blas, San Sebastián, Sucre, Totoracocha, Yanuncay.


  1. San Sebastián: home to Avenida Ordoñez Lasso and the highest concentration of apartment towers in the city. El Palermo, the tallest building in Cuenca, is located in this parroquia.
  2. El Batán: home to the Feria Libre, Cuenca’s largest open market.
  3. Yanuncay: home to Coral Centro and El Mercurio Newspaper. Borders the rural parroquia of Baños.
  4. Bellavista: both Av. Heroes de Verdeloma and Av. de las Americas cross this parroquia. The southern border goes into the downtown area of Cuenca.
  5. Gill Ramírez Dávalos: west of downtown Cuenca
  6. El Sagrario: western section of downtown Cuenca
  7. San Blas: downtown Cuenca: el centro
  8. Cañaribamba: downtown Cuenca: el centro
  9. Sucre: Av. 12 de Abril and Loja cross this parroquia
  10. Huayna Capac: contains Avenida Huayna Capac (obviously) down to the southern highway. Borders the rural parroquias of Turi and El Valle.
  11. Hermano Miguel:
  12. El Vecino:
  13. Totoracocha: home to Cuenca’s airport and the bus terminal (I think).
  14. Monay: home to Monay Shopping – one of the larger shopping centers in Cuenca. Borders the rural parroquias of Turi and El Valle.
  15. Machángara: The most rural of Cuenca’s urban parroquias.

Cuenca’s 21 Rural Parroquias 

Cuenca’s rural parroquias are : Baños, Chaucha, Checa, Chiquintad, Cumbe, El Valle, Llacao, Molleturo, Nulti, Octavio Cordero Palacios, Paccha, Quingeo, Ricaurte, San Joaquín, Santa Ana, Sayausí, Sidcay, Sinincay, Tarqui, Turi y Victoria del Portete.

The yellow area on the map below (#13) represents the areas of the urban parroquias, as noted above.

  1. Molleturo: goes into the Cajas National Park and has the largest land area of all of Cuenca’s parroquias.
  2. Chaucha: This is where we went for our hike in the Andes.
  3. Sayausí: borders the San Sebastián parroquia and is one of the largest rural parroquias in Cuenca.
  4. Chiquintad:
  5. Checa (or Jidcay):
  6. San Joaquín: there are lots of vegetable farms in San Joaquín. Rural and beautiful.
  7. Baños: home to Ecuador’s smaller Baños. Not to be confused with the more popular and larger Baños de Ambato.
  8. Sinincay:
  9. Octavio Cordero Palacios (or Santa Rosa):
  10. Sidcay:
  11. Llacao:
  12. Ricaurte:
  13. Parroquias Urbanas: (Urban Parishes shows in yellow) See the urban parroquias above.
  14. Paccha:
  15. Nulti:
  16. Turi: home of the famous lookoff: Mirador de Turi
  17. El Valle: beautiful area located south of Cuenca. Many years ago, this area began to flood after the landslide and resulting dam of the river heading into Paute. We were told that an unknown person planted dynamite and blew up the landslide, thus removing the dam and saving the expensive homes of El Valle.
  18. Santa Ana:
  19. Tarqui: located on the via Loja, Tarqui is colder than Cuenca and survives on dairy farms. Reminds us of the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia.
  20. Victoria del Portete (or Irquis): The last parroquia before heading down into Yunguilla Valley. It is quite flat and there are lots of dairy cows.
  21. Cumbe: located on the via a Loja, after the redondel. It is the similar altitude to Cuenca and is sparsely populated.
  22. Quingeo:

Images of Cuenca maps are courtesy of Wikipedia. Photos of Cuenca are mine.

Do you live in any of these areas? What details have I missed? Please let me know in the comments below and I’ll update the post.

Your Turn

What food, restaurant, and attraction would you add to the list? Please include it (along with any travel tips) in the comments below!


