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A Brief Look at Cuenca



Although there are many interesting places in Ecuador, Cuenca -- whose full name is actually Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca -- has a unique appeal that sets it apart from the rest. Travelers to Cuenca must make it a point to experience the ancient world through colonial parks, old-world cathedrals, and cobblestone streets. The third largest city in the country and the capital of Azuay Province, Cuenca forms the economic backbone of southern Sierra. Its special features have earned it a place among the World Heritage sites recognized by UNESCO.

The city traces its history beyond the Inca and Spanish eras. It is believed that the city was established around 500 AD as a Cañari settlement that was known as "Guapondeleg," which translates as "land as big as heaven." When the Incas conquered the area, they replaced the Cañari architecture, but they did not interfere with the progress that had been made in agriculture and astronomy.

Tupac Yupanqui, the Inca commander, ordered that a great city be established here, which was known as "Pumapungo" or "the door of the Puma." The city was later turned into ruins and what stands in its place is what the Spanish established in 1557. Nowadays, it is the city’s ancient structures that have been preserved that make it such a popular tourist destination.

Cuenca is a great choice for those looking to get away from the hectic lifestyle of modern cities. The city offers a tranquil environment and the locals are relatively conservative. The blend of tradition and culture has resulted in a unique indigenous form of crafts and art.

The Rio Tomebamba divides Cuenca in two almost equal parts. The northern section of the city is primarily composed of historic sights, but the Rio Tomebamba itself is quite an interesting site. You will see many washwomen and the clothes they have laid out to dry along the riverside. Close by are many colonial buildings that will give you a touch of history. A visit to the ruins of Ingapirca will transport you back to the Inca Empire. This is the best archaeological site in the whole country.

Another interesting site is the Parque Nacional Cajas, which is about 30 kilometers away from the city. The park has beautiful lakes that have made it popular with tourists looking to get closer to nature and relaxing.



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