Those who live in Cuenca’s historic old town, including ourselves, believe it is a truly magical place to live.
From its cobblestone streets and colonial architecture to the thriving restaurant and café scene, surrounding mountains and the four beautiful rivers that gave Cuenca its official name – Santa Ana de Los Cuatro Ríos de Cuenca (Santa Ana of the four rivers of Cuenca)-, Cuenca is a laid back, welcoming and comfortable place to live.
Ecuador has become a top destination for foreigners looking to live or retire abroad, especially North Americans and Canadians. In 2014 it was voted the top expat destination in a InterNations survey completed by almost 14,000 expats, in 1999 it won International Living’s annual Global Retirement Index and has consistently been nominated as one of the top ten places to retire, second to Panama in 2014, due to its weather, scenery, health care system, the friendliness of Ecuadorians and its affordability.
While expats reside throughout the country, such as in Quito and along the coast, Cuenca is the most popular destination for English-speaking retirees in Ecuador. If you spend a little time here, you’ll soon understand why.
Top reasons to live in Cuenca
- Cuenca’s climate: Located in the southern Ecuadorian Andes, Cuenca’s climate might come as a surprise. At about 2500 m above sea level and only a few hours south of the equator, the temperatures are mild all year round with average highs of 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Farenheit) and lows of 9 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Farenheit). Mornings tend to be warm, clear and sunny, afternoons feature light showers and the evenings are cool.
- Cuenca’s old town center: Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, Cuenca’s grid-like old town is easily navigated and famed for its blue and white-domed New Cathedral, houses overlooking the River Tomebamba, flower market, parks, museums and colonial architecture. It has a laid-back atmosphere and you can reach just about everything on foot.
- Booming restaurant and cafe scene: The arrival of expats to the city has brought with it a gastronomic boom. Both locals and foreigners are setting up thriving restaurants and cafés to feed the demand of residents and travellers, and creating an exciting choice of places to kick back and relax.
- Quality private health care: As the third largest city in Ecuador, Cuenca enjoys first-class health care at decent prices (it costs about $25 for a doctors appointment) with modern hospitals, professional medical specialists and affordable health insurance.
- Affordability: Although the recent return of Ecuadorians from abroad and arrival of foreigners to Cuenca is pushing up rental prices and other expenses, Cuenca continues to be an exceptionally affordable city to live in. Fresh produce in local markets is particularly inexpensive, as are public transportation, taxis, utilities and healthcare. According to International Living’s 2014 Global Retirement Index retired couples live off between $1,500 and $1,800 a month including rent.
- Thriving local culture: Cuenca is home to a thriving local culture particularly evident in local festivities and celebrations such as the Pase del Niño at Christmas time, fiestas de Cuenca or even Carnival. The sight of indigenous women in traditional clothing is an everyday ocurrance and you’ll come across many traditional artisans as you stroll around the center of town.
- Cuencanos: The majority of people of Cuenca are welcoming, kind, generous, patient and respectful. You’ll find that if you make the effort to learn Spanish you’ll become a part of your local community and enjoy the benefits that come with it. Friends and family are important to Ecuadorians. They love children and respect the elderly.