• Altitude: 2500 meters
  • Inhabitants: 90.000
  • Region: North-Andes

Otavalo is the capital of the Otavalo Canton and is a largely indigenous town in the Imbabura province of Ecuador. The town has about 90,000 inhabitants and is surrounded by the peaks of Imbabura (4,630 meters), Cotacachi (4,995 meters) and Mojanda volcanoes. On grey days the volcanoes tend to blend in with the clouds. According to the Indigenous people the Imbabura is the father (´taita´) and the Cotacachi the mother (´mama´). The Otavaleños have a lot of pride in their traditional Kichwa culture and retain to this day their traditional dress. You will notice that men wear white trousers, a blue poncho and a black hat. The women wear a white blouse with beautiful embroidered flowers on it, a long black skirt, sometimes with a white stripe on it and often braid colorful materials in their hair.

Local market

Early in the morning, local indigenous people from surrounding villages will bring their goods to sell at the market on the famous Plaza de Ponchos. On one side you will find herbs, vegetables and different kinds of meat and on the other side of the market you will find colorful souvenirs. Otavalo is one of the best places in Ecuador to buy your souvenirs. The offer of ponchos, woolen hats and other things is huge. At the market you will learn how to reduce prices of products with bargaining tactics! Tip: first take a look around, start a few conversations with the sellers in your best Spanish and keep smiling. You should get around 30% off the original price. The market runs every day; however the main market day is Saturday when you will find stalls throughout the whole town.

Animal market

When you are here on Saturdays, you should set your alarm for 6:00 in the morning if you want to discover the biggest animal market of South America. The market takes place on the outskirts of Otavalo. We recommend taking a taxi from your hotel; the driver will definitely know where the market takes place. The local people are in serious discussions about prices and a lot of animals are sold. Bring your camera because you will get opportunities to take some beautiful shots, however take care of your belongings!

Village of Peguche

Peguche is a typical Andean village next to Otavalo that is famous for its weaving. In Peguche you can find a beautiful 18 meter high waterfall. From the entrance of the park it’s a short hike up to the waterfall. The waterfall is formed by the Peguche river that starts at Lake San Pablo. In the village you can visit several homes where local craftsmanship is shown. Ask the locals for directions to the following places:

  • Tejidos Mimahuasi. At the home of señor José Maria Cotacachi different weaving processes are demonstrated.

  • Taller de Instrumentos Andimos-Nañda Mañachi. In this family home, local instruments are made and a demonstration of the music is given.

  • El Gran Condor is a large shop that sells high-quality textiles, including sweaters, scarves and wall hangings. Address central plaza. More info: www.artesaniaelgrancondor.com

Cuicocha Lake

The Cuicocha Lake is a volcanic crater lake close to Cotacachi and Otavalo. The lake is famous for the two lava islands that can be found in the lake. An interesting day trip is to walk the trail around the lake, which will take about 5 hours. You can also take a boat ride on the lake. The best way to get here from Otavalo is to take a taxi or take a public bus to Cotacachi and then take a taxi from there.

Parque Condor

The condor park is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection, rescue, rehabilitation and possible reintroduction to the nature of raptors, vultures (Andean condors) and owls. The park focuses on raising awareness about the importance of environmental issues and their relationship to society. In the condor park you can find a lot of different bird species, some of them that can only be found in the Ecuadorian Andes. Two times a day (at 11.30 and 15.30) a flight show is performed by four birds. During the flight show you will receive an explanation about the birds flying, their natural enemies, why and how the birds are living in the condor park and information about sustaining the natural habitat of the animals. More info: www.parquecondor.org

Click on the following link for more activities and tours: Otavalo

Insiders’ tips
  • Visit the town of Cotocachi for its beautiful leather. Here you can find a lot of high quality and cheap products made of leather like belts, bags, jackets etc.

  • Have lunch at the Sumac Micuy restaurant in the town of Peguche and try the ‘cuy’!

  • Between the towns of Otavalo and Cayambe there is a still working mill, called El Molino de San Juan, which you can visit and here you can have lunch. Address Panamericana Norte Km. 57 en la vía a Otavalo. More info: www.molinosanjuan.com

  • When travelling to or from Otavalo, enjoy the view of the many rose farms.

  • Taste a ´bizcoche´, a local cookie. It´s especially good when you dip it in some hot chocolate.

Restaurant tips
  • Sisa. Sisa means “flower” in the Indigenous language of Quichua which you are sure to hear spoken a lot in and around Otavalo. A nice restaurant with delicious traditional food.  Address Abdon Calderon 409, between Bolivar and Sucre. More info: +593-6-2925-624.

  • Árbol de Montalvo. Cozy restaurant with fine pizzas that are prepared in a stone oven and many more meals.  Address Juan Montalvo 4-44 in the hotel Doña Esther. More info: +593-6-292-0739

  • Pachamama. Great restaurant with a lot of vegetarian options. Address Quito y Miguel Egas. More info: posadaquinde.com/es/cafe-pachamama

  • Shenandoah Pie Shop. This is a great place for breakfast or lunch.  Address Salinas 5-15. More info: +593-6-2921-465.

  • Buena Vista. Delicious international food with a nice view over the plaza de los Ponchos. Has also a lot of vegetarian dishes. Address Plaza de los Ponchos, Salinas 509 y Jaramillo. More info: www.buenavistaotavalo.com

Medical attention
  • Hospital San Luis. Address Sucre y Quito. More info: +593-6-2920-444 or +593-6-2923-566.