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A Comprehensive Guide for Moving to Cotacachi

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The following is a guest post and contains a great deal of useful information for those interested in relocating to Cotacachi, Ecuador...


Cotacachi or Ibarra, Ecuador - Best Places for Expats

A recent post on the Cotacachi Expat’s Facebook page regarding living in the town of Ibarra received quite a few responses. Ibarra is a small city located about 30 minutes by bus from Cotacachi. The elevation of Ibarra is a bit lower, so temperatures are usually higher there.

A Cotacachi Christmas - The Way it was Before Shopping Took over the Holidays.

Christmas in North America has come to be associated with stress and overconsumption. Turn on the television or visit any shopping center and you will be bombarded with promotions designed to get you to spend, spend, and spend some more. Only after the savings have been depleted and credit cards tapped out does the madness end.

Ecuador has not completely escaped the commercialization of Christmas. Visit a shopping mall in Quito or Ibarra and you will still see the familiar displays touting holiday savings. However, the small town of Cotacachi has so far managed to escape the era of holiday excess.

Sights & Sounds of Cotacachi, Ecuador

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Sights and sounds on a typical day in Cotacachi, Ecuador


Ticket to Ecuador

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In an era of low interest rates, it is hard to find a place to park your money and get anything in return.  However, for those looking for an alternative to buying an airline ticket to Ecuador, there may be a solution. 


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My wife and I recently came across an old videotape of our first visit to Cotacachi in 2008 that caused us to reflect on all the changes that have occurred over the past few years.  In those days, Cotacachi was a sleepy, small town with only a handful of expats living there full time.  Buses would drop off tourists for a day of shopping on “Leather Street,” but the town still had the feeling of being an undiscovered destination.  The expat housing developments of Primavera II, San Miguel, and Jahua Pacha were still getting off the ground.

New digital currency

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Ecuador recently announced that they plan to create their own digital currency that can be used for transactions within Ecuador. The new currency will be backed by the Ecuadorian Central Bank, and it is thought that it will stimulate the economy and be helpful to consumers who do not have bank accounts or credit cards. Ecuador switched from the Sucre to the U.S. Dollar in the year 2000 after their own currency collapsed. There have long been rumblings that President Correa would like to return to having their own national currency again.


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Those who own real estate and have experience with homeowners' associations in the States know that they often come with their share of headaches. Collecting dues and making sometimes controversial financial decisions can create contention or even downright hostility among the members.  As many expats live in gated communities in Ecuador, HOA's are a fact of life for many living here.

Live in or Outside of Town?

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Cotacachi is a small town.  That makes it very easy to get anywhere easily on foot.  Unless you are carrying things, it is usually not necessary to ever take a taxi in town.  Just be sure to plan on plenty of time for stopping and visiting with friends along the way.  While there are some housing developments located in town such as Primavera I and Primavera II, many of the expat gated communities are found outside of town.  Is it better to live in or outside of town?

The Food Just Tastes Different

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The food just tastes different in Ecuador.  I can't tell you exactly how, just that it is better.  I don't know if it is what the chickens are fed that make the eggs better or if it is the open spaces that allow the cattle to produce better milk.  The cheese and the butter are far and away better tasting than that found in the States.  Even the garlic has a stronger taste and smell.

New Quito Airport

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The new airport in Quito that opened in early 2013 has made the trip to Cotacachi a bit easier.  Upon arrival, usually late at night, it is no longer necessary to pass through the streets of Quito to make your way north.  With a good driver and light traffic, it is possible to get to Cotacachi within 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Of course, that depends greatly upon how many slow moving trucks you encounter along the way on the mostly two lane mountain highway.

Our Arrival Back in Cotacachi

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My wife and I had been back in the States for a good part of 2013, so our return to Cotacachi a couple of weeks ago gave us a chance to see the changes from a different perspective.  After departing the barren tundra, also known as the Midwest, we arrived in Quito late at night and our trusted driver was waiting to take us to our casa.  The next morning, we awoke feeling like we had died and gone to heaven.  The sun was shining brightly over the mountains while we lounged on our terrace, our winter-dried skin soaking up the warmth and sunshine.

The Ecuadorian Deception by Bear Mills

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I received a copy of "The Ecuadorian Deception" by Bear Mills last week.  To be honest, I have not read a book of fiction for many years, preferring to read nonfiction.  However, I was intrigued to see how the descriptions and experiences of the characters would compare to my own experiences in Ecuador.

Casa de los Suenos Housing Development

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Sneak peak of the construction of the Casa de los Suenos development in Cotacachi.  More information can be found on the "Homes for Sale" section of this website.

The Basket Man

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As soon as the basket man has the basket in your lady's hands, it's over. That woman and every woman will be buying at least one that day. I should know. I own ten large baskets and two small baskets, each with different designs. Men, it is your job to keep the baskets out of your lady's hands or you'll be paying whatever the basket man dictates that day. Heaven forbid your lady is out alone, and from the other side of the park out of the corner of her eye, she spots the basket man. She will be coming home with more baskets than she knows what to do with.

