Cuenca, Ecuador

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.

Sunset above the clouds in the Andes

Sunset above the clouds in the Andes

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.

Street view

Street view

Interior courtyard with the hotel restaurant

Interior courtyard with the hotel restaurant

One of the sitting rooms

One of the sitting rooms

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

View of the city from the hill of Turi

View of the city from the hill of Turi

School kids on a tour

School kids on a tour

A view of the New Cathedral

A view of the New Cathedral with domes of sky-blue Czech tile

Panama hat are actually made in Ecuador. Homero Ortega is one of the best

Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador. Each one is woven by hand. Homero Ortega has a nice museum and factory tour.

They all start out looking like this

They all start out looking like this

Javier with some examples of the finished product

Javier with some examples of the finished product

The Parque Calderón with the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (also known as the New Cathedral) on one side

The Parque Calderón with the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (also known as the New Cathedral) on one side

Construction began in 1885 to replace the Old Cathedral on the other side of the park

Construction began in 1885 to replace the Old Cathedral on the other side of the park

The Old Cathedral was started in 1557, the year Cuenca was founded. Now deconsecrated, it is a religious museum and concert venue

The Old Cathedral was started in 1557, the year Cuenca was founded. Now deconsecrated, it is a religious museum and concert venue

Happened to catch a parade honoring one of the church's black saints

Happened to catch a procession honoring one of the church’s black saints

Ecuador's climate is ideal for growing flowers year round

Ecuador’s climate is ideal for growing flowers year round

Most of the indigenous women we saw wore hats.

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I don’t think we ever had a bad meal in Ecuador.

Lunch at El Jardín. At the table next to us were two American couples who had recently moved to Cuenca

Lunch at El Jardín. At the table next to us were two American couples who had recently moved to Cuenca and made a pitch to us to do the same

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City Hall at night

City Hall at night

We spent one entire day with Javier exploring the countryside around Cuenca.

Hat, check; water, check; camera, check!

Hat, check; water, check; camera, check!

Ecuador's mountains and valleys make for some beautiful landscapes

Ecuador’s mountains and valleys make for some beautiful landscapes

San Bartolome is a little village known for its guitar makers

San Bartolome is a little village of guitar makers

All made by hand

All made by hand

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Chordeleg is a small town known for its jewelry making

Chordeleg is a small town known for its jewelry making

Lorette doing her best to support the local economy

Lorette doing her best to support the local economy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This market in Gualaceo had some interesting food options.

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Unfortunately (or fortunately), we skipped the market and had lunch at a nice country inn just outside of town.

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A couple more people photos.

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After lunch we had a fascinating tour of Ecuagenera, a company specializing in the propagation and growing of orchids which are shipped worldwide.

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One of the owners took time to walk us through the operation

One of the owners took time to walk us through the operation

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Next stop was La Casa de la Makana, an artisan weaving workshop.

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Lorette found her happy place

Lorette found her happy place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in town, we visited the Museum of the Central Bank Pumapungo which had excellent displays of Ecuador’s diverse indigenous cultures.

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One of the more interesting exhibits was the eerie tzantzas (shrunken heads) from the Shuar culture of the southern Oriente!

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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.

When the conversion took place, the exchange rate was 25,000 Sucres to 1 US Dollar

When the conversion took place, the exchange rate was 25,000 Sucres to 1 US Dollar

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.

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Finally, here are some architectural photos taken from the top of the hop on/ hop off bus our last day in Cuenca.

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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.

Decisions, decisions!

Decisions, decisions!

Great sushi!

Great sushi!

 

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