Departing from Cuenca with your friendly guide, relax on the scenic drive to the two small villages of Gualaceo and Chordeleg, plus a short trip to Bulcay. These bucolic towns are well known for their traditionally made handicrafts, such as the macanas (shawls) that women have woven from alpaca wool for centuries.
Heading east along winding roads for about 20 miles (32 km), you’ll pass terraced fields of wheat and maize before arriving in Gualaceo, situated along the banks of the Santa Barbara River. In the quiet central square that includes a main church, admire the vivid, bright colors of the clothing worn by the local women.
Stroll down the streets or visit the market, where the locals sell folkloric handicrafts and textiles, such as the characteristic white straw hats, as well as blouses, skirts and linens hand-embroidered with magenta, orange and yellow thread. Learn from your guide about the significance of the pre-Columbian patterns and designs such as birds and flowers.
Next, head to nearby Chordeleg, famous for the jewelry shops that line the streets and large plaza. Walk through the clean, tranquil town with your guide and admire the intricate silver and gold filigree sold at great prices. At a local restaurant with your group, enjoy a typical lunch such as a plate of chicken, rice, beans and plantains with salad.
From here, take a side trip to the artisan village of Bulcay and visit the home studio of women who weave in the ikat tradition. Learn how they create this ancestral art, using handlooms passed down through generations to weave designs from cotton or alpaca wool.
On your return to Cuenca, stop at the CIDAP Museum (Centro Interamericano de Artesanías y Artes Populares, or Inter-American Center of Popular Arts) to view an intriguing exhibit of textiles as well as ceramics and other crafts, before drop-off at your hotel.