  1. Well, here we are a little over a year into our move from Mesa Arizona to Cuenca.
    The move was quite a bit of work closing out our life in the US and filing the necessary Ecuadorian paperwork to become permanent residents. The “Manana” syndrome is well established here so do not expect the relatively quick response to getting required paperwork completed or service requests answered that you have come to expect in the US. It is not a major problem, you just need to modify your expectations, be patient and things will get done.
    One major warning is the nightmare it can be dealing with customs (aduana) and the restrictive rules as to what can be shipped to Ecuador after your initial shipment of personal goods included in your primary move. Most everyday items like food and personal care items can be found in places like SuperMaxi or Coral but, it is those special things that can only be found in the US that can be a problem when dealing with customs.
    On a more positive note, the people here are the most friendly and helpful people I have ever met in my world travels and also having lived in another country besides Ecuador and the US. We have made several good friends who have gone out of their way to help us well beyond anything I have experienced in the US and without an expectation they would be compensated for their effort. It is obvious that they appreciate my effort to learn their language, communicate with them in my still limited Spanish and not expect them to speak English although many do speak English. It is definitely a more friendly welcoming culture than one finds elsewhere.
    If you come from a warm climate, as we did, the weather can be a bit challenging. Magazines like International Living portray the climate here as balmy however, regardless of the season highs can range between the low 60’s to low 70’s most days and evenings between the high 40’s to mid 50’s with a number of cloudy rainy days not being uncommon. I’m sure we will adapt over time but right now it can still be uncomfortably chilly most of the day.
    In conclusion, for us, the benefits far outweigh the problems and our only regret is that we did not make the move sooner.

  2. I have truly enjoyed reading your enlightening blogs. My husband and I will be moving to Cuenca at the end of September. We will be traveling with 2 spoiled cats. We would like any travel suggestions on getting to Cuenca with the pets: via Quito and Cuenca (we understand there would be a long layover in Quito) or via Guayaquil with land transportation to Cuenca. Thank you for any recommendations.

  3. Please can someone help me with finding any agencies that specialize in renting apartments.
    I will be moving to Cuenca in August and do not yet speak Spanish so I need all of the help I can get.
    Thank you very much,

  4. I would love to get your input about Cuenca once we get closer to getting there. I have been emailing Kathy (from Cuenca real estate) and she also offered to help. They focus on high-end apartments, and I don’t know if I can convince my mom to live in an apt, and I don’t think we need anything that high end, either. We think it would be fun to live in a place with an inner courtyard.

  5. Bryan: Had an understanding that after May 1, 2018, anyone traveling to/entering Ecuador (up to 90 days/ U.S. passport) must show proof of having health insurance. Do you know if this remains a current requirement? Thanks. Graham.

      1. I’m looking at various places overseas to consider retiring. You have me extremely interested in Ecuador . Where does one start? Cuenca intrigued me but do fied the beach .
        I’m single socializing is part of what I’m looking for and meeting women.
        I don’t speak Spanish a word here and there. Limited budget of say $1,500 per month all in (rent included) want to visit the markets.and enjoy the locals. 1-3 months to see if I like it. No car.
        Your suggestions is encouraged and appreciated .
        Thank you

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  7. Hello Bryan, I’ve only recently begun to think of possibly living in Cuenca three months out of the year to see how I’d enjoy living in South America. I would not want to do this for five more years, since right now I have very young great-grandchildren I am blessed to care for once or twice a week pretty regularly. I would want to wait until the two youngest are in school, the reason for the five more years. I am not wealthy but have a decent SS and pension, so I could afford around $500 a month for a furnished apartment, preferably in the historic district or near enough to ride a bike to it. My question – I have many, but am getting answers from different sites and yours seems to be more informative – is that by the time I’d want to do this, I’ll be 85 years old, and of course, it’s all contingent upon my health staying good, both physically and mentally (no signs of dementia) and my mobility remaining good. It would be foolish if I were not well and attempted to live alone in a strange country. I’ve read Cuenca is a safe city for expats, but is it for single expats? I’m a retired RN, have been writing novels since retirement at 66, and lived in Key West for several years after retiring, so most of my friends are other authors and artists. I read last night that Cuenca is a haven for people like us, so that is another draw for me. As well as being safe for a single older woman, would a two-bedroom furnished apartment in the historic district be reasonable for me to rent? Since I would be keeping my apartment here in South Florida to live in when I return each year if I like living there, I wouldn’t want to pay more than $500, if possible. And I would want a decent apartment in good repair, preferably with private outdoor space, such as an enclosed patio, large front porch or terrace, where I could have plenty of plants – can’t live without plants and flowers near. Also, are PCs fairly inexpensive down there? I wouldn’t want to take my PC with me, and I don’t enjoy using laptops for my writing, so I would need to buy one there. And is cell phone service reliable, as that would be my way of keeping in touch with my family. And is it reasonable? What about Skype? I’ve been thinking of switching from ATT to Consumer Cellular. Does it get service down there? I’m not LGBT, but I enjoy attending services at MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) everywhere I am, and I know they’re in Ecuador, but are they in Cuenca, also? I know that is a lot of questions, but I want to find out as much reliable information as possible. I don’t speak Spanish but have plenty of time to learn the language. Do they speak the Castilian Spanish or another kind of Spanish? I’ve worked cruise ships to the tip of South America but have never actually visited the continent, so I certainly plan to visit a few times before I make the final decision to move there. Thank you very much for answering as much as you possibly can! I really appreciate it!

