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Archive for January 2015

Visit Yunguilla Valley

LiveTheLifeinEcuador  | January 29, 2015

Peaceful and picturesque, with awe-inspiring views of the Ecuadorian Andes, a trip to Yunguilla Valley will prove to be just what you need especially if you’re looking for a little R&R for the weekend. Just a short drive away from Cuenca, Yunguilla Valley stretches all the way to the Ecuadorian coastline. Locals get plenty of sunshine and ideal weather all year round, perfect if you want to go out and explore the little villages and hidden natural wonders found throughout the valley. The region is a popular destination among Cuencanos, the more affluent among whom have built vacation homes and villas here.


Yunguilla Valley

Picturesque view of Yunguilla Valley in Ecuador.

The Village of Giron. Situated high up in the valley, at an approximate elevation of 7,000 feet, the small and charming village of Giron is a must-visit. Populated by warm and friendly people, expect to be greeted with constant barrages of “Hola!” and “Buenos Tardes!” as you walk within the village limits.

El Chorro de Giron. One of the local wonders, the El Chorro waterfalls is a thing of beauty. Cascading into three levels, the base of the falls is easily accessible, a 10-minute hike via a trail shaded by a lush canopy of trees and bedecked with bromeliads. The second and third levels take more time, however, and demand more from hikers. If you’re up to the challenge, be sure to don appropriate gear and bring energy bars; the hike to the very top of the falls can take more than a few hours. After all that strenuous activity, treat yourself to a nice glass of canelazo and some delicious local fare at the hostería that’s at the base.

Yunguilla Reserve. Located two hours outside of Cuenca, the Yunguilla Reserve was once an orchard dedicated to the preservation of the local population of the highly endangered Pale-headed Brush-finch. Thanks to the efforts of the Jocotoco Foundation, there are now more than a 100 breeding pairs in the area. Today, the Yunguilla Reserve is home to other bird species such as the Blackfish tapaculo and the Ecuadorian thrush.

Visit our Yunguilla Valley page to view available accommodations.


Lentag’s Perfect Climate

LiveTheLifeinEcuador  | January 28, 2015

The small town of Lentag is blessed with abundant natural beauty; here you are literally surrounded by miles and miles of rugged landscape. Lush open spaces are a welcome contrast to the jagged yet majestic mountain slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes. Although it’s just approximately 37 miles (which roughly translates to an hour’s drive) away from the cultural and intellectual hub that is Cuenca, you’ll feel like you’re in a different world when you’re in Lentag. It seems like time stands still in this little Azuay town, and the beautifully verdant countryside adds another level to Lentag’s timelessness.

One of the best things about Lentag is its climate; the town enjoys a tropical environment that allows local flora to grow plentifully. Summers are hot and humid while the rainy season brings precipitation that can reach up to 97 mm. The most amount of rainfall is experienced every April, while July is considered to be the driest month.

Under the Köppen climate classification system, Lentag has a tropical moist climate (A) and its annual average rainfall is 530 mm. The average annual temperature is an appealingly mild 20.6 °C (69.08 °F).

With weather this ideal, locals and tourists alike are able to enjoy the numerous wonders that Lentag and its surrounding areas offer all year round. Here are some activities that you should definitely try out!

Lentag and its surrounding areas are home to an extensive network of hiking and biking trails that allow you to experience Azuay province’s lush environment. Flat trails are recommended for beginners while moderate to difficult trails are available for the experienced hiker.

  • Interested in extreme sports? Head over to Parque Extremo, an extreme sports park that offers various vehicle sports such as motor cross, F1, and rallying. Whether you are a spectator or a participant, Parque Extremo will surely give you an adrenaline rush.
  • You could head out of town and visit Cuenca, which serves as the capital of Azuay province. A plethora of cultural, artistic and gastronomic delights are found in this charming city.

Click here to know more about Lentag as well as the properties and accommodations available.

Taxation in Ecuador

LiveTheLifeinEcuador  | January 26, 2015

More and more people are moving to Ecuador every year. Aside from the beautiful weather, the gorgeous vistas, and the plethora of activities you can find across its different regions, this Latin American country is also known for its low annual cost of living. Here are some things you need to know about taxation in Ecuador.

Property tax. The country’s low property tax is considered one of its biggest draws, allowing foreigners to enjoy comfortable living arrangements in Ecuador. The percentage of your property’s municipal value determines how much you’ll be spending for annual real estate property taxes. It should be noted that properties in an urban and a rural area are taxed at different rates. Homeowners aged 65 and above are subject to special discounts and pay half of usual rates. Tax rates range from 0.025 percent to 0.5 percent and vary annually depending on inflation.

Income tax. As a foreign resident with an Ecuadorian-sourced income, you are obliged to pay income taxes, which range from 5 percent to 35 percent. On the other hand, foreign residents with income earned from outside the country are not liable to pay income taxes.

