Get More Bang for Your Buck in Cotacachi

Ecuador is packed full of beauty, and it comes in many different forms. I’ve walked along golden beaches awash with turquoise waves. I’ve explored cloud forests under a lush canopy of broad-leaved trees. Toucans and macaws have zipped past me in colorful streaks against the greens of the Amazon rainforest.

But my favorite spot in the country is in the north Andes. Here, in the province of Imbabura, is where I call home. Hundreds of other expats have been drawn to this pastoral land surrounded by high Andean peaks, waterfalls, and patchwork fields that crawl up and down the hillsides.

The town of Cotacachi, in particular, has appealed to many due to its charming small-town vibe, its leather goods, and strong cultural heritage. Not only that, but you can find good-value real estate on offer from just $85,000.

The expat community here means more and varied food choices than most other small towns have. There’s also American-style events (think 4th of July or Halloween parties), and even a popular band composed of American musicians.

I’ve lived in Cotacachi for five years now and have come to love my new Ecuadorean home. My Ecuadorean neighbors and friends have made me feel welcome and I’m constantly invited to weddings and fiestas. And I take any chance I get to hike the surrounding mountains with a great group of women that I’ve met here.

Not only is life pleasant here, but it’s also affordable. If I want to eat out, lunch will cost me anywhere between $2.50 and $6, depending on where and what I eat. Last month’s utilities (electric, phone, and water) ran me a grand total of $25. And a two-and-a-half-hour bus trip to the big city of Quito costs just $2.50. Housing is also affordable and many expats have chosen to buy property here.

There is a way, though, to get even more bang for your buck in the real estate department and still enjoy all that Imbabura Province and Cotacachi have to offer. The secret lies in proximity. As a general rule, the farther from the center of town you go, the lower the cost of housing. If you’re willing to live 20 or 30 minutes outside of town, you can find some great deals.

Take, for example, the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house near the small city of Otavalo. It’s in a community of Swiss chalet-style abodes and overlooks some of Imbabura’s best offerings including mountains, a lake, and a valley. For $112,000 you could own this country house and have easy access to all of Otavalo’s amenities like larger grocery stores, medical offices, and of course the famed craft market. But 25 minutes of driving will also have you in Cotacachi where you can enjoy coffee with other expats or hit the artisan food market every Thursday.

If you’d like to live near a beautiful lake at the base of an extinct volcano, you might consider the community of San Pablo. It’s 30 minutes outside of Cotacachi, but here you can find an adobe house with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a covered porch, and lovely gardens. The owners are asking only $89,000 and are open to negotiation.

Or, just 20 minutes from Cotacachi is the town of Atuntaqui, which is famous for making clothing and textiles. There is a brand-new townhouse available in a gated community here for $85,000. It has nearly 1,600 square feet of living space and has a modern style. It’s also just 20 minutes from the city of Ibarra where you’ll find large medical clinics, shopping malls, and household goods.

It’s easy to save money in Ecuador, but knowing where to look can make a big difference in just how much of a discount you get.

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