I hear it all the time.
“I don’t like the heat and humidity of the coast of Ecuador but frankly, Cuenca is too damn cold.”
I know, I understand.
I usually respond just like I did in my last email… “A lot of people try to push Cuenca as “eternal spring” but actually it’s more like eternal ‘late fall’ “.
Now, I’ve lived in places with true eternal spring-like weather.
Example, Hawaii and Medellin, Colombia.
You know, places that have constant year-round weather where you can walk outside with a t-shirt and shorts and not even think about the temperature cause you are neither hot nor cold.
The problem with Medellin? It rains too much.
The problem with Hawaii? Not much, but if you press me I’d say it’s too expensive and many locals really don’t like “outsiders” or people not from Hawaii even though the ones that work in tourism well try to hide it.
In fact, Ecuador does have places with eternal spring-like weather.
Places just high enough to avoid the muggyness, mosquitos and humidity of the coast while not being as high as Cuenca or Quito.
One such place is one you’ve never heard mentioned before.
Zaruma is a cozy town of about 20,000 folks built into a cliffside with a wooden-spanish-colonial style old town surrounded by lush slopes of coffee plantations in southern Ecuador about 3 hours from Machala, 4 hours from Loja and 6 hours from Guayaquil.
The town was founded hundreds of years ago by ambitious miners in search of gold.
Further downstream the mines still run rich, but up in Zaruma the mining has stopped.
All that’s left is a stunning, little, undiscovered place to live.
The town is perched at an elevation of 1200 meters (3937 feet(about half the elevation of Cuenca)) and the year round temperature hovers around 22 degrees C (72 F) and drops just a bit cooler than that at night so you can sleep comfortably with a blanket over you (no AC or heat needed!).
The nearest airport is Santa Rosa, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours by car away.
Most the locals shop in the fresh produce market right in the middle of town and get their bare necessities from the little street stores that dot the town.
The town has a free, public hospital that is known for having good service.
The locals are friendly and quick to strike up a conversation with one of the few foreigners in town.
Within Ecuador, Zaruma has a great rep for it’s amazing coffee, particularly beautiful people and sweets.
Rents for a 2 bedroom house/apartment just outside the old town start around $150-300/month and plate lunches start around $2.
A local specialty is the TIGRILLO, a breakfast dish made of mashed plantanes, cheese and eggs.
A cool thing many visitors do is take a guided tour of the town gold mine, now extinct, it was an actual mine for hundreds of years and the tour is done by an actual miner and is very informative (and free!).
I’d stay in the Cerro de Oro Hotel in the town center, nice, clean rooms for only $10 per person. Ask for a room on the top floor for some spectacular mountain views but watch your head on the way up the stairs. Any taxi in town knows where it is and can take you for $1.
Buy your coffee at the local distributor, an 80+ year old man with a great sense of humor, Don Marcelo Valverde, he has his shop in the town center, just ask around for the “tienda de Don Marcelo” and folks can point you the way.
The only negatives of the town I see at this point for expats wanting to take residence are the distance to a major city and the fairly steep town roads.
Foreigners? Not many, yet.
There you have it, one mountain town in Ecuador with a steady, warm-yet-comfortable climate year-round.
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