Discovering Makana Magic: A Guide to Gualaceo and Cuenca Adventures

Discovering Makana Magic: A Guide to Gualaceo and Cuenca Adventures

A visit to the city of Cuenca and the beautiful craft towns of Chordeleg and Gualaceo is a must if you are visiting Cuenca, and even more if you want to embark on a road trip from Quito to Cuenca. 

I was looking forward to spending a full day filled with culture, and tradition, and that is how I collaborated with a local tour company to visit Chordeleg and Gualaceo.

Embark on an unforgettable journey to Gualaceo, Ecuador, where the mesmerizing art of Makana weaving unfolds amidst the backdrop of rich cultural heritage. Just an hour’s drive from the bustling city of Cuenca lies La Casa de la Makana, a tranquil haven nestled in the heart of Gualaceo, dedicated to preserving and showcasing ancient weaving traditions passed down through generations.

Discovering Makana Magic A Guide to Gualaceo and Cuenca Adventures (2)

About Cuenca

Cuenca was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO due to its predominant colonial houses, rich history, and unchanged urban plan. The city is known for its art, culture and history.

In Cuenca, explore colonial charm at Parque Calderon, then stroll cobblestone streets to marvel at historic churches. Don’t miss Cajas National Park for nature’s splendor.

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The Gualaceo and Chordeleg craft towns

Journey to the quaint town of Gualaceo for an immersive cultural experience unlike any other. At La Casa de la Makana, step into a world where time-honored traditions come to life before your eyes. Here, skilled artisans meticulously craft intricate Makana shawls using ancient techniques passed down through generations. Witness the painstaking process of dyeing and weaving, and gain insight into the deep-rooted significance of Makana weaving in Ecuadorian culture. Prepare to be captivated by the artistry and dedication displayed by the craftsmen and women of Gualaceo.

Venture to Gualaceo for a cultural immersion. At La Casa de la Makana, witness the intricate process of crafting Makana shawls. An enriching experience awaits.

Cuenca Bestours

instagramIf you are in South America I would love to see your pictures.

Filigree jewelry

The tour continues and 15 minutes later we arrive at the pre-Incan town of Chordeleg. Its fame is linked to its beautiful handicrafts: pottery, hand embroidery & jewelry. This area was settled by Spaniards in 1539 who came in search of gold.

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During our tour, we visited the jewelry store Puerta del Sol and followed the explanation of the intricate process of elaboration of filigree masterpieces by Mr Jara. The main square is filled with jewelry stores. If you like fine jewelry, this is the place to buy filigree in silver & gold.

Cuenca Bestours

Sometimes you get the chance to observe some of the local women in the area weaving the traditional Ecuadorian straw hat, sold internationally as Panama Hat, which is an intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

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The makana workshop and shawls

A workshop where high-quality traditional Ecuadorian shawls (macanas) are woven in the Ikat ancestral tradition.

Makana shawls, crafted with painstaking attention to detail at La Casa de la Makana, are more than just pieces of fabric – they are tangible expressions of Ecuadorian culture and tradition. Each shawl tells a story, woven into its intricate patterns and vibrant colors, reflecting the heritage and craftsmanship of generations past. From the striking Ikat designs to the softness of the hand-spun fibers, every aspect of a Makana shawl speaks to the dedication and skill of the artisans who bring them to life. Whether draped over shoulders as a fashion statement or displayed as a work of art, these shawls are imbued with the spirit of Gualaceo, a testament to the enduring legacy of Ecuador’s weaving heritage.

Discovering Makana Magic A Guide to Gualaceo and Cuenca Adventures (2)

Discovering Makana Magic A Guide to Gualaceo and Cuenca Adventures (2)

The Ikat technique

At La Casa de la Makana in Gualaceo, the ancient art of Makana weaving is brought to life through the intricate Ikat technique. This traditional method involves meticulously dyeing threads before they are woven into intricate patterns, resulting in mesmerizing designs that adorn each handmade shawl. With roots tracing back centuries, the Ikat technique requires a delicate balance of precision and creativity, as artisans skillfully manipulate the dyeing process to achieve vibrant hues and intricate motifs. As you witness the weaving process firsthand, you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for the artistry and craftsmanship behind each Makana creation, a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Ecuador’s weaving traditions.

