The Most Complete Guide of Ecuador

Cuenca, a cultural treasure in the Andes

Ecuadorians consider Cuenca the most charming city, located in a peaceful and relaxing setting. As you enter the city you can enjoy the outstanding skyline marked by shining church domes.

NATIVE CULTURES MUSEUM – This museum was built as a homage to the Ecuadorian indigenous cultures and their 15,000 years of existence. It holds archaeological pieces from the first indigenous civilizations in Ecuador up to those that lived in the XVI century, in more than 5,000 impressive pieces. 

The museum works in a one-floor antique house that is a cultural-architectonic heritage of the city, built in the XVIII century. In the back of the house one finds this museum, with a private collection that belongs to Dr. Juan Cordero. 

Guides in English, as well as the explanation of the pieces.  

Address: Calle Larga 5-24 · Phone: 283 9181/ 2841540. Mon- Fri:  8h30-18h00, Sat:  9h00-15h00. Admission fee: $2.

CATHEDRAL OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION – NEW CATHEDRAL – This Cathedral’s construction began in 1880, and is one of the largest of America. The Cathedral is made of alabaster and marble. Its floor is made of pink marble imported from Carrara, Italy. Both Romance and Baroque styles are prominent in its architecture. The stained-glass windows stand out for their beauty.

SAGRARIO CHURCH – OLD CATHEDRAL – It is one of the oldest churches in Latin America (1557). Inca blocks from the Pomango Palace were used in its construction. It has marble floors and a gold-leaf altar. The Geodesic Mission used this place as a reference point to calculate the Earth’s circumference. 

It does not serve as a Cathedral since 1981, and now houses a religious museum. You can ask for a guide at the entrance for an explanation of the details. You can observe part of the original frescos, as well as some metal friezes brought from France that belong to the original construction. Priests’ garmets are on exhibit. What calls more the attention are life-size sculptures of Jesus and his 12 apostles, which were manufactured in the year 1900 by the Cuencan artist Pablo Luis Alvarado. The pieces are light weight because they were used for processions. 

The pulpit’s handrail is worth admiring because it has the shape of human ribs to symbolize Jesus’ passion. It was done by the Cuencan sculpturer Sangurima (XIX C).

What also calls one’s attention is the “Piedad”, a copy of the original by Miguel Angel in Rome, done by the Cuencan sculpturer José Miguel Vélez in the XIX C. The organ from the back was brought from Germany in 1739.

Monday thru Friday from 9h00 to 13h00 and 13h30 to 17h50. Weekends: 10h00 to 13h00. Admission fee: $2. 

Address: Mariscal Sucre & Luis Cordero corner.

ESQUELETOLOGÍA MUSEUM – Adress: Bolívar 6-57 & Borrero streets. Visiting hours: Monday-Friday: 10h00 – 13h00 / 16h00 – 19h00. Saturday 10h00 – 14h00. Holidays 10h00 to 19h00. Entrance fee is $1,50. Phone: 2821150.

CHURCH AND MONASTERY OF “EL CARMEN DE ASUNCIÓN” – Both have been preserved in their original XVII century condition. A remarkable treasury of religious art pieces can be found here. The Monastery is closed to the public, but one can communicate with the nuns at the entrance and buy traditional handicrafts they produce. It is located near the main square, to the right of the daily flower market.

FLOWER MARKET – It is open every day. Most of the vendors are cholas cuencanas. The market is a demonstration of the natural richness of the area throughout the year.

MUSEUM OF THE CONCEPTAS – The museum is located in a monastery that dates back to the XVI century. It was one of the fist monasteries that were founded in the city of Cuenca, 42 years after the foundation of the city. Its interior gardens are beautiful and peaceful. Currently, the museum holds several exhibit rooms where one finds Nativity scenes, religious pieces and colonial time furniture. Many of the paintings had didactical purposes for the “unfaithful of the New World”. The Christ sculptures belong to the sculpturer Sangurima, who lived in Cuenca at the end of the XIX century. They have the left over the right foot, characteristic of this author’s Christ figures. Also in exhibit is a room that tells of life in a monastery, close to where a cloister still works. 

Monday thru Friday from 9h00 – 18h30 and Saturdays from 10h00 – 13h00. Admission fee: $2.50 adults, $1.50 children. Phone: 2830625.

CIDAP ARTES POPULARES DE AMERICA MUSEUM – This museum is devoted to the handicrafts of South America. It contains art, crafts and beautiful folklore pieces on temporary exhibitions. 

Address: 3 de Noviembre and Hermano Miguel streets. Monday – Friday: 9h00- 13h00 and 14h30 – 18h00. Saturday 10h00-12h00. 

THE RUINS OF TODOS LOS SANTOS – Follow the Todos Los Santos Street down the hill. This site has ruins of Cañari, Incan and colonial Spanish constructions. Here you will find the four Incas stonework niches.

TODOS LOS SANTOS CHURCH – One of the oldest churches in Cuenca. It is also where the first Catholic mass was celebrated after the Spaniards arrived. The statue of Santa Ana, patron saint of the city, is found here. During the end of the XIX century, it was replaced with the church that currently stands. 

PUMAPUNGO VESTIGES – Located at the left margin of El Barranco, the Pumapungo (“Puma’s Door”) neighborhood was the first developed zone of the Inca city of Tumipamba. The architectural elements of the vestiges of this neighborhood show that it was mainly a religious, military, political and administrative center. The vestiges of Pumapungo include walls, channels, cobblestone corridors, isolated enclosed areas, an enormous channel, 1,050 feet of length, with some internal bathrooms, a mausoleum within a tunnel, etc. All this is surrounded by terraces that were used for agriculture. This archaeological complex is complemented with gardens of native plants and a small display of birds of the region. It is part of the Central Bank Museum.

It also includes an archeological museum, a numismatic museum (coins), and a very didactical and up-to-date ethnographic display. 

Address: Huayna Capac Ave. across from Calle Larga. Tuesday thru Friday 8h00- 17h30. Saturdays, Sundays and Hollidays 10h00- 16h00. Free admission. 

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