Cuenca, Ecuador

Ecuador has three main cities: Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca. The latter, Cuenca, is considered to be the most beautiful because of its historical architecture. It is also said to be the cleanest and safest of the three. All of this combined with Ecuador’s use of the US Dollar and overall low cost of living for foreigners makes Cuenca a retirement hub for expats.

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Festive art in Cuenca, Ecuador

I was excited to visit Cuenca because it has many museums, a favorite past-time of mine when traveling. While along the coast of Ecuador I met backpackers who said they found Cuenca to be boring. Still, I kept hope alive, eager to explore Cuenca for myself.

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Prohibido Centro Cultural is as the name states. The museum-cafe/bar displays a lot of work that may be considered prohibited/taboo by mainstream culture. I was able to deal with the gory and satanic-esque pieces, but actually left a bit disturbed by the extent to which I perceived only women’s bodies to be objectified.

In the end…yes, I found Cuenca a bit boring. To be fair, I spent an entire 6 days there when 3 would have been sufficient. It turned out that many museums were tiny and focused on artifacts, while I prefer art museums. I visited Cuenca‘s Museum of Modern Art and really loved the pieces I saw there. Cuenca‘s Pumapungo Museum impressively triples as a Central Bank museum and an archaeological site. The size of the grounds and its interesting exhibits is enough to reign in the museum as a strongly recommended visit if in Cuenca.

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Entrance to Museo Pumapungo
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A multi-lingual welcome to Museo Pumapungo
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Llamas on the Museo Pumapungo grounds
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Looking over Cuenca from Museo Pumapungo

It’s fun to note that Cuenca was the first time in all of my past traveling that I have ever taken a double-decker tour bus! As much as they can be criticized, I found it fun and it includes a drive to the Turi viewpoint up above the city.

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Double-Decker Cuenca City Tour Bus

Outside of this I spent my days walking around the city, looking for food, and relaxing in my AirBnB. My hosts were awesome and it actually ended up feeling like a homestay because the mother and daughter would offer me extra meals, invite me to watch television on a nightly basis, and even took me to a local night festival that I had no idea was taking place.

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A view of Cuenca from Turi

Final note: 

Cuenca is a tranquil city fit for a short visit.

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