Cuenca Architecture and Geography
Santa Anade los Cuatro Ríos de Cuenca, or more commonly known simply as Cuenca, sits at just over 2500 meters (8300 feet) and is possibly Ecuador’s most beautiful colonial city, but then I’m biased. Cuatro Rios means 4 rivers in Spanish and they bring life to the city in many ways. Cuenca architecture shares features with Quito, such as its narrow cobble stone streets, colonial houses with interior courtyards and no less then 52 churches, but without the overwhelming crowds of people, traffic and pollution. The city buses are loud and they spew annoying diesel fumes, but new buses are scheduled to go into service in June of 2012.
Cuenca Ecuador Declared #1 Retirement Destination in the World
Cuenca has had much written about it in recent years especially since being declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1999. As you walk around the city and view the classic architecture. the reasons for the designation are everywhere. To add to Cuenca’s global reputation, it was designated the #1 retirement destination in the world in 2009 and again in 2012.
Despite these accolades, many people think of what they will miss and have to do without when living in Cuenca a third world country such as Ecuador. While this may be true in certain parts of Ecuador, it couldn’t be further from the truth and is why we chose to live in Cuenca after looking at Quito, Guayaquil, Cotacachi, Otavalo, Manta, Salinas, Loja and Vilcabamba. While each of the preceding areas has their own unique identity, Cuenca just worked for us on a number of levels which made it an obvious choice.
We aren’t big city people nor did we want to rough it in the country. Having easy access to goods and services was important to us and on our first visit in 2007 we were initially struck by how clean the city was. We checked out the markets, post office, banks, hardware stores, a hospital and a couple of malls to get a sense of what it would be like to live here. We also spoke to expats about what their experience was like. Needless to say, it passed with flying colors.
Shopping Cuenca Ecuador
When it comes to shopping in Cuenca, there are 3 Super-Maxi supermarkets which rival any we’ve seen back in the US. The produce aisles are filled with local fruits and vegetables which are thousands of miles fresher.
There are 3 Coral Centro stores as well which are both supermarkets and a combination of Home Depot and Wal-Mart. One of the things we appreciate about Ecuador is that it is a country where people make things. So in addition to the large retail businesses, there are lots of locally owned shops.
Each area of Ecuador seems to specialize in a particular craft. In Cotacachi it’s leather goods. Otavalo is known for it’s amazing textiles andCuenca’s specialty is furniture and carpentry. That is not to say that other trades are not practiced here. I had a pair of custom boots made by a family that has been doing leatherwork for 3 generations. The boots are as good as a pair I had made in Europe years ago which were 12 times as expensive.
For the gourmands, there are some spectacular restaurants featuring world class dishes. You will find reviews and recommendations in our Things to Do section.
Ecuadorians are a festive people and any excuse for a party or parade gets people out in droves especially during Christmas.
Climate in Cuenca Ecuador
Many people ask us about the climate in Cuenca Ecuador. After living almost a year in Panama and suffering with the heat and humidity, the spring like conditions here in Cuenca were a welcome relief. Normally it rarely gets below 50 F at night and during the day temps in the mid 70’s are typical. What’s surprising is that 65 F feels quite warm. An 80 degree day here is really hot. Unfortunately for the past few months we’ve been getting record rainfall so it’s been cloudy and wet which gets old after a while. Fortunately that trend has changed and as I write this it’s sunny with blue skies and has been for the past few weeks with only intermittent rain showers.
If being in the country appeals to you there are several places not too far away that offer slightly warmer climates as they are lower than Cuenca. For example, we bought land in Paute which is about 30-35 minutes from downtown and for us is a great weekend getaway yet a number of expats live there full time. The same is true for Yunguilla which is about 45-50 minutes south of Cuenca. It’s a bit remote for us. but again a number of expats have taken up residence there and is where many Cuencanos have weekend homes.
You don’t have to travel that far to feel like you’re in the country. Our primary residence is only 10 minutes from El Centro, but feels like we are quite removed from city life. We are right on the Tomebamba River and enjoy the sounds of the rushing water while surrounded by mature trees. Muy tranquilo!
San Joachin Just Outside of Cuenca Ecuador
The area just outside Cuenca is called San Joachin and is characterized by large estate homes, farms with cultivated green pastures, horses and cows grazing with the Andes rising in the background.
Cuenca is Very Diverse and oOfers a Variety of Lifestyle Choices.
If you’d like to come see for yourself we offer group and individual tours which make the best use of your time and minimize the hassle. We’d be happy to show you around our adopted home.