Third largest city in Ecuador and arguably the most attractive, the colonial town of Cuenca is a favorite destination among all travelers to Ecuador. With its old marble buildings, cobblestone streets, and shaded plazas, Cuenca has managed to retain its old colonial charm, and its laid-back atmosphere makes it a pleasure to explore. Most attractions are concentrated in the historic center which can be easily explored on foot, and is also the best place to stay.
Transportation to and from Cuenca is relatively well organized with various options to reach the city. The modern and well structured bus station, terminal terrestre, is located on Avenida España about 20-minutes from the city center on foot, and only a 5-minute walk from the airport. Both the bus station and the airport can also easily be accessed with city buses, and taxis are also inexpensive. Long distance buses operate daily to Ecuador’s main cities (6 hrs to Riobamba, 10 hrs to Quito, 5 hrs to Guayaquil).
Known as the “Athens of Ecuador”, Cuenca is filled with many attractions. The city has always been home to a plethora of artists, writers, philosophers who contributed to the bohemian-like vibe, although it remains a very conservative city, loyal to its traditions. As you visit Cuenca, be aware that most venues are closed at lunch time, from 1pm to 3pm every day, and virtually everything is closed on Sundays.
The city is well equipped with numerous banks and ATMs so travelers should not have any problems to get money. If you intend to visit smaller towns in the region, be aware that they may not have as many available money facilities and it’s best to carry cash with you. There are also many exchange offices to change money, and travelers’ checks can be exchanged at the Banco de Guayaquil or Banco del Pichincha.
Cuenca is teeming with excellent hotels that can suit the needs and budgets of everyone. In regular times, reservations are not always necessary but hotels tend to fill quickly during holidays and celebrations so make sure you have everything booked before your trip. Festivals include the celebration of Cuenca’s independence on November 3rd, colorful Christmas parades at the end of the year, the foundation of the city on April 10th-13th, Corpus Christi, and Carnival.
The city is also very much know for its vibrant nightlife which has been continuously growing in the past years. The main destination to enjoy the busy night scene is Calle Larga.
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