After traveling for through every part of Ecuador for years we chose Cotacachi as our second home. We love it here in Cotacachi so we share some answers here to the frequently asked questions we so often hear.
Q: Where is Cotacachi?
Coatcahci is located just west of the Pan American Highway less than two hours north of Quito, Ecuador’s capital.
Here is a picture of Cotacachi from the Pan Am highway . It sits snuggled in a broad valley between two 15,000 foot mountains.
This is Cotacachi’s main square in a misty dawn. Everyone is surprised and delighted when they arrive. Cotacachi is clean, quiet and safe.
Here is the main Cathedral on the Cotacachi square…one of Ecuaror’s best.
Q: How do I get to Cotacachi?
Fly to Quito. There are daily direct flights from Miami and NYC (American & LAN Airlines) Atlanta (Delta) and Houston (Continental). There are also flights from the US via via Mexico City, Taca via Costa Rica, Copa via Panama and Avianca via Bogota. Iberia from Madrid and KLM from Amsterdam via Curacao have flights from Europe.
From Quito the fare to Cotacachi is $55 by taxi from the airport and $6 by bus. There is also Taxis Lagos that go from their terminal in Quito to their terminal in Otavalo for $12 per person…from there, take a taxi to Cotacachi for $4-5.
Q: What is the governmental structure of Cotacachi?
Cotacachi village, has a population of appx. 10,000 and is one part of the Canton (County) of Cotacachi in Imbabura Province (State) and has been a legalized Canton since 1861.
In August 1996 Auki Tituaña Males, the first indigenous mayor of the Canton, was elected.
He has focused on building a unity between the mestizo, black, and indigenous populations. He also implemented a participative democratic system as opposed to a representative democracy. This was done by creating a city council where all the sectors of the society, young and old rural and urban participate.
Children between the ages of 9 and 15 are involved in committee work, and youth proposals have been included in the Local Development Plan.
The council has declared the region an “ecological canton” and banned mining, logging, and genetically engineered crops. This has created conflicts at times with national law.
The population is trying to encourage sustainable alternatives such as the production of shade-grown organic coffee (grown by a cooperative with 300 member families) and eco-cultural tourism.
Garbage recycling and organic farming are promoted along with sustainable management of native forests. A centre helps low-impact development, eco-tourism, environmental education, seed banks, and farming of medicinal plants.
Cotacachi is clean, orderly and beautiful. Here is a gas lamp lined Cotacachi street in the dawn.
Q: What is the Cotacachi weather like?
The mountain weather in Cotacachi is eternal spring and quite warm considering the village’s altitude of 7,800 feet. Temperatures range from 70 degree F mid day to the low 50s at night. Most residents layer themselves with a coat, sweater and shirt…shedding layers as the day warms.
The wettest season runs from January through Mach but even then the rains are intermittent and most days gringos will have to wear a hat or risk getting a sun burn.
Here is one of our seminar groups taking a coffee break in our open air court yard in January. Note the dress and the sun!
Q: What type of Cotacachi accommodations are available?
There are numerous accommodations ranging from the Relais & Chateaux ranked La Mirage. An ex-hacienda turned into suites with fireplaces, La Mirage has incredible gardens and a unique full spa with swimming pool. Rack rates run from $350 a night and up but we send La Mirage many guests and can often arrange a reduced rate.
Mesón de las Flores, our 140 year old hotel, is located at the main Plaza, Garcia Moreno 1376 and Sucre. We, of course, think we are the best place in town, but we are a small country inn. Our rates run from $59 (plus $22% service and tax) a night including really lush breakfasts served by our sweet, caring staff in our colonial open air court yard.
Here is the hotel.
Here are the rooms overlooking the open air court yard.
Here are our food servers Consuelo, Eduardo and Veronica serving a birthday cake for one of our guests.
There are a number of other Cotacachi hotels and Cotacachi hostels offering much lower rates.
Hostal El Arbolito. We place many guests here when we are full. The rooms have a private bath, rent for $15 for a single and $25 for a double.
Sumac Huasi is $18 single and $39 double. Also El Arboleto is nearby and offers $18 single. (Remember all rates in Ecuador have the 22% tax added.)
