Otavalo is Worth More Than a Day Trip

I mentioned the city of Otavalo a while back, as a possible day trip option from Quito. It’s only a couple of hours from the capital of Ecuador, so many tourists choose to join a tour and spend just a few hours there during the famous market day.

However, this is such a fantastic place that I reckon it deserves a lot more of your time if you are ever in this part of the world. I was in Quito as it was my base for doing voluntary work in the jungle here, so with a group of other workers we got the bus here on Friday, planning to spend all day Saturday in the weekly market.

This is an amazing place and the only bad thing for me was the altitude. When I first got to Ecuador Quito had made me feel a bit queasy, as it sits at 2,800 metres above sea level. According to Mr Google, Otavalo is slightly lower but I felt awful when I arrived here. By South American standards the road there is pretty good but I started to feel unwell and when I stepped off the bus the altitude hit me and my legs just buckled. I ended up lying crumpled on the side of the road on top of my backpack while my colleagues, well, they laughed basically.

Thankfully, I was as right as rain the next day and we headed out early to see the joys of the market. This is a mainly indigenous city and the locals are famous throughout the region for their crafts. However, the first part of the market to kick off is the bit where they sell animals. I was sorely tempted to buy a pig but was quite correctly talked out of it by a more sensible person.

After this, the stall holders start to set out their amazing collection of goods. I honestly didn’t know what to buy first. Every single person in our group ended up with things spilling out of their luggage because they bought so much. Jade statues, incredible wooden chess sets, ponchos and jewelry were just a few of the things on offer here. The sellers were all friendly and seemed happy to talk to tourists. The whole centre of the city is taken over by the market but it remains a peaceful, laid back sort of place where you can walk around easily and without any hassle.

Patience is a Virtue in Otavalo


The day trippers from Quito arrived around midday if I remember correctly and by then we already had enjoyed a huge amount of fun. It’s not very often that I can pass on genuinely useful travel tips but here’s one for you; wait till the very end of the market before buying expensive stuff. The day trippers had gone and the stall holders were starting to pack up when I went back to ask about a llama-motif jumper that had caught my eye earlier. Remarkably, it was now about half the price it had been a few hours earlier. I decided to walk away and think about it when I realised that the seller had come running after me offering further price cuts. If you’re patient you can get incredible deals here at the end of the day.

Spending all day Saturday in Otavalo is a must but after the market is gone there isn’t that much else here to keep you hanging around much longer than maybe a day more. On the Sunday we took a taxi trip out to a spectacular volcano with a lake inside it. We went on a boat trip around it and soaked up the amazing scenery. It was a fitting way to end a fabulous weekend in a really special place.

images courtesy of wikipedia

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