The Historical Center is located on the second terrace of a big alluvial cone, which was formed by the erosive action of the rivers during thousands of years. It is characterized by the presence of narrow cobblestone streets and picturesque colonial and republican style buildings, which give the city a special charm. This is also the commercial center in the city, where most of the shops, banks, boutiques and hotels are found.
The Empire of the Incas, from its capital Cuzco, expanded in the 14th and 15th Centuries to form the Tahuantinsuyo, which went from northern Chile to the north of Peru. In 1463 the ruling Inca, Tupac Yupanqui, began moving north to conquer Ecuador. The Inca armies met fierce resistance by the Cañaris and other local Indian groups, and it wasn’t until 1500 that the Incas finally settled in what is now Cuenca and surroundings, under the rule of Huayna Capac, son of Tupac Yupanqui and a Cañari princess. Ecuador’s new lords ruled for less than half a century, until the Spanish conquest in the 1530’s, but their legacy was the Quichua language, spoken by the majority of the Indian population of Ecuador, and an incredible network of roads connecting Quito with Cuzco along the highlands and Santiago de Chile and Guayaquil on the coast. The Camino del Inca was 8 meters wide (24 feet) and paved with stone – along which the Chasqui runners would bring messages and even fresh fish from the coast to the Inca.