A gentle, clean and polite city, Cuenca has all the colonial charm and history of Quito at a less frenetic pace. The true home of the Panama hat, Cuenca has many more surprises in store, from the European-style riverfront and an underground nightlife. Just outside of the town favoured by artists and writers the natural beauties of the region beckon, including the vast El Cajas National Park and hot springs.

What to do in Cuenca

  • Visit the hat museum and buy a hand-crafted sombrero that will last you for years
  • Wander around Parque Calderón, the hub of the city where the lovely domed cathedral is located
  • Stroll along Calle Larga, where museums and charming old town houses sit side by side with trendy bars and restaurants
  • Discover incredible Inca ruins at the Parque Arqueológico
  • Hike El Cajas National Park past shimmering lakes, through enchanted forests, and up rocky hilltops

Eating and drinking

Hearty soups and pork dishes are the staples here, while the city centre has many an international option and the odd fancy restaurant or two.