Ecuador has long been an expat favorite due to its mild climate, biodiversity, friendly people, and ease of immigration. The most difficult part of moving to Ecuador though is deciding which part of the country to settle in. Coast or mountains? City or small town? Luckily there are many choices, but one place that has been catching many an expat’s eye is the mountain town of Cotacachi.
Take a look at the following five reasons why Cotacachi might be right for you.
1. Small Town Living Close to City Amenities
Cotacachi sits in the Andean highlands of Ecuador and has retained a quaint colonial feel. With a population of just 10,000 people and an economy centered around artisan leather products it’s a fun place to enjoy small-town life.
Most businesses are still small family-owned operations and you’ll get to know the proprietors on a personal level. People walking down the street will greet you with a smile and a taxi ride anywhere in town will cost just $1.
But for those occasions where you want to visit a large supermarket, take in a cinema movie, or need to see a medical specialist you can find it all in the nearby city of Ibarra. Just 45 minutes away by bus, at the cost of $.55 for the ride, you can find nearly anything you need in Ecuador’s “White City.” Or you can head to Quito which is just two hours away for a weekend in the big city with symphonies, high-end restaurants, and museums. Either way you can easily satisfy your city needs while still enjoying a quiet village lifestyle.
2. Stunning Vistas
You know what they say in the real estate world…”location, location, location!” Well it’s tough to find a bad location in Cotacachi. Nearly every house, condo, or apartment in town has gorgeous views. Why? Well the town is flanked by two very impressive (and long-dormant) volcanoes, Imbabura and Cotacachi. From certain points in and around town you can even spot one or two of the area’s other volcanoes in the distance.
During the winter months when the area tends to get more rain it’s not unusual to wake up to see Mount Cotacachi’s rocky top dusted with snow. Rest assured though that while the white stuff is pretty to look at you’ll never have to deal with it yourself as it stays only on the tip of the highest peaks.
And a short drive in many directions will take you to even more impressive sights. Lago Cuicocha is a deep jewel-blue lake that fills a collapsed volcanic crater on Mount Cotacachi herself. Peguche Falls is considered sacred by locals and a 15-minute cab ride plus a short hike will put you square in front of the cascade. Just driving through the countryside is a feast for the eyes with small patches of farmland filled with corn, beans, and livestock abound.
3. Healthy Lifestyle
Being a small town it’s easy to walk from one end of Cotacachi to the other within twenty minutes. There’s no reason to own a car and many newcomers find themselves shedding pounds within a few weeks of arrival due to being more active.
Add to that all of the fresh locally grown produce that is available at dirt cheap prices and it’s easy to eat healthier too. If you’re into mountain biking, hiking, or just like to hit the gym you can find all of that here as well.
4. Diverse Culture
Cotacachi is surrounded by dozens of indigenous communities which have a profound influence on the town. You’ll see Kichwa women walking through town dressed in their embroidered white blouses with long black skirts while their husbands wear stark-white pants and navy blue panchos. There are several festivals each year devoted to harvest and planting times where thanks is given to the earth and sun. And you’ll hear their traditional flute music being played in restaurants, on street corners, and even coming from gas delivery trucks.
The mestizo culture is alive and well also and is especially evident during religious holidays. Easter brings about a weekend full of Semana Santa festivities. Parades, biblical reenactments, and a special soup known as fanesca abound.
If you’re looking to be immersed in a hotspot of Ecuadorian culture, Cotacachi is the place to be.
5. Sizeable Expat Community
While most of us who move to Ecuador are happy to settle into Ecuadorian life it’s always nice to have a little support from back home. Sometimes it’s nice to converse in our native language, discuss the World Series or Super Bowl, or celebrate Thanksgiving together.
One of the biggest benefits of having a ready-made expat population though is that there are already those who have paved the way. When you don’t know where to go for a root canal, someone has already done it and can point you in the right direction. When you’re not sure if you should tip a taxi driver or not just ask those who’ve been here for some time and they can guide you. It’s a ready-made support system which helps in transitioning to a life overseas.
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