The Climate in Cuenca, Ecuador

Our daughter in New Jersey will soon not see her yard for months because it will be covered with snow. Our son in North Carolina has been raking leaves like a madman before getting out the overcoats in preparation for the frigid weather ahead.

My wife Cynthia and I, we’re weather junkies, who, like Goldilocks, want our weather “just right”—not too hot and not too cold.

The thermometer was already getting close to 100 degrees when we left Las Vegas for Cuenca, Ecuador 6-and-a-half years ago. We’d had enough of that scorching heat—as well as the humidity and chilly winters—in the southeast where we previously lived.

Besides the attractive cost of living, the mild climate of Cuenca was one of our major reasons for moving here. We wake up every day with no threat of natural disasters or thoughts about wildly fluctuating temperatures. The temperatures in Cuenca range from an average high of 70 F to a low of 50 F. Humidity is usually around 75%. Rainfall amounts to 2-and-a-half inches per month. (Please remember these are averages. Within any given period of time a lot of something can be happening—clouds and coolness or sun and warmth.)

When you’re home in front of your computer dreaming of escaping to an ideal climate, you don’t conjure up images of shoveling snow or sweating bullets. No, you picture “perfection.” The skies are blue, the temperature is perfect, the birds are singing, the grass is green, and the flowers are blooming. You tune out getting soaked in a downpour and getting bitten by mosquitoes.

In truth the spring season from beginning to end often manifests all sorts of volatile, unpredictable weather patterns. And so does Cuenca. On a daily basis. A joke among locals is, “If you don’t like Cuenca’s weather, just wait an hour.”

What’s a “typical” day like? You may wake up to overcast skies and chilly temperatures. By mid-morning the sky is often partly cloudy and sunny. Out of nowhere a heavy storm blows in. There could be thunder and even hail. An hour later it’s sunny again. In late afternoon you’re chilly.  At night the air is noticeably warmer and you stroll around downtown in a light sweater.

Homes in Cuenca have no heating or air conditioning. This is great news regarding your utility bills. But when, as sometimes happens, the skies remain overcast for days, your home never gets a chance to warm up. During one winter (July and August for us) the temperature inside our apartment ranged from 64 F to 58 F for a two-week period. That’s pretty darned nippy.

We were uncomfortable in the evenings, to say the least, as we moved a portable heater from room to room and cranked up our heated mattress pad each night before going to bed. By wearing extra layers we got through it, and yesterday I was sunbathing in a lounge chair outside.

For folks who might love Cuenca but find what I just described to be uncomfortable, all is not lost. Less than an hour outside of town lie the valleys of Paute and Yunguilla, where temperatures average five degrees warmer.

Paute is a village with amenities like good restaurants, parks, and an outstanding Sunday market. Numerous expats find Paute to be the “best of both worlds”—a warmer setting with acceptable infrastructure, only a short distance from all of Cuenca’s amenities.

The Yunguilla valley is more rural, and foreigners who move there are drawn by the prospect of living on larger tracts of land where they can grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers year-round. The scenery is idyllic, and the lifestyle slow and easy.

So, yes, Cuenca does in fact enjoy year-round spring-like weather. And, no, every day is not “perfect.” Most expats are as pleased as we are to enjoy the pleasant, moderate overall climate, and are willing to tolerate occasional periods of less than ideal conditions. For others there are excellent options nearby in Paute and Yunguilla.

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