Two hours north of Quito is the colorful town of Otavalo. It’s best known for it’s market, which on Saturdays takes over the entire town. Otavalenos are famous throughout the world for their weavings and textiles. People flock here on Saturdays, both tourists looking for beautiful works of art and locals from the surrounding area, looking for all the necessities. From food to clothing, animals to textiles, & hardware to plants, no matter what you’re looking for you can find it here.
We got to Otavalo via the local bus, a two hour bus ride from Quito. Cost for a one way ticket: $2. This is also the main mode of transportation for the bulk of the people who come to the mercado. Quite often, they have walked from their homes or farms to catch a bus, loading up their wares, or animals, in the cargo section and heading into Otavalo. We’ve been on buses to or from Otavalo with both chickens and cuy (guinea pigs).
We spent Friday evening enjoying the views from the rooftop of our hostel and wandering around in the town square.
First stop in the morning is always the Animal Market, which starts early.
Here you can find locals buying and selling all sorts of animals: pigs, cows, turkeys, chickens, puppies, kittens, cuy (guinea pigs), llamas, & alpacas. It gives you perspective quite quickly on just where your food comes from & is always a busy, noisy, smelly, chaotic bit of wonderfulness. You never know what you’re going to see when you get there.
It’s also where we met this very clever & friendly woman, who stopped to speak with us. She lives 8km from town and walks to the mercado every Saturday to sell her family’s weavings and textiles. We purchased bracelets and hair ties and belts from her. She was a fantastic saleswoman. What a beautiful and spunky family! We had the best time visiting with them. It was good Spanish practice as well.
After the Animal market, we headed back into town to the main artisan mercado to check out all the weavings, textiles, traditional paintings on leather, and the awesome hats that local Otavalenos and other Indigenas in Ecuador wear.
It was so hard to be good in this place. It’s complete and total sensory overload, with tent after tent of fabulous stuff at really competitive prices. And everyone is always willing to haggle with you. But we managed to escape with just a few scarves and headed on over to the food market next.
If you know us, you know we are all about eating local street food, and the food market was a blast for us! Meats, grains, produce, plants, every type of fruit and vegetable. We ate a lot! We had to head back on the bus later, so we didn’t get to buy much, but Los Pinguinos insisted on some grapes, some of the largest ones we’ve ever seen.
Before we knew it, it was mid-afternoon and we were exhausted. So grateful to hear the man screaming, “Quito Quito Quito” across the bus depot as we walked up. We climbed onto our bus and settled in for the 2 hour bus ride home, complete with showing of “From Cradle to Grave” dubbed in Spanish & shown at high volume.