Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cuenca is tropical, right?

What is Cuenca REALLY like, Part 3

Well, Cold is Relative and Mindset Impacts Experience

Let's talk a little about weather and expectations:
Yes, Cuenca is just 2 degrees south of the equator.  However, Cuenca is nestled in a high basin in the Andes Mountains at 8200 ft altitude (2500 meters).  That is HIGH.  Denver, Colorado in the US is called "The Mile High City".  A mile is 5280 ft so Cuenca is about 3000 feet higher.  Yes, that's high.  This causes the nights to be chilly, sometimes downright cold.

I've only been here 9 weeks but there have been few nights warmer than 42 F degrees. So do not expect balmy, long evenings at 80 degrees.  Nope, truth is at 40 degrees you need a sweater or two, maybe a coat, and an electric blanket is not a bad idea! Buildings in Cuenca are built most often with no air conditioning and no heating system.  There are portable heaters that people use to take the chill off of a room.  They work well.  These little heaters would not be good for, oh, say, winter in Minnesota or Norway, but they are helpful here.

National Chamber of Commerce buiding, Cuenca.

It is also important to know that the nighttime temp in Cuenca rarely falls below 35 F degrees, which is a good thing! Now picture Anchorage, Alaska or Krasnoyarsk, Russia - those places get COLD! Si. Mucho frio!

If you are coming to Cuenca, EC, think of adopting this mindset: Cuenca is a part of the world that is moderate but not balmy, there are periods with rain and cooler temps and there are periods where days are in the 70 degree range.  If you are coming here expecting hot nights and hotter days, you will be quite disappointed.

I borrowed the following info from
"The weather in Ecuador is exceptionally difficult to predict. There are virtually countless micro-climates due to extremely varied topography that cause varied weather in neighboring geographical locations.
One generalization that can be made is that the temperature is usually colder the higher the altitude. Still, people in Quito and much of the Andes have a saying, "We have four seasons in a single day." Although the temperature does not vary much throughout the course of the year - the country does straddle the equator - Ecuador's rainy season coincides with winter months in the northern hemisphere."

Cleaning the streets, on Calle Larga street in El Centro (old part of the city)

And the rain?  Pinning down the avg rainfall for Cuenca has been a bit of a challenge. With research, I found avg rainfall estimates from 20" per yr ( 0.508 m) up to 39" per year listed on Wiki. I believe 20" is more typical.

Now, I am talking about Cuenca.  Go to the Amazon or the coast and you will have balmy, humid, hot days and warm nights, heavy rains - a very different climate.

And while we are flogging this subject of weather in Cuenca, what about daytime temps?  The average = 55 F degrees.  It is rare for the temp to get over 80 F degrees. There are often days that hit 70 F degrees in the afternoon. At the same time, it is rare for the daytime temp to dip below 50 F so that is also a good thing.  Moderate is a great word to describe Cuenca. Most days the sun is out for a little bit. Think of getting out there to walk or enjoy that brief sunshine if you are in the middle of a rainy stretch.

A typical festive almuerzo (lunch) for a gathering of guests and family  Almuerzo is the main meal of the day in Ecuador.

Also, Cuencanos have told me it is important to wear layers here year round because the weather changes so quickly with big swings of daytime warm to nights that are brisk.

It is all part of living in this part of the world.  Cuenca is not humid.  It does not get snow.  "Cold" is a relative term.  Also true of "hot". What Cuencanos call "mucho calor" (very hot) is what people in Sweden or Washington, D.C. would call mild and pleasant - for example 75 F degrees with low humidity.

I hope all this weather talk is helpful.  Some people who move here seem to complain a lot about the weather.  Perhaps I should look at that as an outlet, a mild venting or a conversational topic and not take it too seriously.  But it is good to know what to expect if you are thinking of visiting or moving to Cuenca.  And remember, alpaca fiber is one of the warmest in the world and it is incredibly inexpensive here... so buy an alpaca sweater and stay warm!

A different angle of the beautiful Neuvo Catedral (new church) built in the 1800's in Cuenca.

Special thanks to my favorite photographer, mi esposa Lenny Charnoff

What is Cuenca REALLY like?  Those are my personal observations in 3 parts.
Next?  Lets focus on quilting for the next post.
Have a terrific day!


  1. Extensive report of Cuenca, congratulations !!!!!!!!!!

  2. I didn't realize that it only got that warm in the daytime, I thought it got hotter than that, it seems cold! but I guess its all relative, and my mind right now is in the humid heat lol ;o)
    How far away do you have to go for it to be warmer and more humid? I find Maui so interesting that there are so many micro climates only like 20-30 minutes apart, from hot desert to cold desert to rain forest, eucalyptus, etc. It's really interesting. Is Ecuador similar in some ways?