The Peruvian government normally only allows tourists to stay in the country for 3 months at a time – and whenever the time approaches, many of our interns and students travel to the nearest border to obtain a new VISA an remain in the country legally.
The closest country to the North of Peru, where our school is located, is Ecuador, where we travel to often in order to get to see the beauty of the green country. With backpacks on, we knew we had one destination: Ecuador!
This month, Ecuador was a popular destination for many of our interns. With beautiful places such as Baños and the swing on the edge of the world, fun big cities like Guayaquil and artistic gems such as Cuenca. Last week, two of our interns visited the small city located in the highlands of Ecuador, just 4 hours away of Guayaquil.The central part of the city is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Trust site since it possesses so many historical buildings. We argue that the whole city is a work of art in itself!
The ride there its an adventure itself! The evergreen road quickly gets surrounded by fog which provides a sense of mystery and charm that hypnotizes and intrigues. We tried to take some pictures, but there was no camera in the world that could reproduce such amazing beauty. It felt very much like being a part of a book of magic tales!
We arrived around 1 pm on a Sunday and the city was quite tranquil and silent – which is curious, considering that there was a celebration of the anniversary of the city going on. We found a spot at a charming hostel called El Cafecito which we recommend for the price, atmosphere and excellent costumer service. We had some time to get settled before heading out in order to explore the little city.
We went through an area with small flower kiosks and ate some amazing vegetarian food before indulging in some sightseeing. The first step was to take notice of the architecture – Cuenca shows the clear signs of the Spanish colonization with the colorfulness of a South American city. Ever little building is decorated with flowers and the city is highly well conserved. But the charm lies in the street art. Cuenca is known for the artistic atmosphere – it breathes and lives art and everywhere there are graffiti images as well as interesting quotes and poems.
After looking at some artesania for a bit and taking pictures of the building we headed to the Prohibido Museo de Arte Extremo which is a museum dedicated to weird, unique art such as reconstructed dolls, headless animals and bones, many bones.The paintings were quite interesting as well – and the opinions were divided on whether the museum was good or not. Personally, I thought it was extremely fun, but I admit that it was sinister and frightening at times. If you are into unique and creepy you must check it out!
The place we headed to next was the small square where artisans had their art and clothing displayed, and one of us bought a book of poems handcrafted and designed personally by the poet. Afterwards, we watched a street artist and his puppet performing. We sat and watched the river, taking pictures and overall, enjoying the quiet atmosphere.
The next day started with a visit to the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno – a building was initially constructed to assist the drunk people of the streets and later became an orphanage. Due to many horror stories told about the place, an architect called Patricio Muñoz Vega along with the Banco Central and the Municipalidad decided it was time to turn its tragic story into something positive. It was a smart initiative to transform such a gloomy environment into a beautiful space dedicated to art. We thoroughly enjoyed the exhibitions, especially the sculptures at the garden area. The museum itself is beautiful and surrounded by green!
Once again we headed to explore the city’s amazing street art. I was super excited when we accidentally stumbled upon a panel with a giant whale beautifully painted. I had to take pictures with it!
Later we headed to the Museo del Sombrero which is absolutely interesting to check out. There we can see a bit of the process of how Panama hats are made as well as shop for freshly made ones. The prices vary between 15 and 700 dollars, but the quality is amazing and unique. We probably spent hours trying on cool hats! We also found cool stores where they sold a lot of fun Nintendo merch, as well as several dvd stores (yes, I know!) and even a store with Korean pop merchandise. Ah, Cuenca!
At night, we headed to the Indian restaurant to celebrate the birthday of Leon with a feast! Granted the food wasn’t amazing, but we certainly had a great time watching Bollywood videos and chatting with friends I made in Mancora the weekend before and that we randomly bumped into them in Cuenca, Ecuador. Fun thing about travelling: you always meet interesting people and sometimes you get a chance to see them again in a completely different country!
After garbing drinks at a local small bar, we headed back home since the time when they stop selling alcohol was approaching. Did you know that it is illegal to drink in Ecuador after 12 am? It’s also illegal to drink at any point on Sundays. That’s because the drinking and driving situation in Ecuador was becoming severe.
On our last day,we went to a small museum we found as we walked by it – a beautiful construction with intricate mosaic work on the roof. The art displayed was made by an Ecuatorian artist and showcased the daily life of local indigenous people. Afterwards, we got to sit by the river Tomebamba for a while before it begun to pour. We attempted to get to the ancient Inca ruin and also the beautiful garden with a bird farm located near the river, but it was closed. With the rain, we didn’t think of anything else we could do so we headed to a restaurant. On our way there, we found an amazing book store where we stayed for hours enjoying the atmosphere as well as purchasing some books to help improving our Spanish.
After eating a tasty pizza, we had to get ready and leave this special little place.
So if you’re planning to go to Ecuador, you have got to see Cuenca! I’m sure that, just as we did, you will have a very nice experience and find little surprises along your way.