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Cuenca - what to do in 4 days?

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London, United...
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Cuenca - what to do in 4 days?

We're about to embark on a 16 day trip around Ecuador - with 4 days in Cuenca. Our time is limited so we want to ensure that we do the best bits. Any help would be much appreciated as I'm getting differing opinions on what to do from the guidebooks and the Trip Advisor general rankings. There appears to be quite a bit to do in Cuenca, but apart from the Inca ruins, hat buying and maybe Banos, I've found little that's strongly recommended.

We are also going into the Amazon for 4 days, as well as doing Quito, and Puerto Lopez on the coast.

We are a couple - late 20s from London - very limited Spanish. Interested in culture, good food, wildlife and moderate walking (not serious hiking / camping stuff). We like getting off the beaten track a bit and experiencing the local life - and dislike obvious tacky tourist traps. Budget is fairly solvent at the moment so we can afford to hire a driver if that's the best option for any day.

Our timetable is as follows:

Friday - arrive on plane from Quito, do Cuenca town centre

Saturday - trip to Ingaprica?

Sunday - ?? More Cuenca?

Monday - Banos?

Tuesday - leave early flight

I'm not sure what else we should definitely be doing? And is there a 'better' day to do Banos or Ingaprica? Would each take the whole day? Is there any particularly recommended trekking nearby?

Many thanks for any help :)

Lottie

pacific northwest
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1. Re: Cuenca - what to do in 4 days?

For trekking, the Cajas National Park is a great option. It's a unique environment in Ecuador, at 13,000" requiring some fitness. The hiking isn't too difficult, though. It's only 40-60 minutes from Cuenca, so very doable. We got to Cajas on a local bus and hiked on our own, but you can also hire a driver and guide. Highly worthwhile in my opinion.

One day just exploring Cuenca is fun. The riverwalk is beautiful, and from there you can access several charming streets in the colonial area.

Pumaponga Museum is good if you like museums. It has wonderful diaramas and displays on different ethnic groups, among other things.

For a city market, the Feria Libre is quite good. I think it's on Saturday, a short cab ride and we spent an interesting morning there.

If you like music check out the Cuenca Jazz Society, music upstairs at La Vina Restaurant Wed-Sat. An interesting little music community.

Miami Beach, Florida
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2. Re: Cuenca - what to do in 4 days?

We are also also spending about 4 days in Cuenca in November. Plan is as follows

Friday: arrive in cuenca, walk around, take pix, catch a concert @ Catedral Antigua?)

Saturday: 9am bus to Ingapirca, return on 1pm bus( Saturdays limited bus schedule) evening in cuenca.

Sunday: see the towns of Gualaceo (want to buy a gorgeous woven scarf!) and Sígsig (get a sweet hat!)

Monday: hike in Cajas park. (Hopefully see a llama. Probably do the hike by ourselves)

My Moon guide says Sunday is a good day to head to markets in Gualaceo ect bc Cuenca "closes down".

Have an awesome time and post a review!

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3. Re: Cuenca - what to do in 4 days?

Thank you both!

I will definitely try Cajas and we hadn't heard about either Gualaceo or Sigsig, so we will investigate both of those :)

London, United...
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4. Re: Cuenca - what to do in 4 days?

Thank you both!

I will definitely try Cajas and we hadn't heard about either Gualaceo or Sigsig, so we will investigate both of those :)

Tucson, Arizona
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for Quito, Ecuador
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5. Re: Cuenca - what to do in 4 days?

Cajas is definitely worth spending some time in. I went with a guide because I wanted to learn about its ecology and do some birding. After living in Quito, it was wonderful seeing "real" (native) trees instead of the ubiquitous, non-native eucalyptus, as well as some of the hundreds of jewel-like lakes dotting the park.

Gualaceo is known for its weavers who produce lovely macanas (the local shawls) on backstrap looms. I visited the workshop of Blanca Rodas who specializes in ikat weaving. If you're a textile aficionado like me, you'll swoon over her offerings. She will even let you try your hand on a backstrap loom. Oh, her work is absolutely luscious.

Near Gualaceo are some orchid farms that you can tour and see orchids that they are hybridizing, and at all stages of their growth. Ecuador has some 700 indigenous species of orchid to play around with.

Another highly-recommended museum is the Cuencan outpost of Museo del Banco Central, the parent of which is in Quito.

Leave time to sit in the plaza and just be, savoring an ice cream from Tutto Freddo nearby.

Cuenca, Ecuador
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6. Re: Cuenca - what to do in 4 days?

Here's a link to one of the Orchid places in Gualaceo:

www.ecuagenera.com/epages/whitelabel4.sf/…

I'd recommend you check out the archeological museum as well, its just along Calle Larga from the Central Bank Museum:

tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g294309-…

If you like coffee you should try this place:

tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g294309-…

Hope that's helpful

London, United...
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7. Re: Cuenca - what to do in 4 days?

Thank you all!

Much appreciated :)

If anyone needs any visitor info for London, let me know, maybe I can return the favour :)

London
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8. Re: Cuenca - what to do in 4 days?

Another vote for Cajas NP we loved our day out there and so easily done by bus. Upon reflection, we wish we had spent a couple of days there as we felt we only scratched the surface.

Some photos of Cajas and Cuenca on or blog entries no. 10-11

…travelpod.com/travel-blog/…tpod.html

If possible, I would stay a night in Banos as there is a lot to do there. Hot springs, downhill bike rides ...

London, United...
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9. Re: Cuenca - what to do in 4 days?

Thank you all.

Plan is now I think:

Friday - Old Cuenca and museums

Saturday -Caja NP

Sunday - Ingapirca

Monday - maybe a craft trip and Banos (the little Banos by Cuenca, not the main one in the centre of the mountains!)

Cuenca, Ecuador
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10. Re: Cuenca - what to do in 4 days?

I am afraid I cannot agree with the game plan. The problem with Cuenca is that there is too much to do..rather than not enough..with the exception of Sunday's which are pretty dead. It is the type of rare place where you can go out for a quick morning coffee and not return until midnight, totally beguiled.

Cuenca is the Athens of the Andes. Three days is not enough to scratch the surface. But the best itinerary is easy enough. Find a place to stay in or near El Centro (the Old City). Then walk where ever your whims take you. You will find boutiques and crafts and arts and flowers and markets and dancing and music. And it is impossible to find a place with less than great food. You will never be able to see the same thing twice in only 3 days.

But on Sunday..not that much happens. However, there is a great Sunday market in the morning and into the afternoon in Paute, which is a lovely drive from Cuenca if you have a car or make on inexpensive arrangement for a car and (English speaking if you prefer) driver.

Trying to get go to everything worth seeing near Cuenca in the time you have won't work out well. Turst me.