Otavalo is famous for its huge artesanal markets, the biggest in Ecuador, which are on everyday but the best and biggest day to come is Saturday. Handicrafts galore! Blankets, wall hangings, scarves, jewellery, clothing and souvenirs to name a few of the wonderfully colourful items you can purchase to remember your trip and for gifts for families and friends. Unfortunately for us we don’t have the space in our packs otherwise we would have gone crazy with all the beautiful things you could buy.
Besides this famous market, there are lots of other things to do in and around Otavalo which makes it worthwhile to stay a couple of nights here instead of doing a day trip from Quito (2 to 21/2 hours by bus).
Firstly pop into the Itur office (located on the northern corner of the Plaza de Ponchos) for a handy map of the town and surrounding area and have a chat about whats on offer.
On our first day we took a taxi ($4) up to El Lechero. Here you will find a sacred and photogenic tree on the top of a hill surrounded by a circular barb wire fence. This tree is very important to the Indigenous people of this area, who you will recognize from their traditional dress and their long black plaited hair (men and women). This is a natural Mirador, where you can view the town, the volcano Imbabura and the San Pablo lake amongst fertile farming land.
From here you can walk down to the Condor Parque ($4.75) where they have shows between 11am and 3pm. We got there too late in the afternoon so didn’t go in. From here you keep heading down to the Peguche waterfall. This is another sacred area for the Indigenous people and is located within a national reserve where there is great places for picnics and you can even camp here.
The following day we took a bus to the village of Quiroga (get the Cotacachi bus) and then a taxi ($5 one way) to the gorgeous Lake Cuicocha that has formed in the middle of the Cuicocha volcano.
One word of warning about Otavalo is head to away from the main square to eat. This is a super tourist town and the prices are high. Some eateries don’t have prices on their menus and when you ask they will say a higher price for foreigners.