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The process of creating colors

The process of creating colors for Makana shawls is truly captivating. Fibers undergo immersion in solutions ranging from hours to months, yielding a spectrum of hues and shades. Utilizing barrels as vessels for dyes, artisans carefully concoct vibrant pigments. Each barrel houses a distinct color, serving as a base for creating an array of shades. Drawing inspiration from nature’s bounty, ingredients like nuts, flowers, rocks, and insects are meticulously sourced. For instance, a fraction of an insect yields hues of purple and lavender, while a simple addition of lime juice transforms these shades into vibrant reds, showcasing the ingenuity and resourcefulness inherent in the art of Makana weaving.


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Discovering Makana Magic A Guide to Gualaceo and Cuenca Adventures (2)

Packing list

  • Sunglasses, sunblock, and a hat; remember that the equatorial sun is intense since you will be outdoors for long periods.
  • Warm or wool clothes, because it can get cold, especially at night if it is rainy season. Dress in layers, the day may be sunny and then turn a bit chilly later in the afternoon.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes.
  • Bring binoculars to admire the wildlife in Cajas National Park.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle can help nature and the environment while you stay hydrated; there is bottled water in the kitchen.

Dress in layers as you will quickly get warm during the walks and when the sun is out, and remember that the weather can be pretty unpredictable. The temperature drops somewhat when the clouds block the sun.

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Where to stay in Cuenca

Downtown Cuenca

  1. Hotel Santa Lucia: Nestled in the heart of Cuenca’s historic district, Hotel Santa Lucia offers a charming and authentic experience. The hotel’s colonial architecture, combined with modern amenities, provides guests with a cozy and comfortable stay. With friendly staff and proximity to the city’s main attractions, it’s a top choice for travelers seeking a taste of Cuenca’s rich heritage.
  2. Mansion Alcazar Boutique Hotel: For those seeking luxury and elegance, Mansion Alcazar Boutique Hotel is the place to be. This beautifully restored mansion exudes old-world charm and sophistication. Guests can enjoy spacious, tastefully decorated rooms, a tranquil courtyard, and exquisite dining at the on-site restaurant. It’s an oasis of serenity in the heart of Cuenca.
  3. Pet friendly option – Looking for a hotel boutique decorated in colonial style, in the historical part of town and that is pet-friendly? We can personally recommend, NASS Casa del Aguila  located only four blocks away from the main square is the place for you.
  4. On your way to Cajas National Park : If you are looking for a place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, Molino del Puente is the place for you! The mills transport you to Europe, and at the same time get you to feel the imposing Andes with its mountains and landscapes.
Cuenca y Gualaceo
Many great landscapes along the area.
Cuenca, Ecuador
© Carmen Cristina Carpio Tobar

Booking a tour is possible

You can book a tour to enjoy more attractions in the same amount of time. It will ease communication barriers and avoid the hassles of planning and logistics in the city. (If you want our help booking the tour, please send us a message: info(at) visitecuadorandsouthamerica(dot)com as we have a good friend with tons of experience who we are sure will help gladly plan your memorable trip. )

If you would like to plan the trip by yourself, here are our suggested activities to spend 2 days in Cuenca.

Have you considered retiring in Cuenca? Read this.

Tours in Cuenca



As you unravel the allure of Ecuador, let Gualaceo’s Makana artistry and Cuenca’s timeless wonders guide your journey. From the intricate weaving traditions of La Casa de la Makana to the colonial charm of cobblestone streets, embrace the richness of culture and nature in this captivating destination that promises unforgettable experiences at every turn.

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Planning a trip soon?  Comment below or send me an email, I can help you with more tips to plan your memorable trip.


Discovering Makana Magic A Guide to Gualaceo and Cuenca Adventures (2)

If you want more in-depth information and also a guide that you can bring along during your trip, I recommend the travel guide Lonely Planet Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands.

This is a great source of information and tips, maps, and all you need if you plan on visiting Ecuador. I personally like the option of having a hard copy version where I can take notes and have them at hand.

Don´t just dream it, make it happen. Plan your South American trip with a local!

Take a look at this list of travel resources to plan your trip and travel in South America.

Day dreaming about your trip to South America? Order here your Free Ebook, I share with you some useful tips & resources for a memorable trip!

I invite you to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. In addition you can subscribe on YouTube.

You can also send an email to get help planning your trip: info(at) visitecuadorandsouthamerica(dot)com

Discovering Makana Magic: A Guide to Gualaceo and Cuenca Adventures

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