Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Scouting Trip: Otavalo and Cotacachi

Among Crafties, Otavalo is already famous as one of the world’s best indigenous crafts markets. Among Sabbaticalies, it is (along with its satellite community, Cotacachi) second only to Cuenca as the choice retirement spot for North American gringos.

We landed at a very pleasant hostel with an American/Ecuadorian couple. He met her while in Peace Corps in the 70s, they moved to the States, and when their kids hit high school age didn’t like the culture the kids were experiencing, and they decided to get back to Ecuador. But now their last was off to college in dangerous Quito, so they were considering selling the hostel. Hmmm. We do know that we may be seeking an “investor” visa, for which buying a business would qualify us. Serendipity?

And we like Otavalo. It’s a quiet and clean town, the people are wonderful, the food is good and inexpensive (compared to Cuenca, for example), and we were kinda sold after a night out when we accidentally crashed a fiesta that wasn’t.

It was innocent enough. In the daytime, the plaza where the market is held is a sea of tents. Every day each vendor puts up an entire retail store’s worth of merchandise in their space then pulls it all down again at night. We were strolling through after dinner and noticed a little festival on one side of the plaza and went to check it out. There were chairs set up and a band playing the local Andean music with pipes and chulango and accordian. And they were handing out a free warm fruit drink and bread. We began to notice that the only people at this festival were the local indigenous people who are usually hawking their wares in the plaza. Though they were very welcoming to us, we realized when the slideshow started that we had crashed a funeral.

After enjoying Otavalo we took a bus up the hill to Cotacachi. All we can say about it is we’re pretty sure we missed something. We do know we were in the right place, but there wasn’t much to this town that we could make out. Other than all the gringo-baiting development we had seen on the Web, there was little in the way of interest for us besides the leather crafts this town is known for. But since we enjoyed Otavalo, Cotacachi would at least be a possibility for us to look into for a house.

So we now have three good candidates for our new Ecuadorian home: Cuenca, Vilcabamba, and Otavalo.


  1. Hello, My wife and I and our three kids are considering a similar adventure. You mentioned you might pursue an investor visa. Would you mind sharing what type of visa you ended up or how you are able to reside in Ecuador?

  2. We currently have a 12-IX (twelve-nine) "tourist" visa good for six months. (The 12-series visas are "non-resident".) We will have to convert that to a different type of visa before it expires. We are now looking at a 9-IV "work/legal representative" visa. When we finally figure it all out, I'll post on that as well. The visa thing (among other things) can be very confusing, bureaucratic, and frustrating.

  3. We also are considering a similar adventure!

    I am wondering about elementary and secondary education. Would you please comment on this subject and how you and your family have addressed this issue.


  4. I did a post here...
    And I'm happy to answer any questions you might have as well, Margaret.