Best places in Ecuador
The highlands of Ecuador are pulling many expats to the region, thanks to their mild climate and rich cultural offerings. Whether you want big city amenities, natural beauty, or historic ambiance, these towns have it in great quantities. Here are our Viva Tropical choices for six of the best mountain towns in Ecuador.
The tranquil, rustic vibe of Cotacachi is what draws visitors to this small town. Situated with a volcano on both the east and west sides, Cotacachi still has much of the flavor of old Ecuador. Most of its activities and festivals revolve around nature and the seasons, and markets feature local arts and crafts. There’s a vibrant Andean music scene there as well, and traditional pan flute music can be heard wafting from the street corners.
Cotacachi is so small, most people find no need for a car there. And the cost of living is so tiny, you may pinch yourself when you see rental fees or grocery prices. The great thing about Cotacachi is that you can enjoy the serenity of life there and go to nearby Ibarra or Quito for more lively activity.
Cotacachi’s neighbor, Otavalo, is just an inexpensive bus fare away. Surrounded by mountains, Otavalo is known for some of the most beautiful and interesting markets in all of Latin America. Be sure to get plenty of pics of the Incan Mercado Artesanal, where brilliantly colored fabric and clothing, as well as handicrafts, are unparalleled. Otavalo also has an animal market where livestock is bought and sold and a produce market nearby.
Like much of Ecuador, Otavalo is a mix of Spanish and indigenous cultures. Although the nights are cooler (down to the 40s sometimes), days are frequently in the 70s, which is ideal for seeing the abundance of local natural sights. Don’t miss the Imbabura volcanic mountain ranges, Peguche Waterfall, or Lago San Pablo – a perfect one-day hike in this gorgeous setting.