Cuenca: The Hidden Gem

With the big launch of Run by Rural‘s newsletter, website, and campaign completed, my colleagues, Gina and Andrea are packed and prepared to head along the coast and past the border to Ecuador.  Gina heard from a reliable source that Cuenca, Ecuador should be on the top of her list if she plans to journey beyond Peru to its northern neighbor.  Both Gina and Andrea are eager to head out of the desert, but I was hesitant, feeling the crunch of production and wanting to stay behind to accomplish more before my exit date.  Gina’s motivation and passion for adventure, however, doesn’t give me a chance to second-guess this opportunity.   “Are you ready to go?  Did you want to go to Carbon Burger before we leave?” Gina asks as she peeks her head out of the door that leads to our rooftop.  My desire and instincts to travel kick in and my dragging feet quickly spring my legs into action as I shuffle through our bedroom, hurrying to pick up the piles of clothes, camera bag, and shoes sprawled on my bed.  Shoving items into my bag, I anxiously pack with a “Take no prisoners” attitude.  It’s time to stop dwelling and add another stamp to the passport.

Sweets Outside La Catedral de la Immaculada

La Catedral de la ImmaculadaCrunched up in a bus seat, I eventually manage to curl up in a fetal position on our overnight journey.  After stirring sluggishly for immigration and promptly returning back to sleep, Andrea wakes me just in time to see a city spring up from the mountain fog.  We’re definitely not in the deserts of Piura anymore.  It’s not until after a quick check-in and nap at our hostel that we head out to explore the cobblestones of Cuenca.  Gina already has a possible itinerary and restaurant checklist ready for us to cross off.  We explore Cuenca, wandering through the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno, past the Igreja de Santo Domingo, and discover possible gifts in markets throughout the city.  Outside of the Catedral de la Immaculada, booths are filled with sweets for Corpus Cristi, and as I enter the cathedral, I find I am just as intrigued by the inside as I am the outside.  Tourists come and go, but church members remain reverent and unaffected by visitors like the young man who instructs his daughter to kneel on the tiled floor and pay respect.  Climbing up the windy stairway to the rooftop is reminiscent of Bunker Hill Monument in Boston, Massachusetts, but to the relief of my thighs, it isn’t a long walk up to view the endless possibilities embedded within the mountains of Cuenca.

Hat at Museo del Sombrero de Paja ToquillaWe discover an even more elaborate view at Mirador de Turi nestled above in the mountains cascading with sunlight breaking through the clouds.  We find amusement running into various depictions of graffiti art that encompass all kinds of styles as they scatter throughout Cuenca.  We delight our tastebuds with delicious meals of beef from Tiesto’s Cafe Restaurant and a much-needed cup of coffee from San Sebas Cafe.  Unexpectedly, we find the Museo del Sombrero de Paja Toquilla is open and have to seize the opportunity to reflect on our work with paja toquilla in Piura.  Although under construction, the museum still has large ironing machines for shaping  hats, wooden blocks to drape the finished straw telars on, numerous styles of hats from newsboys to panamas, and the essential South American item of technology–a TV playing the World Cup.  Our time in Cuenca has been a breath of fresh air, preparing us as we return to Peru for our final week in Piura.

Graffiti (L) (4)On the way home, the bus ride takes us through twists and turns that causes my sensitive stomach to endure a bout of carsickness.  A man jumps on the bus, asking passengers to buy a treat from him to support his family, and as he approaches me, I scramble to find change.  Most people would advise against supporting panhandlers, but I am not most people, and I also want to get this guy out of my face and my nausea to go away.  Seeing I’ve paid enough money for two treats, the man next to me impatiently pulls out a second treat instead of waiting for me to find a 50 cent piece.  The man leaves the bus, and it seems all is right with universe, until the lights are turned out and music blares over the speakers.  It seems there is always chaos going around me, a huge “To Do” list to tackle, errands to run, and decisions to make, but sometimes you have to adopt a determined attitude and blaze through life without listening to the doubts surrounding you.  Rather than give into my feelings of carsickness, I calmly walk along the streets of Machala, our connecting bus stop to Piura, and take in deep breaths.  Arriving in Piura, I no longer feel sick, but refreshed and ready to take on our last week with a “Take no prisoners” mentality.

