World Class Market For Textiles & Handicrafts…
No trip to Ecuador is complete without a visit to Otavalo’s bustling handicraft and food market that starts in the main square and sprawls out amongst the many streets connected to Plaza de los Ponchos on a Saturday.
It is one of the most famous markets throughout the Andes, selling locally grown foodstuffs and quality goods produced by talented indigenous weavers and craftspeople from Otavalo and surrounding villages.
You can easily find yourself lost amongst the labyrinth of handicrafts on offer and lose track of time seeking out that perfect souvenir to take home.
We spent half a day wandering around the maze of stalls chatting with sellers, sampling some of the local cuisine and admiring the colourful handicrafts for sale.
Take a virtual wander through the market by looking at our photo essay!
There is an array of hand made goods for every occasion including blankets, scarves, hammocks, ponchos, jewellery, wall hangings, paintings and hats galore.
Some of the more unusual items we spotted were brightly coloured balaclavas, hand made Andean musical instruments, feather headdresses, dream catchers, plus cosy hats, slippers and rugs made from alpaca wool.
Our favourites were the handmade children’s toys such as woollen llamas, Ecuadorian dollies and knitted finger puppets!
Take a break from the hustle and bustle by visiting the northern end of the market for a spot of lunch. With several pigs being roasted on spits, roast pork was definitely the most popular choice.
There are also numerous stalls that sell a variety of local food stuffs ranging from chickens to corn to coca leaves. You’ll find lots of different potatoes to choose from too as there are over 4,000 varieties grown in Ecuador!
To the south of Plaza de los Ponchos there is also a fruit and vegetable market. If you’re slightly squeamish, avoid the indoor section of the meat market next to this where a variety of animals have been butchered.
The market also gives a good insight into Ecuadorian culture. We noticed that Otavaleños wear clothing distinctive to their area. Women wear embroidered blouses that are white with a specific colour thread that denotes what village they are from. Over the top is fastened a dark coloured shawl. Women also wear beaded necklaces and long skirts, whilst men wear smart white trousers, ponchos and sandals. Men also don a hat.
Whilst wandering through the square we were also lucky enough to see a bride and groom in all their finery just leaving church after their marriage ceremony, which added to the atmosphere of the day.
Even if you’re a traveller on a budget and not one for collecting tourist trinkets, Otavalo Market is a great introduction to Ecuadorian culture and both a lively and colourful day out!
Less than a couple of hours bus journey from Quito, it should definitely be on your itinerary if you are travelling through South America.