Are You Wondering About Retirement in Cotacachi, Ecuador?

December 1, 2011 at 10:58 pm 3 comments

If you are reading the Expat Exchange, International Living, Retirement Abroad, Shelter Offshore, Street Wise World, Transitions Abroad, or other web publications about retiring in another country because it might be a better use for the funds you currently live on, you have no doubt discovered Cotacachi, Ecuador.

If you haven’t discovered it yet and are wondering where it is and why several Americans, Canadians, and a few Europeans have made their way to this immaculate town, here is a bit of information I’ve both read and heard from locals about why this place is so well liked:

It is located in the northern most province of Imbabura (close to Columbia) and offers pleasing views as it is set in a valley between two volcanoes

It is small; population 8,000

It is relatively quiet compared to other Ecuadorian cities and it is flat; no steep inclines and therefore senior friendly

It is clean – no litter

There is a plethora of potable water, and if you know what you are buying and where it comes from, organic produce

The quality of air is a vast improvement over most North American and European cities

The cost for a two bedroom unfurnished apartment is around $200/month and goes up from there; there are eco-friendly “green” homes already built and continuing to be built of adobe and other materials

There is a Relais & Chateau Spa & Resort

There is an impressive community of alternative health care practitioners.  I have heard there is an ayurvedic doctor, a very well-liked American naturopath, a group of Cuban energy medicine men that visit once a year, plus midwives and masseurs.

There are plans for a small six-bed assisted living home for ex-pats, and for a high-end assisted living facility where the business model is to buy your living space (ground has been broken but its completion is about a year or two away).  There is one home for elderly women, the Hogar de Ancianas Carmen Ruiz Echeverria, considered by the government as one of the best elder care facilities in the country, according to the secretary.  It is run by loving nuns and attentive caregivers.  Half the population is indigenous Quechua-speaking; women with smiling eyes and hearts.

Eldercare home in Cotacachi

adorable residents of the eldercare home

The currency of Ecuador is the U.S. dollar

WiFi and telephone are about $100/month, electricity about $100/month, gas $2.50/month (these amounts have not been verified)

Meals in restaurants are under $5

If you own a car, gasoline is a little over $1 a gallon (the country produces petroleum)

Larger towns of Ibarra and Otavalo are 30-45 minutes away, Quito is 2 hours away

The municipality is encouraging growth and has a progressive indigenous mayor who is well regarded for his “participatory democracy,” which include efforts to bring together all residents – black, indigenous,mestizo, and ex-pats.  One of his city colleagues, a refined and charming gentleman, spends his days devoted to community building and outreach.  The city motto is “vive, ama, y compartelo” roughly translated to live, love, and share. Read more at .

Cotacachi City Hall

There is an excellent American breakfast and lunch restaurant Serendipity offering healthy as well as vegetarian choices (plus natural products and medicinal herbs), and Café Intag, which also serve as ex-pat meeting places

Serendipity Cafe

You can qualify for a residency visa if you can show proof of an income of $800/month, and will live at least 9 months a year for two years in Ecuador. Or, you can buy property or bring added value with a business which also assist in qualifying for the resident visa. See the visa page of the Ecuadorian Embassy in the U.S. for details at

Ecuadoreans are generally kind-hearted and will welcome you

There’s an American couple that teaches tango!

The challenges:

Rain which causes electrical outages every so often

Apparently no mosquitoes at this elevation (around 9,000 feet), but there are biting flies

A developing infrastructure with a long way to go

Pockets of poverty (low standard of living) though not readily evident in town

Like most of northern Ecuador, it is often damp and humid in Cotacachi, except for nearby Ibarra-Inbaya which is known to be warmer. This detail is important for asthmatics and those who are easily susceptible to bronchitis. Note: most buildings are constructed of brick, cement, and tile.

You need to stay healthy; ex-pats tell me they go to Ibarra, Otavalo, or Quito for emergencies and/or to find a hospital.

For culture (Cotacachi is not a university town, a museum town, a library town, or a theater town though there are important local fiestas and artisan fairs) and shopping, ex-pats seem to go to Quito or Cuenca, or back to the U.S., Canada, etc. They order books, clothing and other items from the U.S. Note: there is a kind American woman who has a small resale shop with books, clothing, nick-knacks

Some Ecuadorians will tell you that the increase in crime in their country is because of a new wave of immigrants from Columbia and Peru, although in my experience and that of expats who have lived here a long time, theft has been in existence in Ecuador long before the new wave of immigration. I have not heard of any incidents in Cotacachi.  Be extra careful in Ibarra is what I’ve been told. I understand there are expats who live in Ibarra and surrounding areas; I have yet to meet with any to hear their experiences and perspective.

The best thing to do is take a trip to find out in person how it feels as you explore Cotacachi and surrounding cites.  Meet the residents.  You will know if this city makes sense or not for your health, your pocket book, and your lifestyle. Happy journeying!

Entry filed under: Travel blog. Tags: , , .

Ways to Travel to and in Ecuador from Los Angeles “Easily” Lasse Hallstrom Movie to See in Spring 2012, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. FO James  |  December 21, 2011 at 4:27 am

    Wow! Excellent article, Thanks!

  • 2. Peggy  |  December 21, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Helpful. Any new information? We plan to be in Cotacachi July and August, 2014.

    • 3. bigpondlittlegirl  |  January 19, 2015 at 3:44 am

      Hello P,
      So sorry to discover your note just now. No new info… do trust you enjoyed your visit to Cotacachi… Blessings, G


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

"If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." - Lewis Carroll

%d bloggers like this: