Home to breathtaking protected areas such as El Cajas Recreational
Area and the city of Cuenca, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, Azuay
is southern Ecuadors most important tourist center. Moreover,
Azuay is a great place to shop for high-quality handicrafts and
partake in festive celebrations throughout the year. The area also
boasts an ideal climate, with temperatures ranging between 12 and
20 degrees centigrade. This province has a national airport with
flights available to most any point in Ecuador.
- Cultural Capital of the Americas
Surrounded by mountains, traversed by four rivers, and home to beautiful
14th- and 15th- century architecture, Cuenca surprised nobody when
it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In the Old Town,
you will find Parque Calderón and other colonial parks and
plazas, neighborhoods that date back to the first days of the Spanish
conquest of the area, and religious art museums showcasing some
of Ecuadors most impressive artwork. Also to be admired in
this area are architecturally impressive buildings and churches
such as the Old and New Cathedrals, Santo Domingo, San Sebastián,
and San Blas, to name but a few. The city is also famous for hosting
the International Art Fair. The most impressive of the citys
many museums are as follows: Banco Central, Casa de la Cultura,
Conceptas Convent, Remigio Crespo Toral, Artes Populares de América,
Arte Moderno, and Instituto Azuayo de Folclore. With so much cultural
heritage to offer the tourist, its no surprise that Cuenca
was chosen as the Cultural Capital of the Americas in 2002.
Pork rinds, quinua soup, grilled guinea pig with potatoes,
grilled trout, bu?uelos (sweet pastries), and pork tripe
soup are some of the most typical delicacies found in Azuay. Fanesca
is a typical Easter dish and mote pata ( boiled wheat fried
with pork) is popular during Carnival.
Gualaceo, in northern Azuay, is famous for its fine woven and embroidered
textiles, leatherwork, and ceramics. Paute, on the other hand, is
full of fruit farms and sugar cane plantations and is home to the
biggest hydroelectric power station in the country. Sigsig is well
known for its high-quality, internationally known toquilla
straw (a.k.a. Panama) hats as well as for the quality of the apples
they produce. You can also visit nearby Chopsi Cave where traces
of the regions first inhabitants have been found.
Area - Lakes and Primary Forests
Located 30 km from Cuenca, this protected area of over 28 thousand
hectares is home to 275 lakes and an abundance of primary forests.
Several rivers, some of which flow to the Pacific and others of
which drain into the Amazon Basin, have their source here. With
a temperature that never drops below 10 degrees centigrade, the
area is home to many different species of flora and fauna. There
are many interesting trails for walking and hiking in the park but
its advisable to go with a guide.
Here you can see several waterfalls and excavated ditches cut out
of the rock.
Baños, with its unique setting, is a few kilometers from
Cuenca and is famous for its hot springs, colonial architecture,
and the Sanctuary of the Vírgen de Guadalupe.
Rich in flora and fauna, this forest is protected by the ecological
group Friends of Mazán and the water company. Located along
the road from Cuenca to Cajas, this cool area is home to thousand-year
The Chopsi Ruins are a group of rock engravings housed in a cave.
They consist of large quadrangular buildings surrounded by smaller
ones, enclosed in a stone wall.
This valley is home to many citrus plantations. The beauty of the
scenery gives the visitor a chance to relax and enjoy the peaceful
setting. Those with more energy can climb Francesurco Peak and visit
the Monument of the Battle of Tarqui.
Cuenca has many local celebrations and festivities. May 2nd is the
Festival of the Crosses. El Septenario begins with the Festival
of Corpus Cristi which lasts eight days and includes fireworks,
processions, and concerts performed by brass bands. Decembers
Pase del Niño, a festival which mixes folklore and religion,
is probably Cuencas most famous festival.
Map of Azuay, Ecuador