Cuenca is Ecuador's 3rd city.
Full of colonial architecture
and attractive squares, it is a pretty place to wander. Many
retirees from overseas see Cuenca as the best place to retire to.
is perhaps the most attractive city in Ecuador, set amongst the
majestic Andes Mountains in the south of the country.
architecture, traditional streets and leafy squares make it a very
pleasant place to wander and the climate is usually agreeable.
Founded in 1557 and formally known as Santa Ana de los
Ríos de Cuenca, the city is listed as a UNESCO World
Heritage Site. The traditional handmade sweets are an added
attraction. Having made its fortune exporting quinine and
straw hats in the past, Cuenca is more recently known for silver,
the form of some striking modern jewellery.
is also considered a great place to retire to by North
which is having an impact on the culture and atmosphere of the city.
Attracting and exploiting would-be retirees is now a
big industry, with agencies offering to help find real estate
and retirement homes, translate documents, facilitate house purchases,
furniture, ship belongings, furnish homes, teach Spanish and any other
services you might require in order to settle into happy retirement in
Cuenca. Some of the immigrant retirees
have set up businesses offering the cuisine and comforts that they miss
from home, or retirement agencies promoting Cuenca as one of the best
features in your
retirement plans, you should have no trouble finding help with Cuenca
rentals for while you are house-hunting. There are
even Cuenca tours specifically aimed at scoping out the area
as a retirement destination, so you can experience the city's weather,
food, shopping and current real estate situation. The cost of
living in Cuenca is attractively low
to North Americans, but their presence seems to be pushing up prices
for everyone else.
abound in Cuenca, but it is not easy to visit any of them.
Many are closed, even during posted "opening hours", and of
those that are open, hostile staff seem to invent all-afternoon "lunch
abitrary rules (such as not letting visitors carry so much as a
handbag) which appear designed to ensure that no-one qualifies to
Staff at the tourist offices at the airport and the
Parque Abdón Calderón are helpful and will
provide Cuenca city maps and information on bus routes, hotels and
other tourist necessities as well as arranging Cuenca tours.
It's a shame that their colleagues
at the museums let them down so badly.
range of Cuenca hotels offers something for everyone at every budget.
tourist office's suggestion, I tried the pretty little Posada del Sol
Hostal on Borrero y Sangurima. Consisting of a few rooms on
the top floor surrounding the space above an
courtyard, the hostal shares the building with a restaurant and other
businesses. Friendly service and clean, spacious rooms with
private bathrooms make this a bargain by Cuenca accommodation standards
at less than
$25 a night. Hotels in the city can be noisy due to local
people's propensity to shout, rev engines or sound their horns at
whatever hour of the day or night with no respect for anyone else.
many North American retirees in Cuenca have created a market for some
more unusual dining options. If you've been travelling in
Ecuador for a while you will appreciate the range of different foods
available, though the pretentiousness and overinflated prices may start
to grate after a while. Choices include modern North
American-style meals or upscale versions of traditional Ecuadorian
fare. Diners on a budget will struggle to find basic $1.50
almuerzos (set lunches), though there are a few to be had if you avoid
the prettier parts of the city.
("dulces típicos") are a delight. Try "El Suspiro"
("the sigh" or "the meringue") on Hno. Miguel and Presidente
Córdova for a range of handmade delicacies including fudge,
chewy coconut treats, guava jellies and many more.
people of Cuenca seem to be viewed with some suspicion by Ecuadorians
from the rest of the country. They are suspected of sharp
business practices, and I was warned to exercise extreme caution in
any dealings with them - which turned out to be wise advice in
some (not all) cases.
Foreigners and tourists definitely seem to be viewed as a
resource to be exploited, and the Cuencan people certainly have the
business acumen to do this, which can make the welcome seem more
commercial than genuine.
is well worth a tour or visit. Pick a sunny day, bring a
just enjoy walking through the attractive streets and open squares or
along by the rivers.
Sit in one of the parks with some traditional homemade
sweets, shop for modern silver jewellery if your budget allows or
wander around some of the churches. A visit here is the
first step if you are wondering
whether to retire in Cuenca.
to Cuenca: Domestic flights
quick and efficient way to avoid bus journeys of around 10 or 4 hours
respectively. Flying into Cuenca also offers some spectacular
Spanish & other Vocabulary for visiting Cuenca, Ecuador:
Dulces típicos: traditional sweets (usually handmade)
UNESCO World Heritage Site Cuenca is Ecuador's third city.
Famous for attractive colonial architecture, handmade sweets,
modern silver jewellery and a popular retirement destination for North
Cuenca may be best enjoyed on a short visit.
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
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