South America Living

Cotacachi, Ecuador – Cheap Place To Live In South America

Healing mecca, mountain paradise, expat haven – the small town of Cotacachi, Ecuador (population around 9000) is racking up a slew of complimentary titles as well as attracting retirees from the U.S. and elsewhere in droves.   Photos – Otavalo & Cotacachi, Ecuador

Lake Cuicocha - A Crater Lake Near

Located approximately 2 hours from the capital city Quito the village is well known for its hand-crafted leather products. Methods of tanning, stretching and molding the leather skins have been passed down through the generations and perfected into an art.   Travel Guide to Quito

It is small town living but with plenty of natural attractions nearby to enjoy; you will have no real excuse to complain of boredom if you relocate to Cotacachi. In addition to nearby Otavalo, activities include:

The Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve – can hike to the summit of Cotacachi Volcano which lies at 4,935m (16,200 feet).

Festival Dancers in Cotacachi, Ecuador

Lake Cuicocha (Laguna Cuicocha in Spanish) – volcanic crater lake located in the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve. Surrounded by hills you can hike along its shores or take a boat ride around the lake.

Lake San Pablo (Laguna San Pablo) – largest lake in Ecuador – approximately 4 km (2.4 miles) wide. During Fiesta del Yamor (annually in September) boat races are held on the lake as well as a swim competition where participants grease their bodies to withstand water temperatures of 40-50 degrees. Brrr!

Peguche Waterfall – highlight of the indigenous village of the same name – Peguche – located approximately an hour and a half from Cotacachi. Also popular are its gigantic stands of eucalyptus

And of course the capital city Quito with an abundance of things to do and see. It costs only $2 USD to travel from Cotacachi to Quito, a 2 hour journey with busses leaving from the Otavalo bus terminal every 30 minutes. The bus from Cotacachi to Otavalo is just 15 cents for the 20 minute ride.

One expat from the U.S. who has lived in Cotacachi for a few years and owns an apartment building in the town – Phil Ware – writes this about what’s on for fun: “There always seems to be some type of celebration going on usually with great music. As more expats arrive there are activities like horseback riding, girls night out, dance classes, cheese factory tours, dinners at a 350 year old hacienda, etc”.

The majority of expats are attracted by the bargain real estate deals as much as they are the low cost of living, peaceful environment and people. Yet inexpensive rentals are available for those who are living on a $800 USD per month budget. For more information on rentals view this page: Cost of Living in Cotacachi.

The page also includes pricing information for a doctor’s visit, dental care, transportation and grocery items. There is a price chart for goods bought in one of the two supermarkets in the area – Tia (new, just opened in Cotacachi) & SuperMaxi (in Ibarra 30 minutes by bus)- as well as at the local farmer’s market. Want to know how much a bottle of Jack Daniels will cost or where to get meat 10% off? Read the cost of living page.


  • Ecuador is a budget traveler’s dream. Folks with limited cash moving to Cotacachi will be able to visit other areas of the country easily (bus transport, staying in hostals).
  • Surrounding natural beauty that is easily accessible to tourists (view photo page).


  • It may be best if you are a ‘love thy neighbor’ kind of person if moving to Cotacachi full-time. There won’t be a lot of them… and you will see them often 🙂
  • Cultural activities are 2 hours away in Quito (shopping mall, museums, etc.) – might be a bit far for those used to living in a large, metropolitan area.

Photograph of Cotacachi dancers by Chris Feser from Seattle, USA

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