  8. Really appreciate all the useful information here. I often found myself referring to your site while planning a six-week stay in Cuenca with my husband – it was a fantastic choice for us (active, early 30’s, do freelance work online as we travel). We recently compiled a list of food and restaurant recommendations for Cuenca which might be helpful to your other readers:

  9. I am considering taking up residence in Cuenca, Ecuador about the beginning of 2017. Can you direct me to resources for apartments/houses for rent, resources for retired persons, and any other information which would help me plan for the move. I currently live in Chattanooga, TN.

    1. I am also thinking of moving to Cuenca in early 2017. I am eager to know if the earthquake changed the economy at this time or might it change living conditions very much in the future? I am planning a trip to ‘check it out’ in July or August this year before making my final decision.

  10. My husband and I are seriously considering a move to Ecuador, Quenca, in particular, but have never been to South America before. We are considering a tour specifically for people inn our position called Ecuador Crash Course Tour. Since you already live in Ecuador, would you please give us some advice or opinions on this? The link to the tour is urse.html. I want to know if this is a good tour; if it’s legit and on the up and up; is it worth the money; and will we learn a lot from it. If we don’t go this route, I’m not sure what other option to take since we don’t speak Spanish (but are willing to learn) and don’t know anyone there. Thanks in advance fro any help you can offer.

  11. We are about to open a new Music School in Cuenca and we are interested to promote our school in your website.
    Please contact us.
    Escuela de Musica Constantino Mendoza Moreira

  12. Retiring soon. Want to learn more about Ecuador. Especially Cuenca. Home financing if available etc. I currently live in Atlanta, GA

  13. Thank you Brian,
    We visited Ecuador in October 2013, landed in Quito, leased a small Chevy, visited Otavalo, Cotacachi, Mitad del mundo, Mindo, Atacames, Manta, visited Hola Ecuador, Salinas, Guayaquil
    We liked our experience, we also been in Merida Yucatan and Ajijic Jalisco?
    We have not taken our final decision yet. Ecuador has it’s + and -. Mexico has also it’s + and – . We enjoyed Ecuador and Mexico very much, if you have anything to help my decision, do not hesitate
    Thank you

  14. Hola,
    A couple definite restaurant recommendations – Popocuchu, best soups and sandwiches in town, bar none; Anubis for the best steak in town; San Sebas the best breakfast in town.
    From a couple other Canucks living in Cuenca (2 1/2 years)

  15. “#1 city of the future (Foreign Direct Investment, 2013-2014)”.
    Where did you get this information from? I could not find any reference to this on the Internet. I am interested in reading more as to why.

  16. Bryan i really enjoy your blog and videos, however I would enjoy some up to date videos. As I know that Drew is a big girl now . I would enjoy some of her now .
    As for Cuenca , That big city scares me out of my wits. I am not interested in cities at all. Not even Halifax . However if I were a young man I may feel different. However I can`t remember any time of even liking cities. I mover off to Toronto in1958 . Worked for one summer, that was enough for me. Fall came and I made my way back to Nova Scotia to stay, That I did. not sorry. I am just a plain old country boy through and through. Have fun you young people. As for the cost of living in NS That has not affected us too much. we learn to roll with the punches. Our desire was not to become rich. Love from all Eric.

    1. Great to hear from you Eric! We intentionally keep a low profile for Drew on the site. Really is an issue of privacy. You can check with my parents for some current photos of her. 🙂
      Cuenca is actually a similar size to Halifax. Fairly small to cities like Toronto or Guayaquil – each with populations into the millions.

  17. Need info on aquiring a pensioners visa want to get started on as soon as I can,want to move to cuenca

  18. I have read several of your interesting articles during your earlier days in Cuenca, but somehow lost track of you. My wife and I have a friend who lives part time in Cuenca, and we are also considering this. We look forward to receiving your articles and hope to review some of the past ones we may have missed. We will be in Cuenca August 1- 11 this year and are hoping to meet some ex-pats to learn more.

    1. I spent a month in Cuenca about six years ago and loved it. Now the first week of July, I plan to spend three months or more there and want to rent a small unit, just for myself, within a few blocks f the Historic Center. I Was told the best way to find a nice small furnished rental for a good price was to stay at reasonable priced hotel for a few days near the Center and, walking and talking around, find it I’m my own. Your thoughts please.

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