Three days in Cuenca give you time to soak up the culinary and cultural highlights of the UNESCO-listed historic center, and explore El Cajas National Park and beyond. Here’s how to make the most of three days in one of Ecuador’s most laid-back and livable cities.
Day 1: Discover Cuenca’s Colonial Charms
Get your bearings in Cuenca on a hop-on hop-off bus tour, most of which depart from Parque Calderón and allow you to create your own itinerary. Disembark at the Old and New Cathedrals, and the Cuenca museums that most interest you—the Panama Hat Museum is an essential destination for fashion and history buffs while food lovers won’t want to miss the city’s many excellent chocolate shops.
Alternatively, take a more structured tour of Cuenca; shared, private, walking, biking, and colonial-themed options are available. In the evening, enjoy dinner and a show in the historic center—the Cuenca Symphony Orchestra often perform in the Old Cathedral.
Day 2: Take a Cultural Day Trip
On your second day in Cuenca, take a day trip to the surrounding towns and villages. Combine a visit to the Ingapirca archaeological ruins with a thrilling ride on the Devil’s Nose Train, or if you’d prefer to do some souvenir shopping, head to the artisanal towns of Gualaceo, Chordeleg, and San Bartolomé. Some full-day excursions combine stops at these crafty villages with a visit to Ingapirca for a more general interest full-day excursion.
You can also go souvenir shopping in Cuenca in the company of a guide, ideal for those who find marketplaces overwhelming. Shopping tours tend to explore the Mercado 10 de Agosto while some also include a cooking class.
Day 3: Get Back to Nature in El Cajas National Park
After two days of strolling and shopping, up the ante on your final day with a full-day trip to El Cajas National Park, which typically include convenient round-trip transportation. Excursions are typically accessible for all ability levels, meaning that your entire party can enjoy the sweeping panoramas, opportunity to see llamas in their natural habitat, and endemic flora of El Cajas National Park.
However, more advanced hikers can opt for specialized tours which incorporate hikes through impressive cloud forests. Similarly, tailored bird spotting excursions will be of special interest to twitchers, who can both benefit from the insight of a local guide as well as look for El Cajas National Park’s many endemic bird species at their own pace.