The Most Complete Guide of Ecuador

Cuenca: Explore a cultural treasure in the Andes

Cuenca is the capital of Azuay province and the third largest city in Ecuador. Located in a peaceful and relaxed setting, the city of Cuenca has a distinguished skyline marked by shining church domes. Praised for its architecture, cultural diversity and contribution to art, Ecuadorians consider it the most charming city!

Discover Cuenca by walking its beautiful downtown!

Museum of Native Cultures

This museum was built as a homage to the Ecuadorian indigenous cultures and their 15,000 years of existence. It holds more than 5.000 archaeological pieces from the first indigenous civilizations in Ecuador, up to those that lived in the XVI century.

The museum works in a one-floor antique house that is a cultural-architectonic inheritance of the city, built in the XVIII century. In the back of the house you can find the 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 (between Hermano Miguel and Mariano Cueva). Visiting Hours: Mon- Fri:  8h30-18h00, Sat: 9h00-13h00. 

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception / New Cathedral

This Cathedral’s construction began in 1880, and it is now one of the largest in America. The Cathedral is made of alabaster and marble and its floor is made of pink marble imported from Carrara, Italy. Both Romantic and Baroque styles are prominent in its architecture. You will notice the stained-glass windows stand out for their beauty.

Sagrario Church / Old Cathedral

El Sagrario is one of the oldest churches in Latin America (1557)! It has marble floors, a gold-leaf altar and blocks from the Inca Pomango Palace. The Geodesic Mission used this place as a reference point to calculate the Earth’s circumference.

Nowadays it is a religious museum, El Sagrario does not serve as a Cathedral since 1981. You can ask for a guide at the entrance if you are interested. Inside you can observe part of the original frescos, as well as some metal friezes brought from France that belong to the original construction. Priests’ garments are on exhibit and you can also find life-size sculptures of Jesus and his 12 apostles, which were manufactured in 1900 by local artist Pablo Luis Alvarado. The pieces are light when lifted because they were used for religious processions!

Interesting objects:

  • The pulpit’s handrail is worth admiring! It has the shape of human ribs to symbolize Jesus’ passion. It was created by Cuencan sculpturer Sangurima (XIX C).
  • “Piedad”, a copy of the original by Miguel Angel in Rome, made by Cuencan sculptor José Miguel Vélez in the XIX C.
  • El Sagrario’s organ which was brought from Germany in 1739.

The Old Cathedral manifests a concentration of art, detail and religious traditions.

Address: Mariscal Sucre & Luis Cordero corner. Visiting Hours: Monday thru Friday from 09h00 to 17h30. Weekends: 09h00 to 13h00. Admission Fee: USD 2 for internationals, USD 1 locals. 

The Museum of Skeletons

The museum was created from a private initiative of scientific, ecologic and artistic value. It is based on a collection (of more than 4 years!) by Dr. Gabriel Moscoso. Inside there are more than 150 species of native animals exposed, and currently a recollection of paleo zoological and micro skeletal specimens of birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, is underway. This will be incorporated in the future exhibits. 

The museum also has an Art Gallery inspired on nature, with pieces by artist Marco Martinez.

On the second floor you can visit an exhibit of skeletons, which are presented in recreations of the physical environment in which each of the species develops.

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

“El Carmen de Asunción” Church and Monastery

Both have been preserved in their original XVII century condition! Here you can find a  remarkable treasury of religious art pieces. The Monastery is closed to the public, but one can communicate with the nuns at the entrance and buy the traditional handicrafts they make inside. It is located near the main square, to the right of the daily flower market.

Flower Market

It opens every day. Most of the vendors are cholas cuencanas. The market is a demonstration of the natural richness of the area throughout the year!

“Las Conceptas” Museum

The museum is located in a monastery that dates back to the XVI century. It was one of the fist monasteries 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 you can find Nativity scenes, religious pieces and furniture from colonial times. The Christ sculptures belong to the sculptor Sangurima, who lived in Cuenca at the end of the XIX century. One notable characteristic of this author’s figures of Christ is that they all have their left foot on top of their right foot.

You can also visit an exhibit room that tells of life in a monastery, close to a cloister that still functions.

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

Museum of Popular Arts in America CIDAP 

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. Visiting Hours: 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 archaeological ruins from Cañari, Inca and colonial Spanish times. The ruins are demonstration of the progression and transition periods of Cuenca; a city that changed under the influence of diverse human communities with different infrastructures and social habits. Each culture that arrived built on the technology on their predecessors and created new spaces using the material that had been left behind!

The Church of “Todos los Santos”

The old church was the place where the first Catholic mass was celebrated after the Spaniards arrived. Here you can find a statue of Santa Ana, the city’s patron saint. 

Pumapungo Vestiges

Located at the left border of El Barranco, the Pumapungo (“Puma’s Door”) neighborhood was the first developed zone of the Inca city of Tumipamba. The architectural elements of this neighborhood indicate 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 long) with internal bathrooms, a mausoleum within a tunnel, etc. All of this  surrounded by terraces that were used for agricultural purposes! This archaeological complex is complemented with native plant gardens and birds of the region.

You can also enjoy 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. Visiting Hours:Tuesday thru Friday 8h00- 17h30. Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays 10h00- 16h00. Free admission.

El Barranco

The Tomebamba Riverfront is the most symbolic site of Cuenca! It serves as the border between the historical and the modern city.

El Barranco is a residential area, as well as a cultural district. Sites along this riverfront include: The Pumapungo Ruins, the Central Bank Museum, Remigio Crespo Toral Museum and “Todos los Santos” vestige. You will be delighted by cultural and artistic exhibits.

Besides, the Classical Republican style of the constructions surrounding the river give the city a unique feel. 

Museum of Modern Art

The museum holds a permanent collection of contemporary art as well as many artistic activities for children. Additionally, it hosts the Biannual International Painting Competition.

Address: 1527 Calle Sucre and Coronel Talbot. Visiting Hours: Mon – Friday: 8h30 – 13h00, and 15h00 – 18h30. Sat: 9h00 – 13h00 Free admission.

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