The map pinpoints Cuenca and you can see Quito (the capital) to the north, Guayaquil to the northwest and if you zoom out, you can locate the Galapagos Islands to the West.
Cuenca, Ecuador is the 3rd largest city in Ecuador; surrounded by mountains on all sides; 8,366 feet above sea level. It has been referred to as "The Athens Andes" and has been classified at a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are a quite a few reasons why we will be moving there, one big reason it is has a very lost cost of living- at least for now.
The stars are aligning, and we are planning our move- Mort "The Snort" will be coming too, of course!
In this post, (Ecuador, part I) I want to share just an overview of one of our three trips to Ecuador.
For now, I'll share some pictures; offer some recommendations; share other reasons why Ecuador is the chosen one!
We flew into Quito twice, stayed overnight at the Quito Airport Suites (links to accommodations will be at the end) just 10 minutes away from the airport! The flight from Quito to Cuenca is approximately 35 minutes--we suggest this unless you have a lot of luggage.
You can fly into Guayaquil and take a van to Cuenca. Our first experience was in 2015 and it was hair raising--don't worry it's better now.
The road takes you through the canyons of the Cajas National Park with wild hair pin turns which seemed to go unnoticed by the drivers. You can see those at the top of this map.
Our driver took W I D E turns, through the fog and like any other popular National Park, there are cars; boulders and oh yeah, and wildlife.
The trip, via the Cajas National Park (Parque Nacional El Cajas) takes about 3.5 hours.
There have been improvements with the van companies now, for one, the city decided they needed a license to run their business. Uh-Yeah.
Here is our recommendation for a van service. Alianza Van Service.
We have taken them from Cuenca to Guayaquil and back. The vans are comfortable, leave promptly and better drivers!
Tip: Best to travel during daylight. It is the mountains and rock slides do occur, you never know what is around the next corner.
Here is the their Facebook link and below a picture of the vans: Van Service
Cuenca is a city of four rivers. The main river in town is called Tomebamba (below) which divides the older and newer areas of (El Centro). The other rivers are the Yanuncay, Tarqui, and Machangara.
Cuenca has wonderful walking/running paths, picnic areas, exercise equipment and many locals still wash their clothes in this river. A favorite nap spot for us!
First and foremost Ecuadorians are extremely friendly.
Okay, here is a few other things we love......
Art....Free Expression....Music......Flower Markets......Sweet Smells of Bakeries.......
Great Weather............Exceptional Restaurants
Markets!! Veggies, Spices, Clothing, Blankets, Meat, Fish, Sweeeeets!
$$ of living: Okay, yeah, like I said above we need to lay low for while, but we have to a few real estate dudes who still claim we can get a rental home outside the city, for $400 a month- furnished!
We just need good internet. PuntoNet, the company supplying the fiber optic networks is expanding neighborhood by neighborhood, good news!
.30 bus fare: Yup!! The fare is still .30 cents and .12 cents for retirees. What's amazing, is the distance and routes that these buses cover, miles out of the city! Still at .30 cents. There is a new city Tram going in (Tranvia) with hopes of completion in 2019. I was told buses will not be retired, instead they will add even more routes to the system outside the city. Good for residents, good for the drivers.
Healthcare: The insurance coverage appears to be cheap, but ever changing, so we'll let you know! We have heard nothing but positives from the gringo communities regarding the medical profession and facilities. They do have a Mount Sinai Hospital, Cancer Centers, Pharmacies, including compounding and geez, you can get your teeth cleaned for $25!
FOOD: FOOD = FRESH = CHEAP = GOOD in Cuenca!
Three course lunches with juice still average around $3.00. There is a wonderful variety and each time we go, some restaurants have closed, some new ones have emerged. More in Part II, this is one subject we are happy to research further- We'll get back to ya!
Okay, in case you are curious about the guinea pigs, here's the story, but there will NO pictures of grilled Cuy.
Cuy ( pronounced Kew-y) is a delicacy in Ecuador. We were told that it is mostly offered by the kart people during holidays, festivals and special events.
Why guinea pigs?
Tradition for one. Historically, they were a main source of meat and protein before cattle were introduced to the country AND they reproduce fast. We don't know what it taste like, but I heard greasy chicken- NUM!
I couldn't understand why I kept seeing these small, old women and men, hauling VERY large bundles of grass up and down the hills on their backs. Cuy Food.
Enough, let's move on.
For The Love Of Animals: Of course we will be connected and help anyway we can. Below is a fundraiser we attended on one of our trips. Below that, a banner for a run/walk fundraiser.
If you would like help the stranded, lost or abused animals of Cuenca and Ecuador, I added some links in the orange box below. They all offer volunteer positions.
As I have stated before, before heading out to our travel destinations we "Google" the city to find animal rescue shelters and see if we help for a day, bring some items they may need, or attend a fund raising event.
Another sweet advantage of volunteering, is you get to meet the locals!
Who better to give advice on great restaurants, activities and hidden gems! We are still connected with many of these people, formed lasting friendships and even meet up in our travels! LOVE WIN-WIN'S
Hiking And Biking: Yes And Yes! Being Colorado folks, its in the blood. We did take a city bike tour ( had a few hills) and I will put the link below. I also just found this link for the a wonderful 5 mile ride along the river Tomebamba, click here: TRAIL
Cajas National Park is about 40 minutes outside of Cuenca. We have not hike through the park as we knew we would be returning and living in Cuenca, so we have plenty of time to check it out. There are plenty of areas to explore and we will be sure to share!
The Weather! I'm a weather wimp, in other words, I can't handle extreme cold or hot, but enjoy being outside whenever possible. No need for Heat or Air Conditioning!!
It stays around 64 to 72 degrees, Fahrenheit, all year round- Perfect!
There is a rainy season which occurs from January to May, but that fluctuates too. The three trips we took were in February, March and May and I remember on day of rain, otherwise warm/cool.
Safety: We felt safe walking around the city day or night. I have heard that it is important to keep anti-theft bags or money belts on the buses. There are reports of petty theft. We have not ridden on the buses-yet,
We have not heard of any recent violent crime in Cuenca.
There is police presence and citizen police in the parks. They are friendly and I'm happy they are there!
Water: So far so good in Cuenca, that is. I was told it is okay to drink in Cuenca and Cotacachi. Love this!
OKAY IT'S NOT PARADISE.......................WHERE IS?
Here are the things (so far) that are negatives in our eyes:
Sooo, now let's count that up- THREE. I'm sure we'll have a few more, and we'll let you know-stay tuned!
Quito Airport Suites- We have stayed here three times. It is about 8 minutes from the airport. A bit rustic, but they are improving all the time and very friendly and accommodating. The link is HERE
Many wonderful spots to stay, but we LOVED Casa Ordonez, Fabulous!! Family owned and you will feel special in every way, really a treat! Find them HERE.
Hope you vist Ecuador! It is LOVELY! Please sign up below for Updates!
AND.... If you're going to move around Ecuador, here are some great tips for PACKING LIGHT Check the tips out: HERE
Hope you sign up for our mailing list so you can catch next episode, the move, Part II
If you live in Ecuador or have visited, would love to have your thoughts and opinions. Please comment below.
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