Otavalo's indian market is famed for its colourful textiles and
handicrafts, which make ideal souvenirs of Ecuador's highland cultures.
Market is one of
the most popular Ecuador tourist attractions. The market
is full of brightly-coloured, woven craftwork and the indigenous people
of Otavalo wear their traditional costume on a daily basis. A
backdrop of mountain scenery on a clear sunny day adds the finishing
touch to this typical highland scene.
crafts, weavings and textiles are bought and sold after friendly
bargaining in the bustling indian market. Warm
jackets, woven bags, cosy sweaters, cushion covers and wall hangings
are all popular
souvenirs. Traditional weaving designs depict indigenous
highland people with long hair and hats, stylized animals or local
scenes. Other crafts such as musical instruments and
woodcarvings can also be found.
traditional dress is not just
for the tourists, the costume
with pride by everyone from tiny children to successful businessmen and
women. The Otavaleños, as the indigenous locals
are known, have maintained their culture, costume and identity more
native indian groups in Ecuador.
and the surrounding area has been
famous for weaving since well before the time of the Incas.
weavers of Otavalo were exploited by the Inca, then the Spanish
conquistadores and later by local landowners. When they were
allowed to work for themselves again, the Otavaleños showed
entrepreneurial flair - the town is a wealthy and successful community,
one of the richest in Ecuador.
day in Otavalo is Saturday, when the town is crowded with locals
and people from dozens of surrounding highland villages.
The animal market starts very early on the Saturday morning,
before it gets light, so you would need to book an Otavalo hotel and
stay the night before to see the best of
it. The textile part of the market is busiest on Saturdays
but operates all week and you will always find some attractive
souvenirs and handicrafts on sale here.
Otavalo market experience can be more enjoyable for tourists during the
week, rather than on Saturday. With fewer people, there is
less risk of pickpockets and more space to take photographs.
The traditional costumes and colourful weavings are
attractive to photographers, but please respect the feelings of the
Otavaleños. Ask permission before taking photos of
You are likely to get a better reception if you buy something
before taking photographs.
market at Otavalo is easily visited in a day from Quito.
about a 2 hour journey by bus from the Terminal Terrestre
Carcelen in the north of Quito, then ask anyone to point you towards
the Plaza de los Ponchos, the square where the craft market is centred.
It's not far from the bus station, you don't need a taxi.
you could take an organised tour to Otavalo market from an
agent. So-called "indian market tours" or craft market
tours might also include visits to the woodcarving town of San Antonio
de Ibarra, the leather-working centre of Cotacachi or various
other villages known for their embroidery and weaving crafts.
("Indian" in this context means indigenous or native people,
not products imported from India!)
is a good base for excursions,
such as trips, treks and
various lakes, waterfalls, weaving villages, leatherwork
centres and wood-carving workshops. Travel agents in the town
will arrange tours or you can travel independently on local buses.
hotels are often fully booked on Friday and Saturday nights, so
reserve your hotel or hostel accommodation in good time if you want to
stay around market day. Staying for a few nights is
recommended so that you can enjoy the many activities in the local
area, as well as the famous Otavalo market.
Spanish Vocabulary for an excursion to Otavalo, Ecuador:
artesanías: handicrafts, craft
Destinations: Otavalo, an excursion from Quito
Day trip to Otavalo from Quito for the indian market -
traditional crafts, weavings,
textiles and souvenirs at one of the most popular Ecuador
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
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