Ecuador's most beautiful city, Saint Anne of the Four Rivers of Cuenca, is located in the valley of Guapondelig (plain as wide as the sky). At an altitude of 2,550 meters (7,650 feet) above sea level, Cuenca enjoys a mild climate and a fabulous geographic position. Surrounding the city of Cuenca are hills like Cullca to the north and Turi to the south, which are great lookout points. Cuenca has the placid atmosphere of a small city, both deeply religious and artistic, which fascinates the visitor. The beauty of its landscape combined with the harmony between old and modern architecture, has prompted, UNESCO to name Ecuador's third largest city, Cuenca, a World Cultural Heritage Site.
Houses stretch down the slopes along the Tomebamba, one of the four rivers that cross Cuenca, whose banks are covered with multicolored laundry under the riverside willows and linden trees. Both the Hispanic colonial downtown and the new homes in the residential neighborhoods, show how Cuenca keeps traditions of bygone eras close to its heart, but accepts the presence of modernity that abound in the city: new hotels, banks, art galleries and shops. Cuenca's cobblestone streets, graceful balconies, blossoming gardens and religious art treasures invite you to visit it, on foot and at a leisurely pace.
Cuenca's handicrafts are outstanding in variety, color and quality. These treasures, inspired by local imagination are created in straw, horn, cloth, embroidery, knit, clay, wrought iron, leather as well as gold and silver jewelry.
The region of Cuenca was already inhabited nine thousand years ago. The Cañari people settled here due to its favorable climate, abundant water and ideal land for cultivation. Extraordinary pieces of ceramic of this period, notable for their design and technique, are to be found in the museums. In the middle of the 15th century, the Incas came to this area and founded the city they called Tomebamba and a few years later, in 1557, the Spanish claimed the city and renamed it Cuenca.
Additional excursions surrounding Cuenca include the impressive Cajas lake district, the subtropical valleys of Paute, Gualaceo and Yunguilla, plus the legendary Inca ruins of Ingapirca.