The striking city of Cuenca was founded in 1557 on the site of an old Inca settlement and is considered Ecuador's most charming city. Cuenca’s historic centre has cobble stoned streets, flower-filled plazas and churches dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. Home of the Panama hat, the city retains much of its old colonial atmosphere.
La Cajas National Park is located 19 miles to the northwest of the city where visitors can hike or fish in breathtaking landscapes. The numerous glacial lakes are set amongst stunning scenery at 10,000 feet, and it is excellent area for walking and birdwatching. Visitors to the region can travel overland via Cajas to Guayaquil, to the country's principal coastal port city, in just a day, making Cuenca the perfect stepping stone across to the Galapagos Islands after exploring mainland Ecuador, as all flights to the islands go via Guayaquil.