Otavalo Market
Woman with traditional costume in Otavalo
Otavalo market place
Traditional weavings at Otavalo market
Brightly coloured textiles on sale at Otavalo Market, Ecuador
Weaving of indigenous highland figures
Woven bags and jackets, popular souvenirs in Otavalo Market

Otavalo's indian market is famed for its colourful textiles and handicrafts, which make ideal souvenirs of Ecuador's highland cultures.

Otavalo Market -  Ecuador Destinations

Otavalo 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.
Traditional 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.
Otavalo's traditional dress is not just for the tourists, the costume is worn 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 than most native indian groups in Ecuador.
Otavalo and the surrounding area has been famous for weaving since well before the time of the Incas.  The weavers of Otavalo were exploited by the Inca, then the Spanish conquistadores and later by local landowners.  When they were finally allowed to work for themselves again, the Otavaleños showed their entrepreneurial flair - the town is a wealthy and successful community, one of the richest in Ecuador.
Market 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.
The 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 people.  You are likely to get a better reception if you buy something before taking photographs.
The market at Otavalo is easily visited in a day from Quito.  It's 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.
Alternatively, you could take an organised tour to Otavalo market from an Ecuador travel 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!)
Otavalo is a good base for excursions, such as trips, treks and horserides to 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.
Otavalo 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.
Useful Spanish Vocabulary for an excursion to Otavalo, Ecuador:
artesanías: handicrafts, craft products
feria: market
Ecuador 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 tourist attractions.
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
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