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Cuenca, Ecuador: A Luxury Stay in an Idyllic Setting

Leaving behind the hustle and bustle of Quito, we headed to Ecuador’s third-largest city, Cuenca.  Despite a population of half a million, Cuenca still manages to feel like a small town.  We splurged on a luxurious place to stay, choosing the amazing hotel Mansion Alcazar.

Interior Courtyard of the Mansion Alcazar
Interior Courtyard of the Mansion Alcazar

Matthew Relaxing in Mansion Alcazar
Matthew Relaxing at Mansion Alcazar
Robe and Rose Petals
Robe and Rose Petals
More Inside Mansion Alcazar
More Inside Mansion Alcazar

The garden out back was immaculate.  Here’s a hummingbird well hidden in plain sight.  Look along the branch until you find him:

Well-Hidden Hummingbird
Well-Hidden Hummingbird

We happened to be in Cuenca during the festival of Corpus Christi, a seven-day celebration with fireworks, nightly gatherings in the main square, and row after row of stands selling traditional sweets for the occasion.  I thought it very odd that each of the stands seemed to sell exactly the same assortment of candies, cookies, and cakes.  Apparently, each maker of goods delivers their product to all the stands where they are sold for a commission.  Here is one of the streets temporarily lined with white-roofed stalls of virtually identical offerings.

Sweet stands at Corpus Christi
Sweet stands at Corpus Christi
More Confections at Corpus Christi Festival
More Confections at Corpus Christi Festival

We didn’t buy any of the offerings after noticing the fruitless efforts of merchants waving big fans to keep flies from alighting on their goods.  I also suspect that the same confections were in place for all of the seven days.  It was an interesting spectacle nonetheless.

The main square in Cuenca is the attractive Parque Calderón, with towering pines at the center surrounding a statue of the park’s namesake Abdón Calderón, a hero from the battle for independence from Spain.

Parque Calderón
Parque Calderón

Along the square we visited an ice cream shop more than once.  In this case, I’m planning our next direction.

Ken with a Guidebook

The buildings around the square range from this wonder falling into disrepair…

Building on Parque Calderón
Building on Parque Calderón

…to two cathedrals.    On one side of the square is the Old Cathedral, and on the other is the new Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, begun in 1885 and finally completed 90 years later in 1975.

Doors of Cuenca Cathedral
Doors of Cuenca Cathedral

The cathedral is best known for the blue domes on the exterior, but I found the interior to be equally amazing.

Blue Domes of Cathedral
Blue Domes of Cathedral
The Back of the Cathedral
The Back of the Cathedral
Front of the Cathedral
Front of the Cathedral
Inside the Stunning Cuenca Cathedral
Inside the Stunning Cuenca Cathedral
More Cathedral
More Cathedral
Altar with Lighted Candles
Altar with Lighted Candles
Fantastic Stained Glass - Cuenca Cathedral
Fantastic Stained Glass – Cuenca Cathedral

Each night during Corpus Christi, the square fills with tons of the faithful, awaiting fireworks and just enjoying the perfect scene.

Parque Calderón at Night
Parque Calderón at Night

I’ll end with a view of Cuenca from a local lookout.  Cuenca has become a very popular spot for American expats.  I can see why.  The town is beautiful, the people are very friendly, and the weather is perfect all year.  Who wouldn’t love this place?

Cuenca from the Mirador de Turi
Cuenca from the Mirador de Turi

Coming soon, in the next post: Traditional markets and craft villages.


This is a chronicle of the Smith family’s South America travels in May and June of 2013.

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