Artists, poets and writers have long since flourished in pretty Cuenca. Surprisingly, the city is one of the largest in Ecuador – it unquestionably retains the charm of a much smaller provincial town. Cobblestone streets can easily be explored on foot and fascinating museums and leafy plazas are dotted in between the red-tiled roofs.
You could be forgiven for making assumptions about the origins of the Panama Hat, but all genuine woven hats originate from Ecuador. Thousands of hats were shipped to Panama during the construction of the canal, where they protected workers from the beating sun’s rays and gained popularity as well as their name. The Panama Hat factory in Cuenca produces some of the finest quality woven hats, while the superbly organised museum and factory gives a comprehensive breakdown of the stages of production. After learning more about the process you can visit the gift-shop to purchase the genuine article if you would like a souvenir.