One Of The Most Architecturally Stunning Cities In South America Is Highly Underrated

South America is home to several colorful, architecturally stunning cities and towns. From the bright streets of the La Boca neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to the electric party-centric energy of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to the intricate design of Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru, there is no shortage of exquisite cities on the continent. The masses know that these popular destinations, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Cusco, are some of South America's top three sought-after cities. For an underrated destination with architecture that doesn't fail to impress, you'll want to head to Ecuador instead.

Cuenca, Ecuador, is one of the largest cities in the country, yet it doesn't seem to gain the tourist traction that more popular Quito and Guayaquil do. With colonial-style architecture dating back to the 1500s, this historic, laid-back city is well worth exploring. Now more than ever is the time to go before this Ecuadorian city inevitably becomes the next hotspot of South America.

What to do in Cuenca

This vibrant city has plenty of things to do, from leisure activities to adrenaline thrills. The most popular site in the city is La Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepcion de Cuenca. This blue-domed cathedral was built in 1885 with a famous photo of the Virgin Mary inside. For a relaxing walk, take a stroll along Rio Tomebaba and enjoy the stunning greenery. The main city square in Cuenca is Plaza Abdon Calderon, which is the heart of the city, thanks to its liveliness and breathtaking buildings and trees. 

If you happen to be in Plaza Abdon Calderon, make sure to try some authentic Ecuadorian cuisine at El Confesionario. This restaurant offers a variety of delicious dishes, including locro de papa, a mouth-watering potato and cheese soup that you can enjoy while admiring the picturesque views of the square's cathedrals. One of the best ways to see much of the city in a short period of time is by taking advantage of the free walking tour. Simply reserve your spot ahead of time.

Day trips from Cuenca

While Cuenca is great to spend time in, it's conveniently situated near plenty of other Ecuadorian destinations that make for a great day trip. Specifically, El Cajas National Park is a beautiful outdoor oasis with plenty of walking and hiking trails, hundreds of lakes, and an abundance of wildlife. Note that El Cajas National Park is at a high altitude, but a local cup of coca tea can help alleviate symptoms.

A day trip to the Ingapirca Ruins is a great option for those interested in Ecuador's history. The Ingapirca Ruins are about an hour and a half drive from the city center. Many tours combine them with a visit to Gualaceo and Chordeleg. Water enthusiasts must not miss a trip to Girón Waterfalls and Busa Lake. You can admire the former as it stands at a height of 230 feet, surrounded by Ecuador's abundant flora and fauna.