Cotacachi Offers Small-Town Living with Big-City Access

When I came to Ecuador five years ago, deciding where exactly to settle down was the dilemma that my family and I faced. Eventually we landed on Cotacachi and we feel we’ve found that sweet spot of locales. Here’s why.

Cotacachi is a small town, which is what we were seeking. There’s no heavy traffic, the local people have that small-town friendly vibe, we know our local butcher and pharmacist, and we can walk everywhere. It’s a stress-free zone full of great people and it has a truly carefree air.

Being right on the spine of the Andes is perfect too. Though we’re less than one degree north of the equator, we don’t deal with oppressive heat. Thanks to sitting at nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, Cotacachi’s blue sky days of sunshine rise into the high 70s F or low 80s F at most.

And then of course there’s the natural beauty. We’re surrounded by the jagged elevations of the Andes mountains with two especially impressive volcanic peaks either side of our little valley. Quilt-like patches of pastures and fields climb their way up the slopes while waterfalls tumble down. Not all houses in Cotacachi have equally impressive views, but it’s incredibly difficult to find a property with a bad one.

As ideal as the town is for us, the reality is that sometimes we need things that Cotacachi can’t provide. While there is a small public hospital in town, any major medical needs have to be addressed elsewhere. We have a produce market, small grocery store, and plenty of clothing shops in town, but the options are limited. And while we love the peace and quiet of this area, a variety of entertainment options are lacking.

Again, Cotacachi’s location within the country is ideal. Whenever we need something that can’t be found locally (which isn’t all that often), Quito is just two hours away. Quito is a large city of over 2.5 million people and it has everything we could possibly need. There are modern medical centers that can take care of any ailment we might encounter. Giant shopping malls with everything from sporting goods to perfume are scattered throughout the city. And, of course, there are the museums, theaters, parks, and sports stadiums.

Last week my husband and I took the bus round-trip to Quito (total cost for both of us was $11.40) to take care of some administrative errands. After taking care of business we hit the huge Inaquito market where we picked up some enormous pomegranates, a couple bottles of wine, and a large sack of flor de Jamaica (a type of dried hibiscus) for tea. Afterwards we walked a few blocks to the beautiful Parque Carolina and stopped in for lunch at an Indian restaurant across the street. It was a nice and easy day-trip that had us home by mid-afternoon.

If I really want to take advantage of Quito’s offerings, I’ll stay for a weekend. A few months ago, several friends and I rented an Airbnb in the historic district and spent our time eating our way through the city, hitting up museums, hiking, and enjoying a night at the theater.

So, while living in Cotacachi gives me everything I want as far as small-town lifestyle, it also gives me easy access to all the big-city perks I could want. And I can’t think of a better set-up than that.

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