Q: How is the Cotacachi food?
Cotacachian food (as most Ecuadorian food) is very misunderstood by those who have never been to Ecuador. No tacos…no chiles…no antijitos, nothing like Mexican food at all. Food ranges from standard European food with excellent chicken, meat and seafood dishes to indigenous specials that included potato pancakes, hominy, avocado, fresh non-fermented cheese, a salad, grilled corn on the cob and empanados.
Here is a typical meal served at our Cotacachi hotel…quinoa shrimp.
Corvina (sea bass) and trout and shrimp are the popular fish dishes. Seafood comes into Ibarra most mornings straight from the coast and is superb.
Prices range from a dollar (for a full meal) at the local market up to $8 for a three course meal in the fancier tourist restaurants.
Real fresh fruits and juices of all kinds are an area specialty as is ceviche marinated seafood dish (or marinated hearts of palm) and Carnes Colorado…a grilled meat dish that is a specialty of Cotacachi and according to legend was first created in the kitchens at Meson.
Other restaurants include Asadero La Tola, Majestico, El Leñador. There is a local pizza house but no franchised American fast food joints.
Q: What about Cotacachi Crime?
We have never heard of any serious violent crime during the years we have been here. Like small village life around the world..living in Cotacachi is quite safe. We even see small children walking to and from school…playing in the streets or just walking around even at night. Crimes tend to be crimes of property rather than of violence.
One reason we love Ecuador is the lack of aggression. This is especially true in Cotacachi. The normal reaction to stress here is laughter. In the North, especially in the US, it is anger. When we first get back to the US after being here all winter, we really have to adjust once again to the horn honking, anger and push.
One delegate remarked on this when he recently observed a police arrest here in the village.
“Gary, I want to express my appreciation for your gracious hospitality on a recent stay at El Meson de los Flores. It was a relaxing three days. There was an incident on the street outside the hotel that might interest you. I was awakened one night by a ruckus on the street. Loud enough to prevent drifting off again I picked up my flashlight to check the time, 2:00 am. It sounded like several men were having an extra good time laughing and talking loudly. A few minutes later I heard a vehicle approach and red light flashed around the bedroom walls. I went to the window. There was a pickup parked on the otherwise empty two lane street headed from my right to left (on the far side of the street to the hotel) opposite my window. The four door police pickup truck with three policemen stopped abreast the first pickup (close to the hotel) only a half vehicle length ahead of the first pickup. One policeman exited the police truck’s left side standing under my window against the hotel wall watching the action holding a short barreled shotgun at ready. The other two policemen mixed it up with four clearly smashed Ecuadorians in the middle of the street between the two vehicles. I witnessed the arrest progress. The uproar increased (three more voices). Shortly the racket lessened. Then three men got into the police truck with two policemen. The third policeman got into the driver’s seat of the first pickup with one arrestee in the passenger’s seat and both vehicles drove off stage left. I crawled into bed marveling that there had not been a show of force, only insistent persuasion. No swinging night sticks, sitting on the curb or face down on the street, handcuffs, rough shoving or body searches even in the face of resistance. Only patient urging with shotgun backup. Might this incident reflect favorably on the Ecuadorian temperament?”
There has been a great blending in this country. The Spanish and Catholic influences have dominated for sure but, the less linear, calmer indigenous nature and lightness of a culture that evolved in vast richness of the equatorial sun has added a sweetness and respect for life not found in many other places.
I have noted this in other equatorial cultures as well. The Thai have this childlike innocence as well. The care and helpfulness of the people are very refreshing after spending any time in a northern city!
This does not mean that crime does not exist. One reader who bought a house here reported to me that they were robbed while away. Also in nearby Otavalo…especially on the busy Saturday market day when there are many tourists, one has to beware of pick pockets.
Q: What is the cost of Cotacachi property?
Like everywhere in Ecuador people have learned, from centuries of currency devaluation, not to trust money. Ecuadorians in Cotacachi buy land and build instead. So one can see great differences in price..between those selling Cotacachi property for a profit or because they need money.
We on occasion see a nice house for sale at $25,000. Such offers go quickly. There are many houses and condos in the $49,000 to $99,000 range.