Capital gains tax. This kind of tax applies if you are selling or you’ve recently completed a sale of property. Capital gains tax is determined on the difference between your property’s municipal value when it was bought to the time it was sold. Certain particulars, such as the total amount of time between the purchase and sale, can affect the fee you need to pay and may result in discounts.

Whether you are planning to relocate permanently to Ecuador (or to any other country), it’s important to acquaint yourself not just with the country’s culture and people, but with other equally significant aspects as well. Should you need to speak to a tax professional, connect with us today.

Cajas National Park

LiveTheLifeinEcuador  | January 23, 2015

A short drive away from Cuenca will bring you to one of Ecuador’s national treasures. Nestled in the Ecuadorian Andes, Parque Nacional Cajas (Cajas National Park) is far removed from the buzz of the city and its wild and rugged landscape is characteristic of a tundra biome. It’s a spectacular sight and a reminder of how varying the Ecuadorian topography is.

Spanning over 28,000 hectares, Cajas National Park looks like an endless sea of golden brown grasslands. Every once in a while, you will encounter groves of Polylepis trees, easily distinguishable due to their bark, which is of a reddish hue. Jagged peaks of hills and valleys outline the skyline, while more than 250 great lakes are scattered throughout the national park.


Inca Road Ruins. Throughout the reserve, you’ll find the ruins of Inca roads that used to connect way stations of the royal highway, a thoroughfare that ran all the way to the coast. You’ll find the highest concentration of ruins at Molleturo Hill.

Hiking trails. Cajas National Park is frequented by avid hikers and campers and for good reason. The reserve is home to an extensive network of hiking trails that range in class and difficulty. Day hikes are achievable on easier and shorter trails such as the one around Laguna Toreadora. Overnight hikes are also doable, some of which include a trek to Lago Osohuayco’s Inca ruins. The cold climate, along with the elevation, makes the trek challenging; an ultimate test of endurance and fitness.

Flora and fauna. The reserve is home to approximately 125 species of birds, such as the Andean condor, Andean gull, speckled teal, the viridian metal-tail, and the yellow-billed pintail. Evergreen herbs and dwarf forests make up the Páramo or the high Andean grassland vegetation. Pumas, spectacled bears, and oncillas have been sighted in the reserve, but remain elusive.

Cuenca Lifestyle

LiveTheLifeinEcuador  | January 22, 2015

A wonderful combination of old-world charm and modern conveniences, the city of Cuenca has become one of the most popular destinations in Ecuador. The “Athens of Ecuador,” whose historic center is UNESCO world heritage site, is home to a vibrant artistic, cultural, and intellectual scene. It has produced many notable artists, philosophers, writers, and poets over the years, more than any other Ecuadorian city.

In Cuenca, you’ll find dozens upon dozens of grand cathedrals, cloisters, plazas, and museums as well as art cafés, galleries, and specialty boutiques. The best way to get to know Cuenca is to explore its network of alleyways and cobblestone streets; getting lost in a city this beautiful won’t be so bad.


Parque Calderón. This lush garden located in Cuenca’s city center has easy access to two spectacular cathedrals. Catedral de la Inmaculada, with its iconic sky-blue domes, is easily recognizable as it dominates the whole plaza. El Sagrario, on the other hand, is dubbed as the Old Cathedral. It is found on the opposite side of the plaza.

Museo de las Culturas Aborigenes. Located on Calle Larga, this museum features an extensive collection of more than 5,000 archaeological pieces dating back to approximately 15,000 years ago. Explore the museo’s halls and get to know more than 20 pre-Hispanic cultures that used to call Ecuador home.

History and architecture buffs should also check out Santo Domingo Church and the Carmelite Monastery.


Café Eucalyptus. Housed in a restored colonial house, this restaurant has been hailed as one of the best dining institutions in Cuenca. Café Eucalyptus is known for its wide array of gastronomic selections, from classic European cuisine to exotic eastern flavors. If you’re an experienced world traveler, Eucalyptus’ menu will suit your international palate.

Casa del Sombrero Alberto Pulla. In Tarqui, you’ll find the shop of Alberto Pulla, Cuenca’s most famous hatter. He may have passed away, but his legacy as a fine hatter lives on.

This is only a sampling of attractions and places to shop and dine in the city. For more options on things to do in and around the area, check out the Activities page.

Fresh Seafood Markets in Ecuador

LiveTheLifeinEcuador  | January 21, 2015

Ecuador’s waters are abundant in a great variety of fish and seafood species that make seafood in this country a definite must-try. The country has upped its exports of seafood to other parts of the world, and you’ll find fish and shrimp sourced from Ecuadorian waters in markets everywhere from northern Italy to China. Major exports include shrimp and tilapia. To sample some of the ocean’s rich bounty, here are some seafood markets you should definitely check out.

