Where: Otavalo, by Imbabura volcano, North Ecuador, South America
What’s in store: Animals galore, specialist weavings, cloths, clothes
Best Bargain: Buy your own guinea pig for dinner
Go there for: Colourful people & atmos against amazing volcano scenery
Where’s It At
Otavalo is one of Ecuador’s top tourist attractions. It’s a good base to explore the surrounding Indian villages and countryside. The town itself sits at the foot of the Imbabura volcano. The animal market dates back to pre-Inca times when jungle products were brought up from the Amazon and traded for highland goods. The artesan market in the Plaza de Ponchos is undoubtedly one of the most important and spectacular markets in all of Latin America and the largest in all of South America. By the time the Saturday market arrives, the rooms are booked, so if you want to stay the weekend, make sure you get there by Friday and set your alarm for 5.30am to get ready to explore!
The animal market is a veritable menagerie of animals to eat and buy like cuyes (guinea pigs), goat heards and skinned calf heads mingling with the sound of andean pipes, and the indigenous sound of Quichua, the native tongue. Locals arrive to buy chickens, pigs and vegtables. The market begins every year on 31st October.
The stalls bleed into the Artisan market world of handicrafts, jewellery, silver and emeralds. A dazzling display of colourful cloths seeps from the Poncho Plaza through the town. While the tourists test their bartering skills at stalls full of local specialist weavings – colourful and cheap jumpers, hats, gloves, hammocks and cloth. You’ll pick up a bargain away from the main square, and the more you buy, the better chance you have of haggling the price down. Indigenous men and women sell their crafts in this beautiful pictoresque artisan market set against a backdrop of mountains and volcanoes.
Other Places To Shop
A half hour drive away, the nearby town of San Antonio and Cotacchi specialize in woodcarving and leathercraft respectively are worth exploring.
Otavolo Market Weekend
Enoy a three day market Ecuador tour taking in the pyramids of Cochasqui and the Otavolo market
Your complete online guide to Ecuador and the galapagos Islands
By Susi O’Neill