South Expeditions

A La Carte

Individual and easy-to-combine activities in and around this UNESCO World Heritage Site



Cuenca - Ecuador

Cuenca was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO for its charming historical center, old-world cathedrals, the small cobblestoned streets and colonial houses with noble facades, prim balustrades, wrought iron balconies and red tiled roofs. It is also the center of many craft traditions, where you can purchase buy unique souvenirs of high quality, such as "Panama Hats", leather jackets, ceramics, embroideries, gold jewelry and clothing. Aside from the gorgeous and picturesque city, Cuenca enjoys a mild climate year-round, making it perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who will be able to enjoy plenty of activities in and around Cuenca, which in turn, will enhance and complement the travelling experience. We, at South Expeditions, have made it easier than ever to tailor your stay in this wonderful Andean city. We provide a new way to discover Cuenca by offering individual and easy-to-combine options that will surely meet the most unique interests.

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Description

ROUTE

1

Cooking Classes

To know a culture, you have to start in the kitchen. In our cooking classes, locals impart their knowledge of Ecuadorian cuisine—a fusion of traditional ingredients, colonial Spain, and Andean fare. Cuenca’s privileged location—nestled high in the Andes but near the Pacific—offers a rare opportunity for culinary innovation. Begin by visiting the lively local market to pick up some fresh ingredients, which is an important part of the day for the people of Cuenca. Then, learn how to rustle up some exquisite Ecuadorian culinary creations with what you find.


What Is Included:


Time: 1.5 hours

ROUTE

2

Black Ceramics Shop and Classes

One of the most authentic experiences in Cuenca is a visit to the Encalada Family Ceramic Shop. The owner, Jose Encalada and his four sons, have spent their lives creating a diverse variety of traditional style pottery, based on a unique technique called the “Black Ceramic”. Considered the only black ceramic shop in Ecuador, numerous ceramic designs of varying shapes and sizes are exhibited throughout the shop. The entire process is as unique as it is intriguing, combining many delicate processes and culminating in the creation of a ceramic masterpiece. After watching the entire process, we will be invited to create our own piece of art with the unique black ceramic.


What Is Included:


Time: 1.5 hours

ROUTE

3

Cojitambo School Visit

The village of Cojitambo is located 25 km north of Cuenca at 9800 feet (3000 meters) above sea level, with a population of 3500 inhabitants. This beautiful little town, nestled in the foothills of Cojitambo Hill, is home to the elementary school, “Dr. Angel Enrique Montalvo”. In this small public school, there are approximately 70 - 80 students ranging from first to seventh grade, all educated by eight teachers. During the visit, we will exchange stories with local kids and faculty, related to the similarities and differences between the school systems. This is important feedback and helpful in improving the conditions of the school. We will conclude our visit with a fun activity such as a competition, a dance, or a quick soccer match.


What Is Included:


Time: 1 hour

ROUTE

4

Cuenca City Tour

Cuenca is a beautifully preserved colonial city nestled in the lush hillsides of the Andes. Although it is Ecuador’s third largest city, Cuenca exudes a predominantly small town feel, boasting a distinctive Spanish architectural style sprinkled with French influences. With a spring-like climate throughout the year, the city has swiftly become a desirable location to many. Steeped in rich Incan history, Cuenca is home to vestiges of Incan ruins and an Incan trail originating in Cusco and connecting the beautiful Ecuadorian coast with the famous Amazon Jungle. As the heart of Southern Ecuador, Cuenca is filled with warm, inviting natives, sporting traditional dress and Panama hats.


What Is Included:


Time: 3 hours

ROUTE

5

Rock Climbing Cojitambo

Breathtaking Cojitambo Mountain is one of—if not the—most famous climbing spots near Cuenca. With more than one hundred routes spanning this marvelous volcanic formation, it is a rock climber’s paradise. Cojitambo is one of the hidden gems of Ecuadorian tourism and an absolute must-do, even for complete climbing novices, as our expert will guide you. Cojitambo also offers spectacular views of Inca ruins and rolling valleys from the uppermost point. The top of the ruins provides remarkable views of the cities of Cuenca, Biblian, and Azogues.


What Is Included:


Time: Varied

ROUTE

6

Cojitambo Inca Ruins

Cojitambo Archaeological complex offers spectacular views of Inca ruins and rolling valleys from the uppermost point. It comes as no surprise that this strategically placed town was so significant to the Incas back in the day.


