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Ecuador Travel – Otavalo Market

The Otavalo Market is one of South America’s most grandest and famous markets.  The best day to experience the market during Ecuador travel is on Saturdays.  From Quito, it’s a 2 hour bus ride to the city of Otavalo.  Passengers will start to get off the bus at several stops after you enter town, but be patient and you will arrive at the bus terminal.

Within five minutes of walking the vendor lined streets,  Otavalo made my top 5 most interesting places I visited in South America.  The energy felt while browsing the endless market is uplifting and fun.  It evokes curiosity and an uncontrollable desire to shop once immersed in the chaos.

Ecuador Travel – Otavalo

We have chosen pictures that best provide an idea of what the Otavalo Market is all about.  To be fair, I feel as though this is one of those cases where you really need to experience the market to know what it’s truly like.

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Ecuador Travel - Plaza Simon Bolivar in Otavalo

The town is very pleasant and very clean despite the tremendous traffic it receives every Saturday.

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Ecuador Travel - Locals Shopping at the Otavalo Market

Locals and tourists alike both bargain for the best price of any items they desire.  You can find almost anything at the Otavalo Market including: jewelry, Panama hats, movies, music, clothes, live animals, produce, meat, ready to eat food and hammocks.

Ecuador Travel

Ecuador Travel - Fruits for Sale at the Otavalo Market

The most intriguing and chaotic section of the Otavalo Market is the animal market.  Campesinos and farmers come to either sell or buy cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, dogs and more.

Ecuador Travel

Ecuador Travel - Animal Market of Otavalo

I spotted a man carrying a crate of baby chicks.  Within seconds he almost disappeared in the the crowd, but I chased him down to take this picture.  We wanted to take 5 home for $1 USD, but I don’t think the airline would let us.

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Ecuador Travel - Baby Chicks for Sale at the Otavalo Market

The clothing, tapestries, bags and hammocks create a surrounding landscape of endless colors.

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Ecuador Travel - Hammocks for Sale at the Otavalo Market

Backpackers or tourists can be found wearing these pajamas all over South America, but you will rarely ever see a local dressed in these.

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Ecuador Travel - Famous South American Pajamas

An array of spices and different foods from Ecuador’s highlands decorate vendors’ tables and can often be found in the almuerzos (lunch) served in the dinning section of the market.

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Ecuador Travel - Spices Being Sold at the Otavalo Market

LLama and alpaca wool are used for sweaters and scarfs that tourists purchase at incredibly low prices in South America.  It’s difficult to make sure that what you are buying is real alpaca versus a synthetic mix.  Traditional Ecuador textile is best represented in tapestries and blankets.

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Ecuador Travel - Handmade Fabrics for Sale at the Otavalo Market

Food in Ecuador’s highlands consists of corn, potatoes, beans, rice and meat.

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Ecuador Travel - Chorizo (Morcilla) with Mote (a type of corn)

The market may be the main attraction in Otavalo, but the surrounding snow capped mountains, many restaurants and beautiful streets are enough reason to stay the weekend.

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Ecuador Travel - Streets of Otavalo

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vicky says:

I am from Otavalo….Otavalo, capital of Otavalo Canton, is a largely indigenous town in the Imbabura Province of Ecuador. The town has about 50,000 inhabitants and is surrounded by the peaks of Imbabura 4,630m, Cotacachi 4,995m, and Mojanda volcanoes.

The indigenous Otavaleños are famous for weaving textiles, usually made of wool which are sold at the famous Saturday market. Although the largest market is on Saturday… welcome to Otavalo – ecuador.

Jason says:

Glad you found us Vicky.

Julia says:

Hello All

My husband and I a seeking to retire in Ecuador and we are almost set to go. We are wondering if someone here can give us an idea about the weather in Otavalo. We like it somewhat warmer than the Cuenca region we visited this past January.
We will visit Otavalo for sure. The pictures are great and it peeked our interest even more

Photos look great, so bright and colorful, especially the fruit. mmmm

I love markets like the Inca Market in Lima and the Hippie Fair and Northeastern Fair in Rio de Janeiro

Jason says:

I love markets too, but after a while they do seem to all blend together. The Otavalo Market was unique and really stood out to us. Especially the animal market.

