Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca


The Historic Centre of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca with its cobblestone streets, towering cathedrals, and marble and whitewashed buildings has a distinctive colonial air.

The town is laid out according to a strict grid. It is located in the Andean highlands at about 2500m (8200 ft) above sea level. Cuenca is now the third largest city in Ecuador.

Notable monuments include:

- New Cathedral

- Old Cathedral

- Carmelite Monastery

- Church of Santo Domingo.


Community Reviews

Randi Thomsen & Svein Heltberg - February 2015

Easter 2014 we visited Santa Ana de Los rios de Cuenca (or Cuenca), the third biggest city, on a "round trip" in Ecuador, visiting Quito, Baños de Aqua Santa (or plain Baños), Cuenca and last but not least Galapagos. Traveling "avenida del volcanos" down south was great and the cities are exquisite. A hired car and driver gives a tremendous "freedom" on the road.

We started our Cuenca-visit in fact before we entered the city with a visit to Ecuador's greatest Inka-ruin, Ingapirca. It's far from as great as the more famous Peruvian Inka-sites, but it's a "must-see" here. The local guide (it's mandatory) filled us in with a lot of interesting details of the "symbiosis" of Inkas and the more local Cañari.

In Cuenca we connected with a Norwegian guide (Anne, who lives there and has been living there for 25 years) and that gave us first hand en effective insight to the city, it's history, culture, architecture, special buildings, it's people and of all Ecuador.

In Cuenca round the main square, plaza Calderon, lies the town hall and the old and the great new cathedral. At the platform between the two the towers of the new cathedral it's a fabulous view. The church has room for 10,000 people.

We pass through the flower market on our way to the Carmelite monastery where we just had to shop just to experience their odd way of customer-handling by not showing themselves!

Passing through more markets we bought lama sweaters and blankets, also a "must do".

The Panama hat has its origin here (and not in Panama). All workers at the Panama Canal wore such hats, and through plenty of pictures of the workers with their hats in papers round the world at the time the hats got the nickname "Panama hats", but it is the local Cuenca-indians who weave the strawhats and deliver the "raw hats" to the hat factory which do the blocking and finishing. Of course we had to obtain one.

An interesting building was the "Dove house", a building that through restoration it was unveiled that most of the walls had great dove wallpaintings from the 17th century.

A last "must do" was to have the local speciality for lunch, a guinea pig! It had to be pre-ordered because of preparing time, but it's really worth it! A crispy meat meal with tamale and other local side dishes. A fabulous meal!

Our guide took us by car to the local surroundings, the four rivers, the oldest environment (the Barracanos), the local "Baños" (or bath) and the view of Mirador del Turi.

After two days in Cuenca (and 9 days in the Andes) we depart for lower ground, Guayanquil and Galapagos.

Share your experiences!

Have you been to Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca? Click here to add your own review.

Site Info

Full name: Historic Centre of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca

Site History


The site has 1 locations.

  • Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca


The site has 19 connections.



  • Destroyed during invasion In late 1531 or early 1532, Atahualpa and his generals forced the city Tumebamba to surrender and had it destroyed. Tumebamba is the Inca city that was on the present site of Cuenca, Ecuador


  • Amazon Basin "The dominant features of the city's geography are also the source of its name in Spanish: the four rivers of Cuenca (meaning a basin made by a confluence of rivers). These rivers are the Tomebamba (named after the Inca culture), Yanuncay, Tarqui and Machangara, in order of importance. .... These four rivers are part of the Amazon river watershed" (Wiki)
  • Andes (2500 mtrs)
  • Highest cultural WHS 2,550 m
  • Pan-American Highway  Ecuador Highway 35 passes through Cuenca

Individual People

  • Max Uhle In 1923 Uhle excavated the ruins of "Tomebamba" the pre-Columbian city over which Cuenca was constructed. In particular he identified a part of the city built by the Incas after their conquest of the indigenous Canari and named "Pumapungo" ("Door of the Puma"). He attributed excavated buildings as e.g. The Palace of Huayna Capac.
  • Visited by Alexander von Humboldt on his travels Jul 13 1802

Religion and Belief

  • Carmelites Carmelite Monastery
  • Cathedrals Old and New Cathedral (only latter is in use), Neo-Gothic style (1880)
  • Legends and Folk Myths Cuenca is considered a candidate for the mythical city of gold, El Dorado.



  • Built or owned by Spanish The Spanish settlement of Cuenca was founded on April 12, 1557 by the explorer Gil Ramírez Dávalos. Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza, then Viceroy of Peru had commissioned the founding and ordered the city named after his home town of Cuenca, Spain (wiki)
  • Dubbed as another WHS Named after Cuenca in Spain. Plus its Inca predecessor Tumebamba was dubbed second Cuzco.

WHS on Other Lists