This post is a part of The Weekly Postcard hosted by Travel Notes and BeyondABC Wednesday, Fly Away Friday hosted by Life in Wanderlust and Time Travel BlondeWeekend Wanderlust hosted by A Brit & A Southerner, A Southern Gypsy, Eat Work Travel, Justin Plus Lauren and One Modern Couple, and Travel Photo Thursday hosted by Budget Travelers Sandbox, Budget Travel Talk, Tanama Tales, and Rachel’s Ruminations.

ABC Wednesdays 18
Weekend Wanderlust 2
Budget Travelers Sandbox


  1. Ruth

    You do not know how many times I have been really close to buy a ticket to visit Ecuador. For some reason, my plans get frustrated at the last moment. I do not loose hope. I know one day I will be able to visit Ecuador. And, of course, if I visit, I am not going to miss Cuenca.

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Hi Ruth,
      I’m sorry to hear you missed out on Ecuador. I hope I can make a return visit soon so I can explore more and I hope you have the opportunity to see it someday soon!

  2. Anda

    Ecuador is one of the countries I’d love to visit. There must be many places like Cuenca there, I’m sure.

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I can’t wait to revisit someday soon! There’s so much left of Ecuador I want to see. I hope you get the chance to soon as well!

  3. Linda @AsWeSawIt

    Ecuador is so much MORE than just Galapagos islands. We lived in Cuenca a couple of years ago. Many people are surprised to learn that it is a top expat destination for North Americans. Loved the rock-bottom prices while shopping the local Cuencano markets and even got a kick out of buying freshly-roasted coffee for $3/pound. Did you get a chance see the wild llamas in the Cajas mountains outside of town?

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I did hike in Cajas and I saw a couple of llamas from the bus. Cuenca is lovely and I’m so glad you’ve gotten the chance to live there and experience it!

  4. lesliebc

    What an exciting adventure! Love your photos.

    abcw team

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Thank you, Leslie! It was wonderful to have this opportunity and look forward to a time when I can make a return visit.

  5. Hilde

    Great picture of this beautiful cathedral. I love the architecture in Latin America!
    Have a nice day! Greetings from Belgium, Hilde

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I agree, the architecture in Latin America is amazing! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  6. mel62ko

    Seems like a wonderful trip to undertake…. never did that but maybe someday i will

    have a nice abc-day / – week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc-w-team)

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I hope you get the chance to visit Ecuador, Melody! I can’t wait for a return visit someday.

  7. Roger Green

    Someday, I’d like to go!


  8. Joy

    Sounds like a fun break, apart from the travel sickness of course.

    • brooklyntvlasich

      It was a fun break, and I’ve learned experiencing travel sickness makes you realize how resilient you can be. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. yogawinetravel

    It looks like a wonderful place! Are there other ways to get there? I don’t do so well with travel sickness!

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Hmmmm . . . I don’t remember if there was an airport. There might be a better bus option since the one I took was the cheapest. I also heard the roads might be better coming from Quito instead of northern Peru, but not certain on that.

  10. Marcelle Simone Heller

    We’ve been in Ecuador for two months but didn’t make it to Cuenca. What a shame! We have to return! #WeekendWanderlust

  11. Courtney Minor

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about Cuenca. I hope to visit Ecuador soon!

  12. travelblond

    I like your writing language! And photos, simple but very creative

  13. Kana

    Oh my gosh Cuenca is beautiful! I’ve always wanted to visit Ecuador and now you’ve convinced me to do so! Thanks so much for joining us on FlyAwayFriday! Can’t wait to see what you’ll share next week! xo

    • brooklyntvlasich

      It was great to be a part of Fly Away Friday! So glad you enjoyed my post!

  14. ttbchloe

    Love this!! Will definitely refer to this when I go to South America!! Cant wait to see your next post on the linkup!

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Thanks for your wonderful compliments! Looking forward to linking up next week.

  15. RobRob @TravelLatte(.net)

    From what I’ve seen and heard, Cuenca is great. Sounds like giving in to the urge to travel paid off!

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I’m so glad I made Cuenca a priority. It was the refresh button I needed to finish my internship in Peru!

  16. budgettraveltalk

    Thanks for putting Cuenca on my radar. It sounds interesting and I would love to get there one day. I look forward to you returning so I can see some more.

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Glad you enjoyed my post. Cuenca was a wonderful place to experience.

  17. Nancie

    I’ve heard good things about Cucenca and Ecuador in general. If I ever get to that part of the world it will be high on my list. Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Always happy to link up to #TPThursday. Hope you get the chance to visit Cuenca and Ecuador!

Give us your thoughts, comments, and opinions here!