An Insider's Guide to Cuenca, Ecuador's Most Charming City

Advisor - Sarah Mills
Curated By

Sarah Mills

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  • City Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Arts & Culture

  • Adventure Travel

  • Active Travel

  • Family Travel

  • Solo Travel

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Couples Travel

  • Historic

  • Romantic

  • Hiking

  • Downtown

Charming street in Cuenca.
Curator’s statement

Cuenca is a charming, historic and easy-to-explore city located in the Andes Mountains about 3 hours east of Guayaquil, Ecuador. Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage site with gorgeous colonial-era architecture, world-class restaurants and stunning views of the Andes at every turn. The year-round temperate climate and small-size make this city ideal for wandering on foot. Once you have visited the bustling markets and cultural sites, it's time to venture outside the city to El Cajas National Park. Just 30 minutes from Cuenca, El Cajas is full of pristine lakes, stunning glacial valleys and mind-blowing views.

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Where to stay in Cuenca, Ecuador

Hostería Dos Chorreras

A serene mountain resort nestled in the Ecuadorean Andes, offering comfortable accommodation, delicious local cuisine and breathtaking views of the Cajas National Park.

Mansion Alcazar Boutique Hotel

A luxurious, colonial-style retreat nestled in the heart of Ecuador's cultural gem, offering exquisite rooms, fine dining and personalized service.

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Things to do in Cuenca, Ecuador

view of lake and mountains in national park

Termas Pumamaqui

Natural hot springs located in a lush Andean river valley. When you make a reservation here, you have the entire facility to yourself!

Hiking in El Cajas National Park

A truly wild and other-worldly experience.

Chorro de Giron

Hike to a stunning 250 waterfall and prepare to be just as amazing by the lush mountain landscapes surrounding it.

Ingapirca Ruins

Visit Ecuador's largest archeological site, founded by the Canari people and later expanded by the Incas.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Climb to the top of the cathedral for incredible views of its domes, the city and mountains beyond.

Visit the traditional food markets (10 de Agosto) and sample authentic Ecuadorian cuisine.

Places to eat & drink in Cuenca, Ecuador

A street restaurant and people waiting around in Cuenca.


Cafe San Sebas - A Cuenca staple for American style breakfasts served in a historic, open-air setting.


Try a traditional hornado (roasted pork served over potato patties with vegetables) at Mercado 10 de Agosto.


Dos Sucres: Elevated Ecuadorian-International fusion cuisine served in cozy setting with impeccable service and extensive wine list.

Murano Trattoria - Housed in the Casa Firenze in the main plaza, this chic, modern Italian restaurant serves homemade pasta and wood-fired pizzas.

El Mercado - Local and seasonal ingredients are used to create traditional Ecuadorian dishes that are served in a beautiful setting.

Rosee Dip and Drink - Elegant sushi/Asian-fusion restaurant.

Rooftop Cocktails

Bogoli - Hip restaurant and cocktail bar located in Plaza Calderon with great views of the Cathedral domes.

Need to Know

Looking for more Ecuador travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Local's Guide to the Best Beaches in Ecuador.

Advisor - Sarah Mills

Travel Advisor

Sarah Mills

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Ecuador.