Medical labs in Cotacachi

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Before learning Cotacachi had two laboratories to test blood, I was going all the way to my doctor's office in Ibarra to do this. How refreshing to know that I can walk one block off of Diez de Agosto (Leather Street) across the street from the elementary school to a small laboratory where there's never a line and have my blood drawn by an experienced phlebotomist.

Real Estate On The Rise

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It's no wonder why real estate has been selling so quickly. Cotacachi has sunny days and pleasant temperatures consistently, and there are more businesses opening all the time. Recently, an older development has experienced a sort of renaissance. San Miguel has always been a desirable community with its lovely houses and private walled yards surrounded by mountain views. Now with many new expats in town, more people are realizing its specialness. So much so that three homes and two vacant lots have been resold in the past two months.

Super Bowl at the Monkey Bar

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Since our beloved St. Louis Rams didn't make it to the playoffs, we faced the serious dilemma of which NFL team to give our allegiance on Super Bowl Sunday. Would it be the Baltimore Ravens or the San Francisco 49ers?

Our Heads in the Clouds

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After being away from Cotacachi for a while, we returned with fresh eyes and were filled with wonderment at the natural beauty of the country. There are green valleys in the countryside around our home at Jahua Pacha. Mount Imbabura towers outside our front window while Mount Cotacachi keeps guard outside our back window. We feel fortunate to be enveloped by such beauty. Truly breathtaking. Walking into town on the cobble stone streets accompanied by herds of sheep grazing in the field and the sun on our faces, we pinch ourselves knowing there's no other place we'd rather be.

Cotacachi versus the Midwest (by Cotacachi expat)

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Cotacachi is such a great place to relax. So refreshing compared to the frantic pace of the U.S. Even here in the Midwest where life is slower than NYC or LA, there's still a lot of stress to contend with on the highways and byways, especially now that Americans are so fond of texting while they drive.

Farmacia (Pharmacy) (by Cotacachi Expat)

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I thought it was the altitude. I felt more fatigued than usual after a run, plus my fingers and toes were always cold, and my thick mane was thinning out. One blood test later, I learned I had a problem with my thyroid. No big deal. I take a tiny pill once a day, every day, and that takes care of that.

Without a prescription, I walk into any farmacia (pharmacy) and request my meds. $2 for a month's supply. Still cheaper than Walmart. Plus, I don't have to contact my doctor for prescriptions.

The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) (posted by a Cotacachi expat)

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Often, we expats face unforeseen problems and make matters worse by resisting the flow of life. This was one of those days for my husband and me. Every two weeks, we grocery shop at Supermaxi in Ibarra, thirty minutes away, for many imported goods from the U.S.A., such as Kellogg's Muesli, Pace picante sauce, Gatorade, and Snickers bars. Normally, we hire our favorite taxi driver, Giovanni, to take us shopping, run various errands, and return us safely home with a loaded car of goodies. In all, it’s a three hour round trip for which he charges a measly $15.

Away From Cotacachi

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We have been away from Cotacachi for almost 5 months now as we are attending to some family health issues. I haven’t been very diligent about updating my blog but do have a few thoughts about life in Cotacachi versus the U.S.

1) As younger retirees, most of our friends in the U.S. are still working and have their own lives. As almost everyone in Cotacachi is retired, it is much easier to get together for lunch or a beer anytime we feel like it.

Champagne lunch at Hacienda San Isidro

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About 30 minutes on a rough road outside of Cotacachi brings you to a restored centuries old hacienda call San Isidro.  A special dinner is served there virtually every Sunday.  We made our first visit and enjoyed a excellent meal of

Empanadas of the Hacienda
Cream of Mushroom
Roman lobster salsa golf on bed of vegetables with basil
and mashed potatoes
Crepe suzette flambé the Grand Marnier with vanilla ice cream

Street Dog

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We finally broke down and adopted a street dog.  She had been hanging around our development scavenging for food, and we started feeding her.  She was such a pathetic sight, hair falling out and covered with dirt.  We took her to the vet where she was shaved, bathed, and given medicine.  Now, she is named Phoebe, lives like a queen, eats steak, and sits in my place in the living room chair. It has been a lot of fun watching the transformation.  Happy dog.  Very happy owners.

Thanksgiving at La Mirage

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More than 70 expats gathered at the 5-star resort in Cotacachi for a 6-course Thanksgiving dinner.  The food was amazing, and nobody left there hungry!  It was a great way to spend the holidays with and meet new members of the Cotacachi expat community.

Back in Cotacachi

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After a long and rather exhausting trip, we made it back to Cotacachi about a week ago after spending 3 months visiting friends and family in the States.  Getting away for a while is almost always a good thing because it allows you to come back with fresh eyes.  The pastures are always greener, the  sunrise always brighter after some time away.  Our impressions….Cotacachi is bustling.  More expats, more businesses, more people looking for rentals, another bank.  Changes are coming quickly to this town.


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