What Is Included:


Time: 2 hours

ROUTE

7

Horseback Riding - Bellavista Equestrian Center

Whether you are a horse-lover or simply enjoy an occasional ride, you will be welcomed at our equestrian center, located a mere twenty minutes from Cuenca. Our expert guide will find a horse to meet your expectations and level of expertise, and after you are equipped with all of the basics in the stables, you will embark on a journey overlooking the valley of Tarqui. Along the way, you can admire the local architecture, culture, and diverse ecosystem. Our horses are well trained and easy to ride. And, since safety is our top priority, you will be asked to wear helmets and follow the safety instructions from our local expert.


What Is Included: Distance: 3 Miles


Time: 2.5 hours

ROUTE

8

Mountain Biking

Cuenca’s location in the Andean valley provides great opportunities for cycling tours of the city and its surroundings. The geography of the Cuenca area, as well as its cultural and natural diversity, creates picturesque and interesting rides through scenic mountain paths. Pedal across fields of corn, fruits, and wheat, and next to ancient houses still bustling with the life of the friendly locals. Additionally, Cuenca’s architecture is even more unique and stunning from the seat of a bike, where you can go at your own pace and appreciate everything around you. A bike tour gives you a more familiar knowledge of the city, allowing you to become part of the city’s everyday life and culture by participating in its hustle and bustle.


What Is Included: Distance: Varied


Time: Varied

ROUTE

9

Hiking Cloud Forest - Cajas National Park Tushipungo

The pretty Tushipungo Valley sets the scene for this hike as you meander through cattle farms until your arrival at the spectacular ‘El Cajas National Park’, a stretch of protected land extending for 71,000 acres and home to an incredible 230 glacial lakes. The history behind the ‘U’ shape of the lake, the lowest elevation in El Cajas National Park, is due to prehistoric glacial activity. Here, you will traverse rolling paramo grasslands, along rippling brooks and lakes, and through fields of wild quinoa and rosemary. Be sure to pack your binoculars to capture the abundance of birds and mammals such as the Andean fox, whitetail deer, and spectacled bear, with trout plentiful in several of the moorland’s lakes. This location is perfect for excellent nature watching.


What Is Included: Distance: 1.2 Miles


Time: 1.5

ROUTE

10

Ingapirca Ruins

In relative close proximity to Cuenca are the Ingapirca Ruins, the largest known Inca ruins in all of Ecuador. Characterized by their carefully chiseled stones, which fit together perfectly, and have remained intact since the eighteenth century, the ruins represent the success of the Incas in uniting varying cultural groups under one authority. Cemeteries, observatories, roads, storage rooms, priest chambers, a plaza, and an underground water duct system have all been discovered at this site, but undoubtedly, the most impressive structure is the elliptical ‘Temple of the Sun’—a significant ceremonial and ritual spot for the Inca-Cañari, who worshipped the sun and moon. This temple is positioned perfectly so that on the solstices, the sun passes directly through the center of the doorway at the top of the temple.


What Is Included:


Time: 2 hours

ROUTE

11

Hiking Cloud Forest - Tolapaloma-Quebrada El Salado

This hike begins only ten miles from Cuenca and will transport you into an ancient forest and valleys formed by the Andes Cordillera, where you will find orchids, epiphytes, polilepys trees, and a wide variety of hummingbirds. Pause to appreciate the rolling hills and dramatic canyons that descend from this important forest. After six miles of moderate trekking, you can relax and treat your muscles to the volcanic hot springs that await you at the trail’s end.


What Is Included: Distance: 6 Miles


Time: 1.5 hours

Hotels

Hotel Casa de Aguila

Casa del Aguila is a restored traditional colonial house located in the historic center of Cuenca. Its name comes from the its street name "Calle del Aguila."

http://hotelcasadelaguila.com/

Hotel Santa Lucía

The house, was built in 1859 by the governor of the province, Don Manuel Vega Dávila. In 1999, a thorough restoration and adaptation transformed it into Hotel Santa Lucía. During the process it preserved and rescued the architecture of this beautiful house as an example of traditional XIX century buildings.

https://www.santaluciahotel.com/

Boutique Hotel Mansión Alcazar

Mansión Alcázar is located in the heart of the city of Cuenca. It was once a colonial mansion but has now been transformed into a luxurious Boutique Hotel. The interior decoration evokes the style of the beginning of the century, with careful selection of fine furniture and objets d’art that embellished in earlier times, the most luxurious rooms in one of the most beautiful cities in Ecuador.

http://mansionalcazar.com/

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