Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca is located inside an Andean valley in the South Ecuadorian mountain region, at an altitude of 2,535 meters above the sea level, 442 km from Quito (the Capital of Ecuador), 193 km from Guayaquil (Main port of the country) and 242 km from Huaquillas (Border with Peru). It has a mild, temperate climate, with an average temperature of 17°C. Its current population is around 500,000 inhabitants.
Cuenca has a good airport that connects the city with the international airports of Quito and Guayaquil. Regarding land transportation, the highways in Ecuador are in perfect conditions and cross the “Volcano Avenue” on the Quito – Cuenca route and the magical landscapes of “Cajas National Park” on the Guayaquil – Cuenca route.
Cuenca has always been a city of contrasts and here three cultures are fused: before the Spaniard foundation in 1557, this was the second most important city of the Incan empire – Tomebamba, which was built on top of the Cañari city of Guapondelig, culture that inhabited the Central South region of the current territory of Ecuador.
The special characteristics of its soil and the later mix of races produced a unique idiosyncrasy in its people which has evolved along decades and centuries to reach what Cuenca is nowadays: the economical and cultural center of a rich region of Ecuador.
Cuenca surprises visitors due to its several particularities. It is crossed by four rivers (Tomebamba, Yanuncay, Tarqui and Machangara), all of them perfectly preserved in their natural state and pride of the inhabitants of Cuenca. Its condition of middle size city, almost Franciscan and conservative, contrasts with the latest technological services regarding information and communications, plus bars, discotheques, modern hotel infrastructures and all kinds of restaurants.
In 1999 the city was declared Cultural Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO, due to the implementation of urban planning principles from the Renascence of the Americas, the successful fusion of different Latin American cultures and its colonial architecture of Spanish roots. But furthermore the Cuencanos have been able to value and carefully preserve their customs and traditions which have changed the city into a Living Patrimony, obtaining new patrimonial awards granted by UNESCO related culture and nature: In 2012 Cuenca was acknowledged as Non Material Cultural Patrimony of Humanity for the knitting of straw hats made by the “Cholas Cuencanas” (typical women of the region) and in 2013 the Massif of El Cajas and El Cajas National Park were declared Worldwide Reserve of the Biosphere.
“When you come for the first time by this road, the mentioned contrast is amazing. No city has such an advantageous position as Cuenca, right in the middle of a wide valley full of fruit trees and fertilized by so many rivers” Teodoro Wolf. 1875