As far as I’m concerned, Ecuador rocks. It may be a small country, but it has more to offer than you can imagine…great cities and quiet villages….the majestic snowcapped Andes mountains…impossibly beautiful beaches…and the glorious Amazon rainforest.
So where to start when you get your boots on the ground in Ecuador? Here’s what I recommend: Start in Quito. It’s the capital city and cultural center of the country. Despite it being a world-class cosmopolitan city with excellent (and low-cost) doctors and medical facilities, it also offers some pretty cushy lifestyle options that come with a very small price tag.
Real estate costs are $75-$93 per square foot. You can buy a brand-new 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in a stunning high-rise building with gorgeous views of the valley and mountains for $100,000 or less…sometimes far less.
At this price, you’ll get a doorman and amenities that may even include a gym, private movie salon, and more…like two parking spaces. (My favorite sectors of the city are La Floresta and La Carolina.)
I’ve seen resale apartments in the city selling for even less. In the historic Old Town Quito (a UNESCO World Heritage site) an 850-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment is now on offer for $37,500. If you’re looking for a project, you can buy a 6,450-square-foot colonial mansion with a spacious interior courtyard and nine bedrooms for just $140,000.
From Quito, head two hours north to Otavalo and Cotacachi.
Many expats are now settling in this highlands area, attracted by the lower elevation, warmer temperatures, and the quiet, simple pleasures of small-town village life.
In Cotacachi, where I live, you can buy an 800-square-foot studio penthouse for $49,000 or a three-bedroom, three-bath apartment for just $68,000. And both are fully furnished! Or a 1,500-square-foot hacienda-style home with thick whitewashed walls and a terracotta tile roof…two bedrooms, two bathrooms, four fireplaces, all appliances included, a gorgeous garden and beautiful views of two volcanoes—for $124,000.
South from Quito is Cuenca. It’s a long 12-hour drive through the mountains so I recommend flying to this pretty colonial city that International Living has named a #1 retirement destination. Its historic colonial center is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. This city of about 518,000 people offers everything you might need by way of modern and cultural amenities.
There is also an expat enclave in Vilcabamba (in the super-healthy Valley of Longevity)— perfect for the nature lover and gardener, thanks to its beautiful scenery and lower elevation. (If you’re a culture vulture, this may not be the place for you.)
Just seven minutes from town, you can buy a lot-with-a-view of almost an acre for little more than $20,000. In town, you can pick up an eight-bedroom house four blocks from the park for $80,000. For that same amount, and one block closer to the park, you can buy what amounts to three separate homes—one with two bedrooms and two with one bedroom.
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