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Altitude: 2,377 meters (7,800 ft) Population: 10,000 Phone Code: 06

This pleasant pastoral town rests at the foot of the dormant Cotacachi volcano. It is best known for producing cheap but high-quality handmade leather goods, and attracts a good number of tourists for this reason. The area is also rich in biodiversity, making Cotacachi an attractive place to go for outdoor activities and adventures, both around the volcano and in the nearby Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve.

The diverse cultural and ethnic makeup of the Cotacachi population has become a central focus for the town, as well as a great source of pride. Great effort has been put into creating tolerance and solidarity among the indigenous, black, and mestizo residents. In 1996, Cotacachi became the first town in Ecuador to elect an indigenous mayor. The town has even received awards from UNESCO (United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and other international organizations for its focus on integration, education, and urban development.

Walk into town, though, and you'll first find a dusty, potholed road. Keep going and you'll see what all the praise has been about. Cotacachi is clean and well-maintained. Charming plazas are surrounded by huge buildings painted pink, yellow and green. Not all buildings have been refurbished-some are still dirty, crumbling and supported by decaying infrastructure-but Cotacachi has been taking steps in the right direction.

On the weekends travelers flock to the town to browse its famous "Leather Street" (10 de Agosto), where leather craftsmen (and women) sell their quality leather goods that include wallets, purses and jackets.


Other places nearby Cotacachi: Lagunas de Mojanda, La Esperanza , Quito, Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, Salinas Valley, Mascarilla, Lago San Pablo, Peguche, Tulcán and Tumbabiro.

By Laura Granfortuna
I've always had the travel bug - maybe it's because I've been traveling around with my family since I was an infant, but mainly I think it's because...
24 Oct 2012

Things to See and Do in Cotacachi

Cotocachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve

The Ecological Cotocachi-Cayapas Reserve, in the Western Andes, encompasses 204,420 hectares (505,133 ac) that ranges in elevation from the summit of Cotacachi (4,939 m/16,200 ft) to coastal ...
Activity Info.

Hiking around Cuicocha Lake

The hike around Cuicocha Lake can be completed anywhere between 3.5 and 5 hours, depending on your general level of fitness. Most people head off around the lake anticlockwise from the restaurant. Be ...
Cuicocha Lake, Around Otavalo, Otavalo, Ecuador

Learning Leatherworking From A Master

Learning how to work with leather in an old, well-established workshop can be idyllic and romantic, and is an option open to Cotacachi visitors.   Craftsman Jorge Maigua doesn't often stop ...
Study Abroad
View Cotacachi Map

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