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Ecuador’s charm seems as it’s got no ending; search for cheap flights to Cuenca and discover the second largest city of the Inca Empire, with long history, precious heritage and incomparable beauty! The supreme treasure of the Azuay Province, Cuenca with its cobbled streets, secret alleys, idyllic squares and historic buildings, will transfer you to another dimension. It’s no wonder that UNESCO decided to include the whole city in the World Heritage catalogues; Cuenca takes pride in being one of the top archaeological sites in South America and the whole wide world! The Cañari, the Incas and the first Spanish colonists seem to come alive in this extraordinary city, with a cheeky wink at all the fascinated visitors. No words can really describe this wonderful trip; book your flights and accommodation in Cuenca and get ready to see it all!
The Cañari were the first inhabitants of Guapondeleg, the city of Cuenca as was known in 500 AD. The language, culture and traditions of their society still remain a mystery, however many of the villages around Cuenca have kept the “–deleg” suffix on their names.
Guapondeleg was conquered by the Incas in 1480, under the commands of King Wayna Qhapag. They named it Tomebamba and they rendered it the second, after Cusco, most important city of their great Empire.
The arrival of Pizarro and the rest of the Spanish conquistadors in 1534 meant the ultimate destruction of Tomebamba, whose position then took the Spanish colony of Cuenca.
Modern Cuenca ranks third among Ecuador’s largest cities and, despite this fact, the city has managed to retain its traditional aura and colonial character.
In 1999, Cuenca was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The airport of Cuenca (Aeropuerto Mariscal Lamar) is located 2.5 kilometres northeast of the city centre and can be reached by taxi.
Getting around Cuenca
You can get around Cuenca using the city’s extensive bus network. Fares start from 0.25 USD and a typical taxi ride within the city shouldn’t cost more than 2.00 USD.
Parque Calderón is the focal point of the historic centre of Cuenca. Two are the architectural highlights there – and they’re both cathedrals!
- The Old Cathedral (Catedral Vieja), also known as the Iglesia del Sagrario, is the oldest building of Cuenca. Built in 1557 with building material from the Inca ruins of Pumapungo, it served as the primary cathedral of Cuenca until 1967. Ever since, it houses a quite interesting museum of religious art.
- The New Cathedral (Catedral Nueva) was built in 1967, but its construction had begun as early as 1885! Mixing Romanesque and Gothic elements, the New Cathedral of Cuenca was designed after Florence’s Battistero. The blue twin domes of the cathedral are now an indispensable trademark of Cuenca’s skyline.
Nearby, you will come across another important religious building of Cuenca. Though closed to the public, the Iglesia del Carmen de la Asunción remains a spectacular site, situated among the flower stalls of the colourful Mercado de las Flores.
If you wish to know more on Cuenca’s history, then head to the archaeological site of Todos Los Santos, discovered in 1972. The journey back in time begins from the Cañari, the first inhabitants of Cuenca – then Guapondeleg - , continues to the Incas and ends at the first Spanish settlers that arrived in 1534.
Complete your day in Cuenca climbing up to the Mirador de Turi, at the hill top of the southern side of the city, commanding breathtaking views of Cuenca!
The official language of Cuenca is Spanish, but Quicha, Shuar and ten more native languages are widely spoken in Ecuador.
To enter Ecuador, you need to have a valid passport, with validity until at least 6 months after your travel dates. Greek citizens do not need a Visa, for a maximum stay of 90 days.
When to Go
Cuenca is located in the equator, thus enjoys a marine subtropical climate with temperatures not exceeding 21º C and not falling below 8º C all year round.
Cuenca has two distinctive seasons, the dry (June-September) and the wet one (October-May) and, while you can visit Cuenca during both of them, the best time to travel to Cuenca and be able to enjoy the city at its best is the dry period, from June to September.