North from Quito to the border with Colombia is an area of great natural beauty and cultural interest. The landscape is mountainous, with views of Cotacachi, Imbabura, Chiles and glacier-covered Cayambe, interspersed with lakes. This is also a region renowned for its artesanía. Countless villages specialize in their own particular craft, be it textiles, hats, woodcarvings, bread figures or leather goods. And, of course, there is Otavalo, with its outstanding market, a must on everyone’s itinerary.Read more
Home to what may be the largest and most-visited indigenous craft market in South America, Otavalo on a Saturday morning is an unforgettable experience. A plethora of crafts fills the streets: paintings, jewellery, weavings, baskets, leather goods, hats, wood carvings, ceramics, antiques and almost anything else you can think of, from all over Ecuador and beyond. There are plenty of crafts for sale on other days of the week too, when Otavalo is less crowded and the atmosphere is more relaxed.
The Saturday market actually comprises four different markets in various parts of the town and the central streets are filled with vendors. The artesanias (crafts) market (0700-1800) is based around the Plaza de Ponchos (officially called Plaza Centenario). The animal market is held outside town, in the Viejo Colegio Agrícola, west of the Panamericana, from 0500 until 1000. Plaza 24 de Mayo has the produce market (0700-1400) and Plaza Copacabana, the potato market.
Otavalo is set in beautiful countryside which is well worth exploring. For learning more about how local crafts are made, a visit to surrounding villages is interesting.
The Otavalo weavers come from dozens of communities, but it is easiest to visit the nearby towns of Peguche, Iluman, Carabuela and Agato.