Excursions from Otavalo
Farmstay near Otavalo
Lake San Pablo near Otavalo in Ecuador
Woven textiles, Otavalo, Ecuador
Bird of prey with handler at Condor Park
Children from local community listening to an educational talk at Condor Park
Raptor (bird of prey) about to fly in the beautiful scenery near Otavalo
Otavalo is an excellent base
for several hiking destinations and excursions to waterfalls, lakes and a
raptor rescue centre.

Excursions from Otavalo -  Ecuador Destinations

Otavalo is on almost every Ecuador itinerary because it serves as a base for various excursions in the local area.  Local travel agents help arrange visits, tours, hikes, treks, horse hire or cycling trips, as well as Otavalo hotels.  Any Ecuador travel agent in Quito can also arrange tours from there which often include several attractions in the Otavalo area, home to many of the most popular tourist sites in Ecuador.
Otavalo hiking destinations: Keen walkers might trek up to the Lagunas de Mojanda (Mojanda Lakes), for example, or this could also be an enjoyable horse ride (cabalgata).  Other popular destinations include Peguche Waterfall (la cascada de Peguche) or Laguna (Lagoon, Lake) Cuicocha, as well as Lago San Pablo.  Otavalo hotels are accustomed to walkers heading to these popular hiking destinations, so they may well be able help arrange trekking guides or lend maps of Otavalo trekking routes.
It is easy to organise trips from Otavalo to craft workshops in nearby weaving villages and slightly further afield to villages like Zuleta, famed for its embroidery, or Cotacachi, known for leather goods.  Ask local travel agents, either in Quito or Otavalo, or ask stallholders in the market if they will organise a tour to their own workshops for you, if your Spanish language skills are good enough.
Otavalo hotels are not the only accommodation option.  To experience agricultural life in the Otavalo area for yourself, try a farmstay at community tourism project Runa Tupari, where you can stay in a cabaña in the garden of a farming family.  You have your own room and private bathroom, but eat with the family and help with or watch tasks on the farm if you wish.  You'll get more out of this if you are able to learn Spanish enough to be able to communicate.  Runa Tupari's office is along one side of the Plaza de los Ponchos in Otavalo.
Lago San Pablo, or Saint Paul's Lake is a short bus ride out of Otavalo, or a pleasant walk.  There are various hotels and hostals offering accommodation and activities near or on the lake, such as canoeing or horse-riding excursions.  The lakeside restaurant is a little pricey, but the views are wonderful. 
Up in the hills overlooking San Pablo lake is the raptor rescue center, Condor Park (Parque Condor), open Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30a.m. to 5.00p.m. and well worth a visit.  This is your chance to see the huge Andean condor, an endangered species, close-up, along with various other types of vulture, hawk, owl and falcon.  Hike there from Otavalo or take any bus from Otavalo towards Quito, get off when you see the sign for the Parque Condor turn-off and walk or take a taxi for the 4km from there.  
The centre houses rescued birds of prey which, for various reasons, cannot be released into the wild, and carries out very important community education work with local school groups, raising awareness of wildlife and conservation issues.  Make sure you are there for one of the flying displays (usually at 11.30am and 4.30pm).  The grace and beauty of a bird of prey soaring through the skies then choosing to return to the fist of its trainer is quite awe-inspiring and emphasises the importance of the centre's work in helping to save these species from extinction through rescue, rehabilitation and environmental education.
Since these are some of the most popular tourist sites in Ecuador, you will easily find Otavalo maps and information (try the Tourist Information office just off the corner of the Plaza de los Ponchos, the main market square).  If you can communicate in Spanish, it is possible to travel on local buses or walk to hiking destinations without assistance.  For those wanting more help, transport or guides, most local travel agents speak English and offer a wide range of excursions in and around Otavalo.

Useful Spanish Vocabulary for excursions from Otavalo, Ecuador:
Agencia de viaje: travel agents
Cascada: Waterfall
Lago: Lake
Laguna: Lagoon or lake
Ecuador Destinations: Otavalo Excursions
Tourist information for day trips, hikes, homestays and visits from Otavalo, including San Pablo Lake, Condor Park & community farmstays.  The Otavalo area includes many of the most popular tourist sites in Ecuador as such is on every Ecuador itinerary.  Local travel agents offer excursions, guides and maps to popular hiking destinations around Otavalo.
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
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