Dear Reader,

As you know I travel the world discovering emerging markets and great foreign investments. Would $12,000 for a quarter-acre lot in a lush, stunning and temperate nature-lover’s paradise…two hours from a vibrant capital city (and international airport) get your attention?

How about $50,000 for a 1,000-square-foot cabin that shares a 1200-acre nature reserve? That got my attention. In fact, this was a chance discovery on my last trip to Ecuador.

In ten days I travel back to explore this area further with a contact who is investing heavily here. I’m excited. Here’s why…

On my last trip, I was in Ecuador to look at large pieces of beachfront land that I believe will increase in value as Ecuador’s north coast becomes more accessible.

On previous visits, I flew to Manta and then traveled north along the coastal road. On this trip, I took the direct road route from Quito to the north coast for the first time, thanks to road improvements and upgrades.

The improved Quito highway is impressive. This was a dirt road that connected little mountain villages. It was always the most direct route to the coast, but it wasn’t the route the road to the coast followed. When you see the terrain, you understand why. Stretches of this road have been carved out of the side of the Andes, a major engineering undertaking. With this road finished, drive time from Quito to the coast has been cut in half, to about three and a half hours. This new road then links up with Ecuador’s main coastal highway.

It’s along the road from Quito that I made this chance discovery.

The first two hours’ drive from Quito is incredibly scenic with towering mountains and amazing valleys. In fact, just 30 minutes on this road from downtown Quito you find yourself in an otherworldly mountain wilderness. Much of this area is protected as a nature preserve. Around each corner, there’s a new microclimate and foliage. In places, you’re surrounded by orchids and misty cloud forest. Five minutes away you find semi-dry jungle. There is little development…just a few viewing points and small cafes where you can enjoy a fresh juice or a coffee.

Here’s some video I took just 25 minutes outside of Quito: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UTu1o-Bbow&feature=channel. (I was traveling with my attorney in Ecuador (Roberto Moreno), and colleague Margaret Summerfield.)

Another hour of driving and we had already begun our descent from high in the Andes. Here, the terrain is lush, green, temperate highlands. The little town of Mindo is a short drive from the main highway. Mindo has been attracting bird watchers and eco-enthusiasts from Europe for the past decade. Some stayed, setting up boutique hotels and quality restaurants. This place is rich in delicious, natural ingredients.

Demand from European visitors has pushed land prices in the center of Mindo as high as $300 per meter. That’s $1.32 million for an acre.

The best property deals are to be found just outside Mindo. Nine kilometers (5.6 miles) off the highway on a dirt road, I saw a cabin. Check out my video of the cabin here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00VGsvq_77w.

Just off the main road, a number of projects are offering lots to the local market for $12 per meter. That’s $12,000 for a ¼-acre lot. Interestingly, one of these projects near the main highway was being developed by one of Ecuador’s bigger developers. This was no “mom and pop” project, where a local landowner divides and sells off a few fields.

This area is beautiful, extremely accessible to Quito, well-served with restaurants and tourist amenities, and offers incredibly inexpensive real estate prices, even by Ecuadorian standards.

Ronan McMahon

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