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Cuenca Ecuador

Cuenca Ecuador, Cathedral churchThe Spanish founded the pretty colonial city of Cuenca in 1557. The capital of Azuay Province is located in a valley of the Andes Mountains, about 2583 m (about 8468 ft) above sea level. Despite being Ecuador’s third largest city,  it is quaint and colonial, its narrow cobblestone streets and white washed red-tiled buildings, handsome plazas and domed churches, and its setting above the grassy banks of the Rio Tomebamba, where women still wash and dry clothes in the sun, all add up to a city that's definitely one of Ecuador's highlights. It has recently been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cuenca has a strong intellectual tradition, boasting three major universities and several smaller ones. With its large student population and popularity with foreigners, the city also has a modem edge, with international restaurants, art galleries, cool cafes and welcoming bars all tucked into its colonial architecture. Cuenca's location in one of the country's most traditional regions also bestows the city with a very strong indigenous presence.

Cuenca is an important crafts outlet and stands at the center of the panama hat trade, so the shopping is excellent. It's also a good base for visiting nearby Parque Nacional Cajas, local hot springs, villages and markets, and the Inca ruins of Ingapirca. Try not to miss the place, and allow yourself at least a couple days for some leisurely exploration.

Cajas National Park

A place where the waters reveal of the rivers, streams and lagoons, they seem to unite, to create a temple of the nature. Located 29 km west of Cuenca, many people visit the park on the weekends for its trout fishing, rugged hiking, and camping. There are camping sites, footpaths and basic tourist infrastructure.

Ingapirca ruins

Ingapirca ruins, EcuadorThe Ruins of Ingapirca are about one hour and 45 minutes away from Cuenca, Ingapirca was both a religious and administrative center, as well as a fortress. The ruins comprise strategic observation points, cemeteries, roads, storage rooms, priests' chambers and a plaza. The most impressive part of the site is the oval-shaped Temple of the Sun, which acted as an important ceremonial and ritual centre for the Cañari-Inca. There is also a small museum with information about the site. continues...

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