Cuenca vs Loja Ecuador. Which is best for you?

Lourdes Street, Loja, Ecuador
Lourdes Street, Loja, Ecuador. Photo by Nathaly Poma.

A common question we get at Life in Loja from expats looking to retire to Ecuador is "How do Cuenca and Loja compare?" Let's explore the answer because there are many factors to weigh.  

Costs are usually the first consideration. Is one city more or less expensive than the other? A quick look at the data on the Numbeo website gives a start at comparing the cost of living. It is imperfect because the data points are small, but it’s a beginning.

The general consensus is that some things cost more while others cost less in each city. To drill down a little it is a good idea to add up the figures for rent, food, etcetera, according to your estimated usage. Some people don’t buy groceries very often, for example, because they eat out in restaurants frequently. You will find that costs like rents, which are higher in Cuenca, will add up to higher annual expenses. It might also be a good idea to look at the rental markets in each city to get a closer sense of what you might spend. You can look for examples on Facebook Marketplace. 

It is also understood by local people and expats who live in Loja that some consumer items are more costly here than in the larger cities because of freight expenses. This can be compensated for by taking shopping trips to the larger cities, or shopping online at websites like Mercadolibre. Large Ecuadorian retailers also have websites where you can shop online and have your purchases delivered.

It should be noted that the concentration of expats living in Cuenca has caused prices to be higher there for many items (same effect in Vilcabamba, a town 45 minutes south of Loja). 

A large piece of deciding which city is best boils down to one's expected lifestyle. Do you want to be among a larger population of English-speaking expats (in Cuenca) or more immersed in the Spanish culture (of Loja)? Do you want easy access to flights for travel - then Cuenca is more convenient. Do you desire a tranquil, friendly environment - then Loja is best. It is often said that Loja is cleaner (including less air pollution) and safer than most any other city in Ecuador. If you crave international foods then Cuenca has more variety, both in the shops and the restaurants, but Lojano dishes are quite excellent in their own right. These factors are difficult to quantify with numbers, but are important to consider.

Both cities are chock full of history and culture. Loja was the country's first colonial city, for example. Today, Loja is proudly evolving into an eco-city, with wind-powered energy, electric taxis, bike lanes, and composted garbage. Yet, expats often remark on how Loja feels like the U.S. of the 1950's where people greet you with a smile and a "Buenos días" as if they've always known you.

One more thing - the effects of the pandemic in Ecuador are still developing and being felt. Some businesses have closed temporarily, and others permanently. We've noticed that rent prices have become more negotiable and less expensive. At this moment it is difficult to say the extent to which the virus has changed the economy of Ecuador for the near and far future, but that is likely a true statement for anywhere in the world right now.

This is a long answer to the question of which city is best but we hope it helps you to think about what is important in your search for a place to call home. The answer will really depend on your priorities, whether they are costs, comfort, culture, climate, connection, or some other variable. We'll be happy to help you narrow down an answer.

This blog post is an example of how the team at Life in Loja helps tourists and visitors, expats and immigrants, to better appreciate the many aspects of living in Loja, Ecuador. If you would like to know more about our custom tours and relocation services then contact us by email or phone/WhatsApp at 593-098-674-5994 to begin a conversation.


  1. Very good article. Thank you Jona.

  2. Actually you really need to spend time in each city you are considering to make a meaningful decision, at least a few weeks each will help.

    1. You are right!
      Hearing locals and expats opinions on each city are important to make a decision but nothing compares the experience of visiting on your own and see the place yourself

  3. Can you compare and contrast the climate/weather between Cuenca and Loja?


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