Thursday, January 21, 2016

10 Places to Take Your Family & Friends when They Visit Cuenca Ecuador

Note:  This is a blog post that I am publishing with permission from the original blogger, Frank and Angie of Discover Cuenca Ecuador (  I am re-posting with some edits.

Having family or friends come visit you in Cuenca and you're not sure what to do for the duration of their visit?  The dilemma of wondering what to do all day, besides the usual stuff like eating out and shopping, can be uncertain.  What else can you do with your family and friends while they visit you in Ecuador?  Here’s 10 days worth of neat places to see in and around Cuenca.  Hope you like being in nature and walking.

Cajas National Park (Parque Nacional Cajas)     Breathtaking views, walking trails and lakes abound in the Cajas National Park:  You can hike as far up as you like.  Bring a jacket and a winter hat because it’s much cooler than in Cuenca.  Expect physical exertion to the “difficult” level if hiking; remember the elevation is part of that.  Later after enjoying this nature-filled day if you didn’t pack a picnic lunch, there are several restaurants you can choose from at the bottom of the mountain.  (My recommendation is Hosteria Dos Chorreras:  Getting there: Take the autopista off of Avenida de Las America, drive about 10 to 15 miles and you’ll see the signs.

Cuenca Amaru Zoo (Zoológico Amaru)    We were pleasantly surprised with the Cuenca zoo (  They have a variety of animals that are enclosed within beautiful areas (nothing artificial) alongside a hill; be prepared to walk at a slight incline throughout the park to view the animals.  It’s a very enjoyable walk with a hiking trail-like setting.  It takes at least a couple of hours to walk through if you are walking at a leisurely pace. 
Getting there:  It’s located on the southeast side of Cuenca, off the Pan-American Highway. The best way to get to this zoo is to hire a cab.  Just tell him you want to go to the Cuenca Amaru zoo.  If the driver is not sure where it is, just get a different cab.

Pumapungo Ruins and Botanical Gardens    Really pretty nature areas for enjoying peace and quiet, walking trails, duck pond, beautiful flower gardens and a bird sanctuary in a park-like setting.  Enjoy the free roaming llamas in this park. Clean restrooms are available. Plus there's a small outdoor cafe, serving Belgian waffles adjacent to the bird aviary!
Getting there:  There are two entrances:  one off of 12 de Abril and the other entrance is off of Hauyna Capac. You can also walk along Calle Larga going south to Huayna Capac and you’ll run right into the museum.  Walk behind the museum on the right side and you will run into the botanical gardens, ruins and bird sanctuary.

Paradise Park (Parque Paraiso)     Cuenca’s biggest park has a duck pond with paddle boats you can rent. There are also walking trails through the woods and along the river.  The Tomebamba and Yanuncay rivers come together at this park. 
Getting there: If walking, keep following the Tomebamba River going east and you will run into the park eventually.  It’s located between Avenida Pumapungo and Avenida 24 de Mayo off of Avenida del Paraiso.  You can also take Avenida 10 de Agosto going east; just keep walking until you reach the park.

Yanuncay River Walk (Rio Yanuncay)    To walk most of this river walk, start out on Avenida Primero de Mayo and Avenida de las Americas.  When you get to Tres Puentes (three bridges), Primero de Mayo turns into 27 de Febrero.  Continue walking and you’ll end up at Parque Paraiso.

Tomebamba River Walk (Rio Tomebamba)    To walk most of this river walk, start out on 3 de Noviembre and Las Americas.  Nice walk, which takes you to El Centro, and to Parque Paraiso and beyond.

El Chorro Falls, Giron    The falls are about 45 minutes from Cuenca.  Be warned, there's only one restaurant at the base of the mountain, so you might want to pack a lunch.  Nice walking trails up to the falls. 
Getting there:  If you don’t have a car, the frugal way is to take the bus from Cuenca (Terminal Terrestre) that goes to Santa Isabel; or you can also catch this bus going south along Las Americas.  Look for the sign that says "Santa Isabel". The bus costs $1 per person. You will not be going all the way to Santa Isabel but you’ll be getting off in Giron.  Then hail a taxi in Giron and have him take you up the rest of the way to El Chorro Falls for $4 to $5.

Downtown (El Centro)     For the first time visitor, the old town district with all of the Victorian architecture can be amazing!  You'll find lots of little shops and stores, cafes and restaurants in old town. 
Getting there: Any taxi knows where “El Centro” is located.  Or if walking, find the Tomebamba River and walk along the path of the river and when you get to the Universidad de Cuenca or Parque de la Madre, go up the steps and you're in El Centro.  (While in El Centro, be sure to see Parque Calderon.)

Park Calderon (Parque Abdón Calderón)    If you are in El Centro, Parque Calderon makes a great place to sit and relax after walking around in El Centro.  You can sit here and people watch and figure out what you’re going to do next.  Many restaurants line the outskirts of the park; i.e., Raymipampa, Tutto Freddo.) 
Getting there:  Park Calderon is located off of Luis Cordero and Mariscal Sucre.

Hot Springs in Banos (Piedra de Agua Pools and Spas)    Natural mineral baths, massages and clay facials can be found at the spas, along with a restaurant. 
Getting there:  
By Taxi:  You can take a taxi from anywhere in the city and give the name of Piedra de Agua in Banos. Most taxis know the place.  For reference you can tell the driver to take you near the entrance to Hosteria Agapantos.  The approximate cost is $ 5. 

By Bus:  You can take lines 100 or 12.  Get off at Hostería Agapantos and follow the signs to Piedra de Agua.

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