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Have You Discovered Cotacachi’s Neighbor: Otavalo Ecuador?

otavalo ecuador

The quaint yet lively highland town of Otavalo Ecuador is a wonderful place to visit. It’s around half an hour away from Cotacachi, and is surrounded by the Cotacachi and Imbabura mountain ranges.

Otavalo is best known for its vibrant Inca market. Not only does the market give tourists and expats a brilliant opportunity to soak up some of the Andean culture, it also sells treasures like woven wall hangings, clothing, and ornaments. The market traditions date back to pre-Inca times. Jungle traders would journey to these Andean crossroads on foot thousands of years ago in order to meet, trade, and prosper.

Today, the town has a solid cultural identity all of its own. The indigenous Otavaleños people have strong Andean roots, and are extremely proud of them. They have successfully held onto the traditions of their ancestors, and are every bit as talented textile makers and business people.

The Market in Otavalo Ecuador

Otavalo Ecuador

In truth, Otavalo doesn’t have just one market, it has several. Just outside the town you’ll find a livestock market, where many hundreds of animals are bought and sold every week. This is where you’ll find local farmers doing what they do best: showing off their wares and bartering to make sure they get the best deal. To see this animal market in full swing, it’s best to visit first thing in the morning.

In the heart of Otavalo is the Artesania market, otherwise known as the textile and handicraft market. This is a large market that stretches the length of a network of streets, starting at the appropriately named ‘Poncho Plaza’. The first thing you’ll probably notice about the Artesania is the color of it. The textiles, clothing, and decorative items that are available are usually made of bright, inviting shades like turquoise, cerise, and gold.

Beyond the textile and handicraft market, visitors will discover the produce market. Much of this is housed within a covered market area. Along with fresh fruit and vegetables, there are also a wide range of meat stalls to choose from.

The Surrounding Countryside

Visitors to Otavalo should set aside some time to visit the city’s surrounding countryside. The Cotacachi and Imbabura volcanic mountain ranges give the area a majestic feel, and there are many beautiful sights to see.

One of these sights is the Lago de San Pablo. This clear blue lake is surrounded by eucalyptus trees and aloe vera plants. It takes about a day to hike around the lake, and there are a number of great accommodation options there. It’s also possible to enjoy water sports on the lake, along with taking in the view of the stunning Imbabura volcano.

Other natural places to visit include the Peguche Waterfall, the extinct Cerro Cayambe volcano, the Chachimbiro hot springs and the Cuichoca Lake, which is actually a deep volcanic crater.

What Else Does Otavalo Have to Offer?

The real beauty of Otavalo is that it provides visitors and residents with the very best of both worlds. The city, with its Spanish-inspired architecture and traditional culture, is only minutes away from the glorious countryside. The Andean farmland and mountainous valleys that surround the city make for a very relaxed and laid-back way of life.

As Otavalo is located near the equator, the weather in the city is close to consistent all year round. Whatever the season, you should expect to enjoy daytime temperatures of around 70ºF, with the weather dropping down to 40ºF at night.

Whether you plan to visit the town for a day or two to take in the famous market, or whether you plan to settle down and start a new life there, this is a city that will welcome you with open arms.

How Do You Get There?

Getting to Otavalo Ecuador is easy. Most people travel via Quito and Cotacachi. You can fly into Quito, and from there it’s a two hour bus ride to Cotacachi, then a further twenty minutes to Otavalo. Bus fares are very cheap in Ecuador. From Quito to Cotacachi you should only expect to pay around $6, with a couple more $s for the last leg of your journey to Otavalo.

If you’d rather take private transport, taxis are readily available. Most hotels will be happy to arrange a driver for you, and this will probably cost around $60 from Quito to Otavalo.

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