Otavalo is celebrated for retaining its traditional Quichua heritage and culture as well as being a wonderful place for active adventures, relaxation, bartering in markets and discovering the country’s traditional rural culture.
Saturday is the big market day in Otavalo, although there are market stalls and beautiful local shops to explore in and around the main Plaza any day of the week. Otavaleños belong to the largely indigenous communities of Imbabura province who are proud of their traditions. They are usually seen wearing their local costume and selling their wares, producing some of the country’s finest quality artisan crafts which are sold here as well as extensively abroad.
Locals also barter themselves for fresh produce from the proceeds of their crafts markets, ensuring this lively bustling town is always a hub for local trade. Intricately beautiful textiles of every description made of multi-coloured woven wool patterns are an excellent purchase here, as are beautiful leather goods and jewellery.
The stunning landscapes around Otavalo include volcanic peaks and glistening lakes with small traditional villages and communities dotted about this lush valley. Hiking, horse-riding and biking can easily be arranged from one of the traditional haciendas that make a great base from which to explore this traditional Andean region.
As Otavalo is famous for its textiles, scratch beneath the surface and journey to the outlying villages, many of which are famous for their own particular crafts, such as beautiful leatherwork shops which can be seen in Cotacachi or the beautiful wood carving in San Antonio.
Dip into traditional workshops along these village streets to see the artisans at work at their particular speciality. Otavalo is well-known for its musicians and particular traditional music. A good time to come here to listen to local music is at Inti Raymi in late June when there is a music festival for the summer solstice.
There are some beautiful colonial haciendas here to stay in, where you can combine your curiosity to see more of the rural life of Ecuador with a love of the great outdoors, especially for those who love to ride. Explore the stunning valleys on horseback on shorter or longer rides, a perfect base especially for a riding holiday for families, as there are plenty of other activities available, to keep all the family happy.