After our seven day cruise around the Galapagos Islands, we flew to Guayaquil where we were met by our guide, Javier, for the drive from sea level, over a 13,500 foot pass in the Andes, to Cuenca, elevation 8,315 feet.
Home for this last leg of our Ecuador adventure was the Hotel Santa Lucea. Many boutique hotels in Ecuador occupy former houses from the colonial era which were built around large interior courtyards.
Cuenca is Ecuador’s third largest city with a population of 330,000, making it far smaller than Quito or Guayaquil. UNESCO declared the center a World Heritage site in 1996. Here are some photos
Most of the indigenous women we saw wore hats.
I don’t think we ever had a bad meal in Ecuador.
We spent one entire day with Javier exploring the countryside around Cuenca.
This market in Gualaceo had some interesting food options.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), we skipped the market and had lunch at a nice country inn just outside of town.
A couple more people photos.
After lunch we had a fascinating tour of Ecuagenera, a company specializing in the propagation and growing of orchids which are shipped worldwide.
Next stop was La Casa de la Makana, an artisan weaving workshop.
Back in town, we visited the Museum of the Central Bank Pumapungo which had excellent displays of Ecuador’s diverse indigenous cultures.
One of the more interesting exhibits was the eerie tzantzas (shrunken heads) from the Shuar culture of the southern Oriente!
We were wondering why the museum had Central Bank in it’s name until we came to a small exhibit in the basement. Because of extreme inflation, the Sucre was replaced with the US Dollar as Ecuador’s official currency in 2000. Therefore, no need for a central bank so the building became a museum.
Behind the museum are the Pumapungo ruins dating back to the 15th century Incas. When the Spanish arrived and started building modern day Cuenca in 1557, most of the Inca stones were removed to construct churches.
Finally, here are some architectural photos taken from the top of the hop on/ hop off bus our last day in Cuenca.
I mentioned earlier that we didn’t have a bad meal in Ecuador and Cuenca was no exception. So to end this post and wrap up our Ecuador adventure, two photos of our last meal.