A visit to the province of the lagoons - Imbabura



Even before I arrived in Ecuador I knew that I really wanted to visit the artisan market in Otavalo. However, I didn’t know that the province in which Otavalo is located is so incredibly fascinating and beautiful. For the sake of you knowing more than I do, I’m going to tell you a little bit about my exciting weekend in Imbabura.

Breakfast in Cayambe

If you really want to get to know the province, you cannot miss the traditional breakfast in Cayambe. The so-called bizcochos are known throughout the country and are incredibly popular. In the city of Cayambe you can find a bizcocho factory on every corner. Sometimes you also have the opportunity to watch the bakers prepare the pastries and most of the time you can get a breakfast menu for approximately $4 there. This menu consists of several bizcochos, a freshly squeezed juice, egg, queso de hoja (similar to mozzarella) and a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.

Market in Otavalo

Our way led us to Otavalo. Everyone who reads up on Ecuador soon or later stumbles upon information about the handicraft market in Otavalo. The Otavaleños are known for their handicraft skills that have been cultivated since the time of the Incas. If you are interested in the history regarding the art of crafts, you should definitely visit the interactive museum Otavalango. There, on the grounds of an old weaving factory, you can watch the workers at work and learn about the indigenous culture.

The largest Indio market in Latin America is located in the city center on the Plaza de Ponchos and takes place every day of the week, but it is best to visit on a Saturday. At the market you can find everything from handmade ponchos, colorful cloths, jewelry, leather goods to commercial goods. Especially the bright colors of the market fascinated and captivated me. Anyone who is looking for souvenirs should strike at this market, because the selection is unbeatable and you can support the local population.

Cascada de Peguche

After our visit to the market, we went to the Cascada de Peguche located in the east of the city, which is only 15 minutes by car from the Plaza de Ponchos. For an entrance fee of $0.50 per person, you can visit the waterfall. After a short walk through a rich eucalyptus forest, one reaches the waterfall, with a height of about 20 meters. It is possible to camp, barbecue and enjoy the nature in the surrounding forest. Furthermore, the place is used for ceremonies, such as purification baths, of the indigenous population.

Parque Cóndor

Our next stop was the Parque Cóndor. In this park you can find birds of prey, which come from illegal keeping or have been injured. Visitors can attend an educational flight show twice a day to learn about the different species and to be made aware of the many man-made dangers to these animals. During a visit you can see different species of vultures, eagle owls and other birds of prey in their pens, as only a small percentage of the rescued animals are shown during the air show. Nevertheless, I was very enthusiastic about the flying skills of the graceful animals and the way the organizers create awareness for the endangered animals.

The thermal bath of Chachimbiro

On the following day we already left before breakfast to visit the thermal bath of Chachimbiro. The thermal mineral water of Chachimbiro is of volcanic origin and therefore, in addition to the many minerals, such as magnesium, copper, fluorine or iron, it also has a pleasant temperature between 30 °C and 55 °C. It is also said to have a healing effect on a wide variety of diseases. Besides the bathing area, the place offers a spa area, accommodations and also restaurants. The entrance fee for the bathing area is $5 and for an additional $5 you can also use the spa area.

After the relaxing bath we continued to the viewpoint “Pablo Arenas”. The view from there is breathtaking as you look across the valley all the way to the Imbabura volcano. As you drive through the valley to the viewpoint, you see blackberry bushes, avocado trees and many other cultivated areas and finally reach the small village of Pablo Arenas.

The Yahuarcocha Lagoon

The trip continued to the Yahuarcocha Lagoon which is located near the white town of Ibarra. With its size of 257 hectares, this lagoon is quite impressive. The name comes from the Quechua language and means “lagoon of blood”. According to the legend, one of the most important and devastating battles of the indigenous population took place there leaving the lagoon red from the blood of the fallen fighters. For the best view of the lagoon, visit the San Miguel Arcangel viewpoint. It is located at an altitude of 2,402 meters and offers a view of both the lagoon and the city of Ibarra.

Final tip

This weekend I realized that the province of Imbabura has much more to offer than just the market in Otavalo.  Therefore, my final tip is: Take at least 3 days to explore these beautiful places while enjoying the landscape and the culture.

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