In this section, we highlight just a few of the many things there are to do near Cuenca. You will find helpful information at the iTur (tourist) office at the south end of Parque Calderón.
You will find city maps, plus the “Cuenca Bus System Atlas” in the office area.
Free. The exhibits are quite impressive and the shrunken heads a must see. The ground floor is an art museum, featuring modern art, religious paintings, and portraits, as well as some folk art. Upstairs you will find fascinating exhibits explaining Ecuador’s indigenous history and culture. There is a unique display of shrunken heads from the Shuar culture of the Amazon northwestern rain forests. At the bottom of the building is a money museum, with coins and currency dating back to the mid-17th century.
Periodically the museum hosts symphony concerts and ballets in the Banco Central Auditorium. Admission is usually free.
Corner of Calle Larga and Huayna Cápac.
Free. Located right behind the Museo del Banco Central, a well-maintained park with beautifully landscaped gardens. Pumapungo archeological park contains the ruins of what is believed to be an Incan palace or administrative center. As you stroll through the ruins, you will see underground tunnels, irrigation canals, and various other structures depicting life of the ancient Incan culture.
The park is home to hundreds of plants believed to be important to the Incan and Cañari cultures. There is a native Ecuadorian bird sanctuary, which has a variety of some utterly amazing birds. You will even find some llamas grazing in the park.
Corner of Calle Larga and Huayna Cápac, behind museum.
Free. This extraordinary historical museum, named after an Ecuadorian poet, is a must see. The museum is the beautiful home of the famous poet, which has been converted to a museum. Aside from being an impressive museum, the house itself is magnificent.
The museum describes the history of Cuenca, including its foundation and independence. The museum features gold pieces, ceramics, colonial paintings, and religious artworks. They museum has several floors, as well as a nice restaurant, with lovely views of the river below.
Calle Larga 7- 07 y Borrero.
$1 This very unusual museum opens at midday, and on certain nights, it is a nightclub as well as a museum. This museum is not one for the prudish or easily offended. As the name implies, it is filled with culturally taboo paintings, sculptures, and other objects. These include skulls, coffin, guillotine, satanic art sculptures, angels in bondage, sex objects, etc. There is even a crucifix of a Jesus with an erection, and a fountain with a woman urinating.
If you are looking for something different, this is quite interesting, assuming you are comfortable with this sort of thing.
Calle La Condamine 12-102. East end of Santos Street, between Calle Larga and the river.
$2. Fascinating collection of historical medical and surgery equipment and tools, some dating as far back as 100 years or more.
On the first floor through you will find some vintage dental equipment – including old teeth. The second floor hosts everything from old x-rays to this old birthing chair where women had their legs strapped in.
You can see the old computers that the doctors used many years ago. There are a few creepy things, like a three-year old boy preserved like a mummy. The museum will truly give you an appreciation for being born in modern times.
Ave. 12 de Abril, between Hospital Militar and Edificio San Vicente de Paul.
Free (donation). A modern art museum in a nice building, with several beautiful patios, with incredibly good rotating mix of exhibits. You will find more traditional styled art mixed with multi-media presentations in film, etc. Housed in a historic building that has served a number of purposes over the years, including being a recovery center for alcoholics and a prison.
Mariscal Sucre 15-27, San Sebastián Square.
$4. Although small, many consider it one of Ecuador’s best archeology museums, with abundance of artefacts dating back thousands of years. Remarkably interesting items including early tools, jewelry, musical instruments, and religious artifacts. A pleasant way to spend a couple of hours getting acquainted with early culture of the area.
Calle Larga 5-24, between Hermano Miguel y Mariano Cueva.
Local ceramic art gallery. Not to be missed by lovers of ceramic pottery. The studio is located atop El Turi Hill, so you get a spectacular view of the city as you browse through the ceramic designs.
Via Turi 201, 50m before Turi Church. 5- or 10-minute taxi ride from el Centro.
These are the largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador. Much of the site is little more than stone foundations, and it takes imagination and a guided tour to bring it to life. The famous rounded Temple of the Sun is well preserved, however. It forms an impressive centerpiece to the complex.
A $1.75 (2.5 hour) bus ride from the Bus Terminal (Terminal Terrestre). Upon arrival, you may hire an English-speaking guide for about $10.00. Be sure to have 10 cents (a dime) ready as you will need it to get through the turn-style to board the bus the Bus Terminal (Terminal Terrestre).
Cuenca’s newest “mega-park”, located on Avenida 12 de Octubre, is modern and beautiful. This poplar park features a tall observation tower with panoramic views of the city. There are lots of fun things for kids, including tall slides and fountain to spray them with water. There are buildings to house shops and food vendors. On the weekend, you will find many local families here with their children, as well as the family dog.
This is the central square in the historic city center. There are frequent festivals and entertainment here. You will see many local families here with their children, especially on Sunday.
This park is almost just across the river from the condominium. It features a variety of wooden sculptures, a running track, and playground equipment. There is even a planetarium. In the evening, you can join the group dancing exercises to the music. There are frequent concerts and other events in this park.
This is an exceptionally large and beautiful park with a playground, a running track, and a little lake. It is also across the Tomebamba River and a bit downstream. This is a great place to spend a Sunday just strolling around or having a picnic.
The new 52-acre botanical garden is located between the Yanuncay and Tarqui rivers, from 3 Puentes to near the Gapal bridge. Construction began in 2018. The garden has 8,000 species of plants from bushes and shrubs to forests, moors, and wetland. A 1000-meter walkway will take visitors through vegetation typical of various parts of Ecuador.
The town of Gualaceo makes a great day trip, and the water park is fun for the kids.
The Zoo (also an animal rescue and rehabilitation place) is a very entertaining place with a huge array of animals from across Ecuador, South America, and the Americas. They also have rescued lions, pheasants, and a crocodile.
The Zoo is located on the side of a hill so it is like a trip to the zoo and a hike all in one. The view from the zoo looking down on the city is amazing. You will walk about a little more than a mile around the zoo, the path winding and twisting, as you see animals in their natural habitat.
A beautiful spot just outside of Cuenca to the southwest. There are thermal baths ($6) available at a hotel complex which includes a few hot pools at 36C (96.8F) and Turkish baths. Many people come here to relax in hot saunas, swim in the hot or cold waters of the pools and relax with family and friends.
The most recent addition to the thermal resorts is the beautiful Piedra de Agua ($12 - 35, including 2 for 1 on certain days for the $35 package). You can spend an entire day relaxing and being pampered in a full-service spa. This is the most expensive and luxurious spa in Baños. Other thermal pools in Baños only cost a few dollars.
Only 40 min away from downtown by public bus Linea 12, which stops about a block away from Terminal Terrestre on Calle Vieja as well as numerous streets throughout the city. Get off at stop Hostería Durán. It is also inexpensive to get there by taxi.
The Cuenca city panoramic bus tour is an excellent way to see the city. It leaves from Parque Calderón in front of the Old Cathedral and passes by over 20 major city sights, before swinging back around to let passengers off at the starting point.
The entire tour takes about two hours. Tours run frequently throughout the day, seven days a week, although less frequently on Sunday. The tour costs only $5 per person.
Please be careful and duck when you hear your guide whistle as the sound warns of low hanging wires ahead!
They offer two tours with different routes. One in a yellow bus, and the other in a red bus.