Guayaquil Fish Market – Located in the port city of Guayaquil, the fish market offers the choicest selections of corvina, common snook (robalo), wahoo, camotillo, mahi-mahi (known locally as dorado), red snapper (pargo), yellowfin tuna (atun aleta amarilla), swordfish, common sole (lenguado), octopus, lobsters, and prawns.

La Feria Libre – The largest indigenous market in Cuenca, La Feria Libre is Spanish for “the free market.” Head over to La Feria’s seafood section for a wide selection of freshwater and saltwater fish that come in reasonable prices. Freshly caught crabs and shrimps are also available. Aside from the freshest produce and catch in the area, La Feria Libre is populated with food stalls where you can sample local fare. For more seafood, check out Totoracocha Mercado, which is open every Friday.

Mercado Central de Quito – Located in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, between Esmeraldas and Manabi, the Mercado Central de Quito features some of the capital’s most traditional cuisine, produce, and seafood.

Manta Fish Market – One of the biggest coastal cities in Ecuador, Manta is home to a plethora of fish markets. Ask the locals and they will most likely direct you to the fish market on Manta’s Tarqui Beach. Due to its location, the freshness of the seafood found in the market is guaranteed. Manta’s fish market features an assortment of fish, including its most famous export, tuna.



Sourcing Organic Food in Ecuador

LiveTheLifeinEcuador  | January 20, 2015

There are plenty of perks that come with living in Ecuador. You’re in one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet, for one, and everyday you’re bombarded with fantastic scenery and vibrant culture from every direction. Ecuador is also a great place to get – and stay – healthy.

Healthy living is easy in Ecuador and one of the main things that contribute to this is the local cuisine. Ecuadorian food features plenty of fresh local produce as well as a variety of grains and meats. Wondering how or where to get organic food in the country? You may not be aware, but Ecuador actually puts a big emphasis on food sovereignty in its constitution and is very much against the use of GMOs.

So if you want to eat organic, you’ll certainly have more than a few options here. Don’t expect to find a Whole Foods or anything like that, however – instead there are many farmers’ cooperatives, which means you can get your food straight from the source, as well as small shops.

When buying organic food in Ecuador, it’s best not to rely on food labels. While there are laws governing proper food labeling in the country, the enforcement of such laws is rather lenient. Here are some tips on how to make sure the food you’re getting is organic:

Get to know the farmer. Not only are you forming relationships with locals, but you can also personally guarantee that what you’re getting is organically grown.

Buy products that are for export. Food products that are meant for export have to comply with certain international standards and rules so they will have the proper labeling.

In the small town of Vilcabamba, you’ll find plenty of health food stores. If you’re in the area, do drop by these shops and restaurants: Alivinatu (nutritional supplements, soy burgers, herbal medicines, fresh juices), Frutaria (organic tomatoes, nuts, whole grains, Pitahaya cactus fruit, etc.), Papaya’s Café, and Hosteria Izhcayluma, among others. Cuenca also has several organic restaurants and there’s a Tienda Coopera in San Joaquín.

Or you can choose to grow your own food. Ecuador’s soil is rich and perfect for gardening. If you’ve got a green thumb (or you’d like to have one), growing your own food would be extremely beneficial for you.



Experience El Chorro de Girón

LiveTheLifeinEcuador  | January 19, 2015

In the mood for a dose of outdoor adventure? Located high up in the cloud forests of the Yunguilla Valley, in the town of Girón, is one of the most spectacular wonders in the region. Deep in the embrace of verdant mountains, the majestic cascades of El Chorro de Girón are a sight you definitely shouldn’t miss; the falls are also very accessible from the city of Cuenca, which is just a short drive away.

How to Get Here

Going to the waterfalls, you can take a 30-minute bus ride from Cuenca to the town of Girón. From there, you can either ride a taxi that will take you all the way to a little hosteria or inn located at the base of the trail or hike it from town if you have time. Upon arrival at the hosteria, you’ll be asked to pay around $1.00. A stub for a free local drink called canelazo, which you can claim when you return from the hike, will be given to you.

Going Up

El Chorro de Girón is actually a series of three cascades. The base is just a 10-minute hike away from the hosteria and the path is short but very scenic. Lush canopies of trees provide shade to the trail (which can get muddy and slippery, so be prepared), while an abundant growth of bromeliads provide rich bursts of color. You’ll hear El Chorro long before you see it and it is a truly awe-inspiring sight.

If you have the constitution for it, you can proceed to the second level, which is approximately an hour’s hike, and go further upward to the third level, which is around another hour’s climb. This last level takes you all the way to the top of the waterfalls. Note that these trails are not for beginners and that the condition of the paths will change depending on the weather. Appropriate gear and equipment is recommended, such as proper hiking shoes and clothes, especially if you plan to hike all the way to the top.

After the hike, you’ll find that the canelazo, which is made from sugar cane alcohol or rum, agua de canela, and sugar, to be a refreshing treat and the perfect way to cap off a rewarding hike.