|Travel Ecuador : Cities : Otavalo|
Otavalo is a market town in the northern Ecuadorian Andes. It is famous for its large artisan market, held every day, but at its biggest on Saturdays, when it spills out from the Plaza de Ponchos into all of the surrounding streets. The Otavalo Market is known for being the largest indigenous market in South America, and is a sight to be seen. On Saturdays, there is also an animal market, held just south of the town.
While famous for shopping, Otavalo has some other interesting activities that are worth exploring, surrounding the town. It is possible to visit the quaint little town of Peguche and walk to its waterfall, or to head further north to Cotocachi to watch the leather making process and buy cheap, but good quality leather goods. Close to Cotocachi, there is also the Cuicocha lake, a crater lake that it is possible to hike around.
There are countless hotels and restaurants all within a stone’s throw of the main plaza, convenient for the main attraction: Otavalo Market shopping.
Thanks to its famous market, Otavalo is pretty well developed for tourism. You can find hostels and hotels to suit all budgets in Otavalo. There are cheap hostels for the budget backpacker and high-end hotels and spas for those with a healthy budget. If you want a night’s sleep that extends somewhat into the morning, you may want to consider selecting accommodation that is a little further from the square, so that you are not awoken by the market being set up in the morning.
A great option for those with a little more cash is to stay at one of the many old haciendas, located in the countryside surrounding Otavalo. Haciendas are old farmhouses, and many of them have been converted into upscale hotels. This is a good way to add a unique experience, instead of staying in regular Otavalo hotesl.
In Otavalo it is possible to find a variety of different food options to suit all taste buds. Most common in Otavalo restaurants is typical, hearty Andean Ecuadorian food, usually consisting of soups, and mains made up of meat, rice and potatoes. There is a decent array of international food available in Otavalo, such as pasta, pizza, burgers and other options such as Mexican food. It is possible to eat cheaply in Otavalo restaurants by choosing the daily set meal, which usually consists of soup, main, juice and sometimes a small dessert.
Otavalo nightlife is fairly lively, considering that Otavalo is a relatively small market town. There are a few different bars and clubs where you can shake your hips to the local tunes.
Otavalo is pretty close to Quito, and it is possible to get there via bus. The journey takes approximately two hours, and buses headed to Otavalo can be found at the bus terminal in the north of Quito. The bus will drop you close to the center of town, a short walk from the Plaza de Ponchos. It is possible to visit Otavalo as a day trip from Quito, for those who prefer not to stay overnight.
Common sense applies with safety in Otavalo. When visiting the famous Otavalo Market, it is better to keep your money hidden in money pouches where pickpockets cannot easily access them. Be aware of what is going on around you at all times, to avoid not falling victim to petty theft. Do not walk around alone at night, and if heading out to the bars, do not accept drinks from people that you don’t know.