Cotacachi is a small town that is the seat of Cotacachi Canton, Imbabura Province, Ecuador in South America. Cotacachi is located at an altitude of 2,418 metres (7,933 ft) and had a population of 17,000+ in 2015. Tucked in a valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains, Cotacachi translates as ‘City of Peace.’ This is born out by the easygoing tranquility, even sleepiness, of this haven for spring-like weather, clean air, pristine volcanic water, and a low cost of living.
Access to Cotacachi is just off the Pan-American Highway. It is located approximately 15 minutes from Otavalo, which boasts the largest indigenous open-air market in South America. Cotacachi is 90 minutes via the Pan American Highway from the Quito International Airport. Thirty minutes more, and you are in Quito. Quito is a world-class capitol, with both ultra-modern neighborhoods and the Unesco-Restored Historic Center. Quito offers endless choices for dining, shopping, and the cultural arts.
The town of Cotacachi is nestled between two stunningly beautiful extinct volcanoes. These two volcanoes can be seen from anywhere in Cotacachi. On a clear day, Cotacachi Volcano is often peaked with snow. Imbabura Volcano displays many colors during sunrise and sunset.
The average temperature in Cotacachi can reach a low of around 50˚ Fahrenheit at night, with a high of 75-80˚ during the day. Cotacachi is often called “The Land of Eternal Spring”. Being just a few miles north of the Equator, there are 12 hours of guaranteed daylight, 365 days a year.
There are forty or more indigenous villages surrounding Cotacachi. The Highland Indigenous people of Cotacachi speak Quichua and Spanish. Traditional dress is worn, and was influenced by the Incan Empire when the Incas conquered the Andean Ecuador in the early 15th century.
Today, these Highland people are Roman Catholic, but blend religion with traditional practices and beliefs that are demonstrated in forms of dance, costumes, and other ancient practices. The Ecuadorians are Metizas/os with a blend of indigenous and Spanish unions from when the Spanish invaded Ecuador in the mid-15th century. The expat population in Cotacachi is approximately 600 people from the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Orient.
Cotacachi is recognized as the world capital of leather craft, outstripping even Morocco. On the main street, Calle 10 de Agosto, locally called “Leather Street”, there are approximately 105 leather shops with every conceivable item that can be crafted from leather – leather jackets, clothes, luggage, horse saddles, purses, wallets, gloves, shoes, boots, belts and more.
Sunday is market day, and local Ecuadorians make up the majority of business owners – both leather workers and other businesses – along the main street and around the town. Nearly all shops will offer discounts if you pay in cash.
In Cotacachi, the church bells ring early in the morning, 7 days a week. This is a pleasant sound to start your day. All the Christian celebrations are observed, with many parades representing the feast days, and including patron saints of Ecuador.
Marathons, horse shows, music and parades with dancing and ethnic costumes are all local entertainments. Hardly a week goes by without a colorful celebration, as many people are musicians, and enjoy being involved with a parade.
New Year’s Eve is celebrated with dazzling fireworks and the burning of life-size effigies. Fireworks are quite common on the weekends.
Cotacachi is a very fertile area with rich volcanic soil which was formed thousands of years ago from ash from the surrounding volcanoes. Corn is the main crop, along with quinoa, root crops, tomatoes, lettuce, chard, kale, onions, beans, and more. Avocados, blackberries and strawberries are plentiful.Many exotic fruits come from the coast, and are available in the main market and small markets around town. Along the highways, you will see green fields and farmland for grazing healthy cattle.
Many varieties of fish are caught at the coast and are brought to markets in Ibarra and Cotacachi.
Ecuador’s main exports are roses, flowers, shrimp, bananas, coffee, sugar and cacao.