Otavalo - what to do
Otavalo is often associated only with the large market that is held there on Saturdays. I wanted to know if there was anything more to discover there and so I set off. Here I share my experiences with you: How did I get there? Where did I stay? How did I like the indigenous market? Is there anything else to see in Otavalo?
The road to otavalo
To get to Otavalo I started from Sangolqui a southern suburb of Quito. From there I took the bus to Otavalo, which is only recommended if you speak at least some Spanish and have enough time. The trips organized by SOLEQ.travel are normally planned with an English speaking guide and private transport, so that the journey is much more comfortable. In addition, the guide has a lot to tell about Ecuador and so it is easier to get to know a lot of the country in a short time!
When I had entered the bus I found myself only within local people. It seemed like they wanted to go to market, too, but unlike me not as tourists. The bus itself was equipped with a big TV screen, so during the trip I had the chance to enjoy movies. However, the route was way more interesting than the movies. The bus drove through valleys and small cities. For me personally it was amazing to see the landscape. All in all, it took 4 hours to get to Otavalo. The reason for this were the many unplanned bus stops.
Arrival in OTAVALO
I got of the bus in the Center of Otavalo. Everything was exactly as described to me before. Almost a third of the city of Otavalo was converted into a huge market. At every corner and in every street, I could see locals selling their products. There is a huge variety of goods to explore. From local food, different spices to jewelry, clothes or other handmade products. It’s for sure that everybody will find something interesting there. Before I went to explore all of the small corners of the market I went to the Hotel which SOLEQ.travel recommended me. It is called Hostal Santa Fe #1, a very nice Hotel in the City Centre. Of course there are many other options like the central Hotel Acoma or the beautiful Haciendas Pinsaqui or Cusin a little bit outside of Otavalo.
After I stored my luggage in the hotel, I went out for the market. A Saturday is the best day, if you want to enjoy the market at its fullest. Every street in the city has its own flair; from food to leather goods or handmade jewelry. One of my favorite stands was the one with handmade shoes. They were so colorful and available in many different designs. Almost everyone invites you to their stalls and is ready to share with you the story behind their products. Especially the stories about the production of the locally made products are interesting. There are some museums and workshops that show the process of production. The most interesting place, though, is the Poncho Square. There you will find everything in one place. A highlight there is the food. You should try the different local dishes that are available for small money.
For me personally, it was a great experience to walk through the streets and just do window shopping. On Sunday, there is a smaller market on the Poncho Square, but it is much more relaxed and fewer stalls can be explored. An advantage of all the other market days except for Saturday is that the vendors are more likely to give special prices. It depends what you like!
what else to do
Here I am going to suggest you a couple of things to do while you are in Otavalo. If you are interested in those excursions, it is a good idea to bring some time with you.
A popular activity is a visit to the Peguche Waterfall. It is a famous waterfall in the north of Ecuador. It is conveniently located near Otavalo. A small indigenous village is keeping care of the area, so it is a place where you can learn about culture and history as well! The nature on the way is beautiful and abundant, so it is not just a waterfall and thus worth a trip. If you are interested in a different experience or opinion then read our story about the Peguche Waterfall!
The Condor Park is a bird rescue center located in Curiloma. It is their mission to safe birds, which have been mistreated or who are in danger of mistreatment. You get interesting information about the birds. You can read more about the condor park on this website.
the cuicocha Lake
A must-do for nature loving people is the Cuicocha Lagoon. It is only about 30 minutes away from Otavalo and well worth a visit. Especially interesting and also beautiful to see are the two islands within the lake. This trail also offers beautiful Andean landscape. If you want to hike around the lagoon, it takes around 5 hours and for your own safety you should go in a group. For a more detailed view of things – just have a look at this article.
places to eat
Mi Otavalito is a great alternative besides the food on the market. It is a local restaurant, which offers typical Ecuadorian food including various vegetarian options. It is located close to the Plaza de Ponchos.
Restaurant Sisa was suggested to me by a member of the SOLEQ.travel Family. Even though it is not directly located in the city center, it is easy to get to. It offers local kitchen at a fair price and is interesting for everybody wanting to get away from the touristic main square.
Buena Vista is also a good alternative. Not only is there a variety of local food to choose from, there is also a stunning view towards the mountains. It is especially known for the organic food and the fair prices.
Shenandoah Pie Shop is a must-visit for people who are into sweets. Located at the Plaza de Ponchos and with a huge variety of cakes there should be something for everybody.
So, are you ready to visit Otavalo? Otavalo is definitely a highlight in northern Ecuador! Some alternatives of tours that include Otavalo you can find here.
Feel free to contact us for any questions or alternative tours.
If you have any ideas what to do in Otavalo – you can share it with us down in the comment section below or on our tripadvisor.