Cuenca vs Cotacachi Ecuador Comparison: Finding the Perfect Expat Haven in Ecuador

Cuenca and Cotacachi Ecuador are two popular destinations for expats in Ecuador, each offering unique experiences and lifestyles.

In this article, we’ll compare the two cities and help you decide which one is right for you. Let’s dive in!

Common Characteristics

Cuenca vs Cotacachi

Both Cuenca and Cotacachi are expat-friendly, situated at higher elevations, and offer affordable living costs.

They boast clean environments, proximity to nature and hiking trails, and share similar aspects in terms of safety, nature, expat communities, shopping, restaurants, weather, elevation, and walkability.

Cotacachi Ecuador – The Serene Small Town

Cotacachi is perfect for those who prefer a small-town atmosphere, with an extremely safe and quiet environment.

The town is home to an older population and has a nice variety of restaurants catering to different tastes.

There is a large expat community, especially given the small size of the town, and every Thursday you can enjoy an organic market offering fresh produce from local farmers.

Cotacachi is a 1.5-hour drive from the Quito airport and just 25 minutes from the Ibarra Supermaxi. It’s just a 10-minute drive from Otavalo, which offers more amenities and hosts one of the world’s most famous markets.


Nestled close to the mountains, Cotacachi provides ample shopping options. However, the town has fewer activities, and healthcare facilities are limited to small health clinics.

During national strikes (paros), the only road in and out of the town can be blocked.


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Cuenca – The Vibrant City Life

Cuenca is a larger city with numerous parks and walking trails for outdoor enthusiasts.48 Hours In Cuenca Ecuador Things To Do

The city has a LOT of great restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, large mercados and small neighborhood mercaditos.

Cuenca has an array of excellent and affordable healthcare options, and a lot of expats travel to Cuenca from other parts of Ecuador for medical procedures.

The expat community is much larger than Cotacachi. In fact, it’s estimated that about 10,000 expats live in Cuenca, which is larger than the entire population of Cotacachi. Cuenca has a population of roughly 500,000 so the expats still make up a small percentage.

However, with more expats and several universities, there are also more English speakers in Cuenca, including English-speaking Ecuadorians.

Public transportation is efficient, and Cuenca has its own airport with daily flights to Quito.

The city is rich in culture, with lots of museums and cultural activities for residents to enjoy.

The major drawback of Cuenca is the weather, which can be colder and rainier, and the road to Guayaquil through Cajas is often closed due to heavy rain and landslides.

The city is also a lot noisier than Cotacachi, which is very quiet at night starting around 9PM.

While crime is mostly limited to petty theft, it has increased lately.

Like Cotacachi, Cuenca can also get cut off from the rest of the country during paros.

Final Thoughts

Cuenca and Cotacachi both have their unique charms, and the choice depends on your personal preferences.

If you want a quieter, small-town atmosphere, Cotacachi is the perfect choice. However, if you prefer a more vibrant city life with better healthcare options and cultural activities, Cuenca might be the right fit for you.

Ultimately, both destinations have thriving expat communities, making either one an excellent choice for your new home in Ecuador.

Watch Our Video Comparing Cuenca and Cotacachi Ecuador



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Hola todos! Welcome to my author bio page! Let's see. Where to begin... I grew up in the country on a lake outside a small Kansas farm town. As soon as I could, I got the hell outta there! Since then, I've lived and/or worked in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Denver, San Francisco, and Ecuador. I started and sold a dotcom, wrote a book about it, started a YouTube channel, and now I write a lot. Amelia and I have embraced the Unconventional Life and we want to help you do it, too!

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