Leigh says:

I have a similar set of pictures from the Otavalo market. I went on a Saturday too and loved looking at the weird drink concoctions for sale, the people, the colours. I bought three prints there for next to nothing and they are some of my favourite art pieces in my house. We biked for a day above Otavalo which I can also recommend as a fun thing to do.

Ashley says:

Great pictures – the chicks are the cutest! I love visiting markets when traveling. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s always fascinating to walk around and admire what’s being sold.

I was just there yesterday. Perfect timing for your post to swing in my inbox! I just love Otavalo, the people, and the market was quite amazing. Your pictures are so beautiful and the colors really pop! Great shots!

Kim says:

Love the photos. The hammocks are so pretty! That food looks great too. Open-air markets are always my favorite places to visit around the world!

Jason says:

This was one of the best markets we experienced in South America.

Did they have any exotic animals you could buy? I’ve been looking all over for a llama.

Jason says:

Not exotic. Just pigs, cows, chickens, the usual. Now I know you can find a llama in the states. We just saw one in San Antonio, Texas.

Henry Garman says:

Some great photos. I’m always happy to see articles about our hometown of Otavalo. You are right that you need to spend a couple of days here. Most tourists just head for the Plaza de Ponchos for a couple of hours, which is really not enough time to even see all the fabrics and crafts that are for sale. Friday and Saturday nights you can experience live Andean folkloric music at various clubs which don’t have a cover charge and beers are only a dollar for a large bottle. The nearby waterfall, Cascada de Peguche is set in a beautiful park about ten minutes north of here, and then there is the Condor Park where you can see the largest bird in S. America, the Condor. The park has an amphitheatre set on a hillside overlooking a large valley and you can watch eagles soar and then return to their trainer.

Jason says:

Henry, Thank you very much for adding to the post. I absolutely agree that a few days there would have been a better experience. I knew about the waterfalls, but not the Condor lookout. I guess we have to return someday.

Judging by the last picture, the town seems to be on a rather high hill. Looks very beautiful and indeed very clean from that picture. I wander how they succeed in keeping it clean with such a big and busy market. The colours are exraordinary.

Dalene says:

One of my favourite spots in Ecuador as well – although I didn’t have the stomach to go to the animal market…heard that it could be brutal to witness treatment of some of the animals. The chicks were sure cute though… =)

Jason says:

We didn’t see anything too bad in the animal market. No slaughters or anything cruel, just some selling. We did witness two pigs having, what seemed to be, a great time.

I was in the tourist Otavalo market this February. Wish I’d found my way to this one – for real people. Looks so much more fun!

paul says:

My wife is from Ecuador and although i have not been there yet, i have seen that this is a beautiful country. i cant wait to go there.

I’d like to go there. thanks topic

Otavalo is wonderful. My favorite experience of my first trip to Ecuador was Otavalo.
The main reason is that we witnessed a “pedida” on Saturday and we where even invited in. The “canelazo”was wicked good as well.

The Otavalo market is great fun on Saturdays… But it’s also nice to visit on a weekday, much quieter!

Awesome pics….I definitely got some good buys at this market. We weren’t there on a Saturday though, and therefore didn’t get the full effect. Maybe the better deals though?

Ali says:

Sounds great, I’m a sucker for waterfalls! I get to Quito on a Friday night & Sunday evening I’m supposed to meet up with the family I’m staying with for the week, so I could do a good amount in between. Thanks for the tips, I really appreciate it!!

Patrick says:

I have lived in Quito for over 16 years, I am happy to help with any questions you might have about the country. Patrick

Ali says:

Great pictures!! This makes me so excited to go, can’t wait 🙂 Did you stay the weekend or just go there for the day?

Aracely says:

We did not stay the weekend but we regret it. I would recommend that you do spend more time there than we did! There are beautiful waterfalls and a lake near the volcano that are supposed to be wonderful, but it rained the entire day while we were there.

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