Destination management company Metropolitan Touring has unveiled new itineraries highlighting Cuenca, Ecuador.
The largest city of Azuay Province, whose first inhabitants arrived 10,000 years ago, Cuenca was founded around 500 AD as Guapondeleg before being occupied by the Incas in the 15th century; they renamed it Tomebamba and considered the city a regional capital. The Spanish showed up before long and founded their settlement as Cuenca in 1557. After growing in significance through the colonial era, Cuenca became the capital of Azuay Province after Ecuador achieved independence in 1822.
To highlight the region, Metropolitan Touring has created three new urban Cuenca tours and four new journeys to its surrounding towns, national parks and archeological sites. Experiences include:
- “After Hours Visit to Las Conceptas” – Once home to cloistered nuns, the Cloister of the Convent of the Sisters of Saint Francis of the Immaculate Conception is a flower- and tree-filled patio house with a collection of religious art, as well as the tools and implements of those who lived in the convent. Working with the museum’s director, Metropolitan Touring has crafted an after-hours experience that starts with a guided tour of significant pieces accompanied by a chamber orchestra performing baroque and religious music written by Ecuadorian women. In an adobe-walled side patio, a local yachakuna (female healer) will help guests realign their energies through a ritual limpia (cleansing) that dates back millennia, before the experience finishes with an array of Cuencano snacks, sweets and drinks created by nuns.
- “At Home with the Milliner Ortega Family” – Ecuador is where the famous “Panama Hat” originated and Cuenca is where many of the top manufacturers dwell. Go beyond a tour of the factory of one of the most renowned hat-making dynasties to experience the country retreat of Homero Ortega, just a short drive from the city center. Received by Ortega’s descendants, guests will tour the family’s private home, where they will learn about the family business, the techniques employed to create hats, and more.
- “An Evening with the Vegas” – Federica, the daughter of ceramic artist Eduardo Vega, teamed up with Metropolitan Touring to design an after-hours tour of their hillside retreat designed by Eduardo, who is also an architect. Guests will enjoy a guided tour of the home’s gallery, workshop and garden dotted with ceramic sculptures and medicinal plants. The evening will conclude with a five-course dinner at Federica’s restaurant, Amapola.
Other highlights include the Parque Calderón, a plaza flanked by important buildings including the Old and New Cathedrals and colorful restaurants and stores; Santa Ana Street, which was closed to the public for 53 years until 2017; Plaza de las Flores, the flower market; and Plaza San Sebastián with its gardens and fountains. There is also a walk along the Barranco where the Tomebamba, the largest of four rivers that flow through the city, has tree-lined banks. The Turi scenic lookout offers panoramic views of Cuenca, and the Vega Workshop and Gallery is just a stone’s throw away. Guests can also pick up a Panama Hat from Homero Ortega Hats, one of the oldest companies producing and exporting them to the world.
Metropolitan Touring is also offering a new four-day tour, which includes the nearby artisan towns of Gualaceo, Chordeleg and the Andean Kichwa community of Saraguro. The tour includes guides, transportation services and lunch daily at first-class restaurants. Activities include visits to the city’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; wilderness hikes and bird-watching in El Cajas National Park; a visit to the Gera community of Saraguro, with a spiritual cleansing; and encounters with luthiers, jewelers, wool weavers and more in Gualaceo and Chordeleg.
For more information, visit www.metropolitan-touring.com.