Here is a cozy cottage that delegates inspected at our last real estate tour. This had two houses, a commercial chicken farm for 20,000 chickens and 17 acres for an asking price of $170,000.
It is still possible to build in the $30 per square foot range and there are Cotacachi condos and Cotacachi houses for sale in the $40 per square foot range.
Q: How about Cotacachi property tax?
Cotacachi property taxes are lower than most of us can imagine.
Cotacachi property tax was low. I knew this.
How low I asked? I wanted to know what they would be on our small house and the condos shown here.
With views like this.
Yet sometimes answers come slow.
One of our staff here at El Meson de las Flores told me that the property tax on his home was $3.
Now that’s low. But how about the condos?
A friend who has a beautiful home…for sale at $495,000 said her property tax was $4.
Wow, that’s really low but her property was zoned agricultural.
How about the condos zoned residential?
Finally one of the owners obtained his tax bill from city hall…for a three bedroom 2.5 bathroom, 1,250 square foot condo that sells for $49,000.
$36 a year!
Property tax can’t get much lower than that!
How about $2.25 a year Ecuador property tax?
Another wonderful couple here, Karl and Nancy Showalter, bought and fixed up a beautiful home here in Cotacachi Ecuador. You can see it here.
They are just outside the city limits which makes tax even lower and Nancy just sent me this note:
“Hi, Gary. Sorry we missed you when in Cotacahi. We had a nice visit with Merri our first night there. Regarding taxes, the tax on our property was $2.25! This was for our house and over 1/2 acre of property. Apparently it is this low because we are outside the city limits of Cotacachi in an unincorporated area. So this was certainly not taxing for us! Regards, Nancy”
Q: Are there any Cotacachi banks?
There is one bank and two ATMs in Cotacachi. Cash cards work great and no fee is charged. We can withdraw up to $500 a day. Shops here tend to be short on change so we bring a wad of $1 bills and several rolls of quarters.
The US dollar is Ecuador’s currency so there is no need for foreign exchange in Cotacachi. $100 bills are very hard to use. Visa cards are accepted in most places but because the merchant discount is high, most shops give a 5% discount for cash purchases.
Q: Were can keep my car in Cotacachi?
There is plenty of space for cars in Cotacachi but cars are expensive. Car tax is assessed on the value of a car. The more expensive the car, the higher the tax, Luxury cars can have a 50% or more tax.
However taxis are cheap. First, because taxis are imported tax free. Second, labor costs and gas prices are low.
Of the 40 or 50 other families that have moved here from England, Canada, the US and Australia, not one of them has purchased a car!
Even though gas is only $1.50 a gallon.
We gringos all walk here or use the very good low cost public transportation.
Think of the savings,the environmental benefits, the energy savings and the employment this brings keeping the taxi drivers busy! And also Merri and I just walk everywhere and find we make friends everywhere by just waving everyday.
There is another benefit as well. Our friends report losing weight and feeling better.
Q: How is the Cotacachi water supply?
The Cotacachi water supply is fed by wonderful mountain springs and is perfectly potable though we ozonate the water at the hotel as well. We drink it right from the tap and many readers report they do as well. No tummy problems at all from this.
Q: What vaccinations do I need to visit Cotacachi?
Merri and I have never had any vaccinations. Most readers report the same. There are no mosquitos or a health warnings I know of.
Q: How are Cotacachi hospitals and Cotacachi health facilities?
There is a small hospital with an emergency room and good ambulance service. A guest who experienced a heart attack here reported being very pleased with the Cotacachi emergency facilities.
There are excellent doctors, dentists, naturopaths, dermatologists and other medical assistance at extremely low prices. Pharmaceutical prescriptions are extremely cheap and numerous readers have reported paying for their entire trip to Cotacachi and all of Ecuador just on prescription savings.
I am sure you have other questions about Cotacachi so please feel free to send them and I’ll update the answers here.
Join us in Cotacachi, Ecuador’s coast or North Carolina!
June 11-15 Super Thinking + Spanish
June 16-17 Imbabura Real Estate Tour
June 19- 21 Ecuador Shaman Tour