By Wendy Jane Carrel
Paute is a charming Ecuadorian canton located in the countryside about one hour (18 miles with stops) northeast of Cuenca. You can get there by car or with basic bus service on the Paute or 24 de Septiembre lines from Cuenca’s Terminal Terrestre. The bus cost is $.75 each way. Expect the ride to be somewhat bumpy since there are one-lane roads in each direction.
The elevation is around 7,000 feet (1,400 feet below Cuenca), and the temperature averages a mild 70 degrees F. almost every day of the year. The climate is sub-tropical and a reason you see so many bananas, mangoes, and papayas in the markets. You must still remember to bring your umbrella! Even though it is mostly sunny, you can experience showers as you would in Cuenca.
I like Paute. It is small, clean, well-laid out, and seems to be peaceful. It has inviting stores, a central park, cobblestone streets, and plenty of shade trees. Diesel buses and trucks pass on the periphery so the air is easier to breathe than in central Cuenca. Shopkeepers and restaurant owners are welcoming. There are several hotels and haciendas (seven total, according to the city’s tourism office). There is a public hospital (Hospital Cantonal de Paute).
The scenery on the drive from Cuenca to Paute is memorable — weeping willows, jacarandas, palms, and villas. It is easy to understand why Cuencanos have weekend homes in the town or in surrounding pueblitos, and why a number of “gringos” have chosen to settle there.
Paute’s population is about 25,000. Main activities are related to the production of flowers (exquisite roses), fruit (mostly for export), and, sugar cane. The soil is known for being rich in nutrients. You will also find a number of nurseries with gorgeous green plants, and, herbal medicinals!
Zhumir, the local alcohol made from sugar cane, is sold throughout Ecuador. I understand it is more than potent, as massive headaches can result after drinking. (I don’t have the courage to try it). You’ll notice a Zhumir factory (more than one) on the road to Paute.
One of the town’s main attractions is the “Carnaval del Rio Paute” during Mardi Gras (February), with a parade through the streets, plus dancing, local food, and cultural displays at Parque Lineal. Each year national performers as well as others from South America come to entertain.
Every weekend there is a popular market for fruits, vegetables, and local crafts. Shoes, for whatever reason, cost less than they do in Cuenca, and Cuencanos are known to make special trips to Paute on Sundays just for footwear.
Paute boasts the wide and swift Paute river. It flows through the town, and, also lies close to the largest hydro-electric station in Ecuador. In 1993, the river overflowed and affected the entire town because of a landslide from Cerro Tahual (a hill/mountain) that temporarily formed a large lake (for details, click here). Rain and resulting landslides are considered a common occurrence in the Andes.
North of Paute, if you have time and are in your own car, is Bulán, known for its fishing, pear and apple orchards, and artisans who work with wood.
Lodging options and restaurants:
For a romantic getaway, or personal solitude, try the 2-star Hacienda San Juan Pamba in a lovely setting, inland at km. 35 in Zhumir, before you reach Paute. See www.sanjuanpamba.com, if you like boutique hotels and privacy. The restaurant is for hotel guests only.
For luxury accommodations and weddings, a number of Cuencanos choose the 242 year old Hacienda Uzupud outside of town. It has impressive grounds and an organic garden. The Dona Eulalia restaurant is open to the public. Weekdays are the best times for a visit. See www.uzupud.com
For budget travelers, check out the newly restored Arzuba Hotel two blocks from the bus terminal, a modern 3-story lodge with wood flooring, WiFi, continental breakfast and parking included at Garcia Moreno and Av. Luis Enrique Vasquez. Tel. (7)2251337 or cell (098)474-1922. https://pautehermoso.wordpress.com/lugares-turisticos/hospedaje/hotel-arzuba . E-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
And yes, Airbnb has made it to Paute. Options are at www.airbnb.com/s/Paute–Ecuador .
I have eaten a few times at Restaurant Corvel, on Simon Bolivar 8-37 y Luntur and continue to recommend it. You will be warmly greeted by Patricio Coronel, the “Chefe” and Ruth Velez the “Gerente”. They specialize in “el arte del buen servizio”, the art of good service. You can eat inside, and either downstairs or upstairs on patios overlooking trees, plants, and birds in the serene courtyard. A pleasant experience indeed. Reasonable prices if ordering the “almuerzo”, the fixed price lunch. See www.restaurantcorvel.com , write email@example.com (they read and write in English), or call (07)2251556 for more information.
The tourist office lists 16 other restaurants, mostly with grilled specialties.
Enjoy your journey!!
http://www.paute.gob.ec/web (charming Google-like moving symbols on its web site)
Frank and Angie’s blog has a three-minute video of Paute on an overcast day at www.discovercuencaecuador.com/2013/06/paute-azuay-ecuador-little-cuenca.html
Wendy Jane Carrel, M.A., a senior health care consultant and journalist, has been based in Cuenca while researching health care options in Chile, Ecuador, and Mexico for the last three years. She loves to explore the world and has lived or worked on four continents in over 40 countries.