Otavalo Ecuador

Otavalo Ecuador is an Indian city located in a beautiful Andean mountain region, about 2 hours north of Quito.


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Otavalo is a mix of history, customs, culture and folklore.

You will find Indian Markets, beautiful scenery, wide ethnic diversity, ancestral customs, and the ingenious skill of the art and handicrafts.

Otavalo is currently considered one of the most important tour destinations in Ecuador.

This is due to its ancestral cultural heritage, enriched by millenarian traditions, myths, legends and customs together with Andean landscapes of outstanding beauty: mountains, lakes, waterfalls and rivers that, as per the Otavalo Cosmo-vision, possess life and energy.

The Otavalos are indigenous to the Valley of Otavalo, in the Province of Imbabura in Northern Ecuador.

They are a very prosperous community of skilled textile weavers, who gather to sell their products at the market in the city of Otavalo as they have done for centuries.

The Indian Market is piled high with ponchos, woolen goods, tapestries, the original Panama Hats, sweaters, Indian jewelry and many handicrafts.

The friendly Otavalos are proud of their cultural heritage, hard working people who have managed to overcome poverty without changing their way of life, their traditions or their dress, while at the same time taking advantage of technological advances.

Today, increasing numbers of Otavalo Ecuador Indians travel overseas to sell their handcrafts in Europe and North America.

A major aspect of the Otavalo Indian ethnic identity is their native dress. For men this consists of a blue poncho, white shirt and calf-length trousers, a fedora-type hat and their hair combed in a long braid.

Otavalo women dress in embroidered blouses, blue skirts and shawls plus several layers of golden necklaces and red bead bracelets.

Both men and women wear "alpargatas", a type of sandal. Otavalos speak Quichua, their native language, even though today most also speak, Spanish, English, French.

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Otavalo Indian Market

Otavalo Ecuador beauty lies in its people, the indigenous Otavaleños. The Otavalo Indian Market, which makes this market town famous, is undoubtedly one of the most important and spectacular markets in all of Latin America.

The Otavalo market is attractive to visitors for both its outstanding shopping and its cultural significance. Local people use market day much the way their ancestors did during Ecuador's pre-Colombian history.

The Otavalo Ecuador market is a fascinating way to experience traditional Ecuadorian culture and the traditions of the Andes.

The best day of the week to visit this famous and friendly corner of the Andes Mountains is Saturday, the biggest market day for tourists and locals alike.

This market is centered around Poncho Plaza. All day long, the whir of cotton candy machines, Andean pipe music, and Quichua, the native tongue derived from the Incan tongue, drift across the square.

A blinding maze of colored textiles spills from the square out across town. As you stroll the streets you'll find everything from jumpers to armadillo shell guitars, wall hangings to ceramic fried eggs.

Don't restrict yourself to Poncho Plaza, as you'll probably get better bargains away from the main square (the more items you buy, the lower the prices you can get), and the goods on display start to diversify as the market weaves its way through the side streets.

Otavalo Ecuador Attractions

The weaving trade of Otavalo is spread out through a number of surrounding communities and can be visited within 20 to 30 minutes via bus from the town center or by taxi.

The main towns worth visiting are Agato, Ilumán, Peguche and Carabuela.

Peguche: is located around one hour by foot heading north then east off the main route into Otavalo.

Once in Peguche you can head around 2 km southeast to Cascada de Peguche, a beautiful waterfall.

Near the waterfalls you will also find pre-Colombian ruins, the actual trail to the falls is achieved by following the old railway tracks.

San Pablo Lake: is another place of interest with spectacular views of the Imbabura volcano.

The trail actually begins at the south side of calle Morales also in Otavalo Ecuador on various paths behind the train station.

The lake itself is surrounded by a paved road and if you head in a clockwise route you'll also pass the tranquil village of San Pablo del Lago that'll take you through to the Panamerican highway where you could flag down passing buses.

The Imbabura Volcano: (4,650 m), is accessible from the San Pablo lake, it takes about six to seven hours to reach the summit.

Mojanda Lagoons: 18 km from Otavalo Ecuador lies a series of breathtaking lakes set high in the moorlands along with a scenic crater lake.

Other major lakes of note are above Caricocha, lake Huarmicocha and further over is Laguna Yanacocha but do take your own drinks and food and warm clothes.

South of Caricocha approximately 6 km ahead lies Tocachi and Cochasqui which will offer you great views of the Andes Mountains.

Cotacachi Leather Town: lies between Otavalo and lbarra, some 14 km north from Otavalo, with plenty of leather goods for sale.

Is a very famous village for its leather work. In the main street of town (10 de Agosto), there are several stores selling handicrafts. Also, do take some time to visit the attractive main Plaza in town.

Cuicocha Lake: lies some 18 km west of Cotacachi at 3070m. The entrance is through the ecological reserve Cotacachi-Cayapas and the entry fee is $5.

The lake itself has a 4-5 hour walk circling it and from here you can see beautiful and awesome views of Imbabura and Cotacachi volcano, while the Andes condor glides silently by overhead.

During the walk do look out for humming birds who inhabit the area due to the various flowers including wild orchids and blueberries.

There are also 30 minute boat tours that can take you around inside the craters' spectacular blue colored lake including the islands in the center.

Intag Cloud Forest: is located Northwest of Otavalo Ecuador approximately 2 hours drive. Continuing north on the same route you'll find the villages of Apuela and Garcia Moreno.

The forest sits on elevations between 1,850 mt to 2,800 mt and is privately owned with a 500 hectares reserve and 200 hectares farm.

This subtropical area is covered in flora and fauna including orchids during the drier season beginning in July as well as rich in bird life. Within the Reserve is a rustic lodge which allows only groups of 6 upwards.

Otavalo Ecuador History

History has it that Otavalo Indians have been talented textile makers and business people since ancient times, prior even to the Inca invasion.

Under Inca rule in the 15th century, Otavalo became an important administrative center, as new crops and animals were introduced to the area.

A year after the Spanish conquest, Ecuadorian land was parceled-out to the Spanish. In Otavalo Ecuador, Rodrigo de Salazar set up a large weaving workshop on his land, by the mid-1500's it employed hundreds of workers and produced a large share of the textiles used in colonial South America.

The Spanish introduced new tools and fibers to the weaving industry, and by the early 1600's, the Salazar workshop had become the most important in the country.

The textile boom in Otavalo Ecuador took off in the early 1960's, when Otavalo Indians working at Hacienda Zuleta began to use weaving techniques introduced from Scotland.

And so was born the material known as Otavaleño cashmere, which with its low price and high quality soon found important customers in Ecuadorian cities.

The weavers diversified their products and soon established themselves throughout the country. Now, with over 80% of the Otavalo Indians involved in textile industry, products from Otavalo Ecuador are found in markets around the world, from neighboring countries such as Venezuela and Colombia to the United States, Europe, and even Asia.

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