HD City tour Cuenca
Cuenca – Quito's counterpart in the southern Sierra – houses Ecuador's other historical town-centre that has been declared UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site. It's monuments and dozens of churches date from Inca, colonial and republican times. After Guayaquil and Quito this provincial capital has been the third largest town in Ecuador for centuries (over 330,000 inhabitants). Though it may lose this rank soon, definitely it won't lose its well-preserved history, thanks to conservative cultural values of its residents. In contrast to Quito you can still breathe Cuenca's relaxed provincial atmosphere.
At the small daily flower market wonderful roses, orchids and arum lilies compose a cheerful palette of colours and smells.
This street market is aside the largest architectural masterpiece of Cuenca, the New Cathedral of Immaculate Conception (1885-1967). Its towers remained unfinished because this disproportionate construction became too heavy for its fundaments. Instead characteristic blue cupolas lure the eye from far.
Behind impressive araucaria trees at nearby main square, named Parque Abdon Calderon, you can distinguish the whitewashed colonial Old Cathedral El Sagrario (16th century).
At San Francisco Square indigenous merchants from Otavalo sell ponchos, alpaca sweaters, gloves and other textiles.
Leaving the historical centre by car, you will follow the lush Barranco gorge with monumental neoclassical mansions. The ancient terraces of Pumapungo are most important remains of the Inca town of Tomebamba, which has been destructed during the Inca Civil War.
Cuenca exports toquilla straw-hats (Panama hats) all over the world, including exclusive models to many celebrities. These manually woven palm fibre hats are recognized as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Visit a generations-old factory where the finishing touch is given according to fashion in different markets. After the excellent exhibition "˜The magic of the hat', it makes fun to try different models yourself in the showroom, where you can get great deals far below export prices.
Before the striking little church El Turi is a balcony with a panoramic view over the valley and town-centre, favourite among tourists, lovers and artists.
The asymmetrical whitewashed San Sebastian church at the western entrance of Cuenca's historical centre has just one bell-tower. This tower and the Holy cross in front date back from colonial times.
The Municipal museum of modern art exhibits an appreciated collection of Latin American works. Before restoration (1979-1981) the colonial style building (1876) with inner courtyards served as a rehabilitation house for alcoholics and as municipal jail for men.
Included : English speaking guide, private transportation