Tour de Cuenca, Ecuador
So, right now we are in Ecuador, and today decided to go on a bus tour of Cuenca, a beautiful city with incredible architecture. Alan and I always wanted to “do” a bus tour back in Chicago, but who wants to feel like a tourist in their own city? Although we celebrated Alan’s 30th birthday with a boat tour with his parents – the fact that they were visiting us made us feel less weird about the tourist-y aspect, I suppose!
I prefer to think of us as “travelers”, as opposed to “tourists”, maybe because the tourist label feels loaded with connotations that just aren’t us (shuffling around wearing socks with sandals, our waists adorned with fanny-packs etc.), but since Cuenca is such a beautiful place, we figured the bus tour would be a nice way to see the city.
Cuenca is surrounded by rivers that flow from the mountains above the city, with many of them crossing through the city as well as its surrounds, and we passed them as part of the tour. The rivers are impressive and deserve a blog post all to themselves, but it was hard to get good shots of them from a moving bus! We also had great views of the architecture that the city is known for as we toured through the place.
We also passed by El Museo Del Sombrero, a cute little museum exploring the history of the Panama hat which originated here (not in Panama, as the name suggests!). Although the hats have been co-opted by mainstream fashion internationally, they remain an important part of traditional Ecuadorian attire. We have seen so many ladies wearing them around the city and it’s amazing to consider the history that’s woven into every hat. While on the tour we stopped at some little shops run by artesanos (artisan craft workers) and couldn’t resist trying one. I’m considering picking one up before we leave Cuenca. They are pretty cute, and would make a great reminder of our time here when our trip is over.
One of the highlights of the tour was the Mirador de Turi, or “View of Turi”. There were locals in traditional Ecuadorian dress to-ing and fro-ing from the incredible Cathedral at the top, and we loved the chance to people-watch, as well as taking in the awe-inspiring views – the Mirador de Turi provides a panoramic view of not just Cuenca, but the whole Andean valley that the city sits nestled in. It started out a little cloudy for us but we did manage to get some great shots – I’m sure it’s even more inspiring at sunrise or sunset, with the skyline of the city providing a very romantic backdrop!
Being natural-born explorers, we had already seen a lot of the city but the tour taught us a little bit more of the history of the place, which we might have otherwise missed out on. The native language in Ecuador is Spanish, so the sights were narrated in Spanish and translated into English, but a lot of the translation was unclear and a lot of the time the tour guide was just speaking Spanish. Luckily I can speak Spanish and English, but I would have been a little bummed if I didn’t. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the tour, I feel like you could get more out of the city by exploring on foot, or by taking a taxi to the main points of interest – the tour was $8 per person, whereas a cab to the Mirador de Turi is less than $3. One of the “selling points” of the tour is that they also take your photo and provide it as a souvenir which is a nice touch, if your picture turns out well (ours wasn’t so great, one of us was mid-blink!).
Cuenca is a breath-takingly gorgeous place, all terracotta, café culture and vibrant colours (and locals!), so while the tour was somewhat disappointing, it didn’t detract from the colonial charm of the city.
“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”- Oprah Winfrey