¡Bienvendios al Ecuador!
Ecuador is much more than its namesake, the equator, where you can stand with one foot in each hemisphere. This country is one of the 10 mega-diverse in the world, and boasts the most biodiversity per square kilometer on the planet. In just a few short hours, you can venture from the exotic plants and animals of the jungle to immense, snow-covered peaks of active volcanoes in the Andes highlands. A few hours more and you’ll find yourself in the coastal region where freshly caught seafood is found at every turn, and lively salsa music seems to come from all angles. A thousand kilometers off shore lay Darwin’s enchanted islands, the Galapagos, featuring white sand beaches and endemic wildlife. UNESCO World Heritage cities with majestic churches, historic colonial-style towns, and lively, colorful markets, all of which are inhabited by friendly residents, make Ecuador the ideal place for an international experience.
Cuenca, whose name stands for “river basin,” is tucked into a majestic valley in the heart of the Andes Mountains at 8,000 feet above sea level. With a population of 500,000, Cuenca is the capital of the Azuay Province and Ecuador’s third largest city, but provides the charm of a small, welcoming town. In 1999, Cuenca was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2010, it was voted one of the top ten cities in the world to visit by Lonely Planet. A clean city of colonial heritage and modern amenities, in Cuenca you’ll find everything from international restaurants and bars, to sports facilities (gym, swimming pool, rock-climbing walls, etc.) and biking/running trails, to shopping malls and yoga studios. Cuenca is also a short distance from excursions (link to excursions page) like Cajas National Park and the ruins of Ingapirca. History is alive here: lively street markets, colonial churches, indigenous peoples in traditional dress, and a warm friendly atmosphere make Cuenca both a perfect home away from home and a welcoming place to learn the Spanish Language.
Don’t let us do all the talking! Check out our STUDENT PHOTOS and let the pictures speak for themselves.
Weather in Cuenca
Situated 2º south and 78º west, Cuenca has only two seasons, the rainy season between October and May and the dry season from June to September. While the lowest temperatures are in July and August, the year-round average is 15º C (roughly 60º F). Don’t take that weather forecast too seriously, though! Even the rainy season sees several hours of sunshine per day, and the dry season can bring overcast skies.
Gluten intolerance? Vegan? Food allergies? Not to worry! Cuenca offers much more than just cuy (roasted guinea pig). A smorgasbord of international and specialized food is available here on nearly every corner, from sushi to pizza, vegetarian to traditional. If you are participating in a homestay, simply let us know your specific dietary restrictions and we will be happy to accommodate. Both El Nomad and your host family are dedicated to ensuring you are comfortable and taken care of during your stay in Ecuador.
Cuenca is a safe, tranquil city. The most common annoyances are petty theft and pick-pocketing, which can happen anywhere regardless of country. Violent crimes are extremely rare. Most dangers and nuisances can be largely avoided using common sense: avoid dark allies at night, especially if you are by yourself; take a taxi at night; never travel with more money than you can afford to lose, and always keep belongings within sight. All homestays are located in safe, upper-middle class neighborhoods. For the most up-to-date safety information, please refer to the Deparment of State website