Realistically Otavalo is famous for only one thing: its Saturday street market. Where as there’s a street market every day of the week and there are others in nearby towns, the Saturday market brings more indigenous sellers from remote villages and Otavalo boasts for a few hours a folklore difficult to beat.
Otavalo village has all sorts of budget accommodation within reach, is relatively small, well planned, is clean and will entertain any traveller for at least a day. It only took 4 hotels (15 minutes) before I found a room (with bathroom) for 5 USD.
Food is very easy to find and cheap too at the market itself, with two dish almuerzos and a fresh juice for 1.5 USD. And if you still want more food you can find fruit at the market at ridiculous prices: 40 mangos for 1 USD, 1/2 kilogram of raspberries for 1 USD, 1 kg of strawberries for 4 USD…the list goes on.
If it’s souvenirs, home decor or simple clothing that you’re after the market will have everything you need. I’m a big fan of “tapices” (tapestries) and the variety here is similar to that in Bolivia and Peru. Paintings, carvings, cushion covers, bed sheets, necklaces, pants, shirts…everything is here. As usual make sure you bargain hard, but rest assured that you will walk away with good deals because even the starting price is quite low as well.
If you like to take photographs this will be a great opportunity, although make sure you either ask for permission when photographing somebody ( no is a common answer) or better yet hide when taking a shot.
Don’t expect to be the only traveler here: the market is very well known and is a rather touristy palce, but there’s a great atmosphere anyhow. Other attractions in the area include villages like Cotacachi and San Antonio nearby. I chose to visit Cotacachi- it’s quite easy to get to and on a good day (and if you’re willing to walk) you can take some great pictures too of the laguna de Cuicocha (Cuicocha lake). Save your money and don’t join the boat tour around it- it’s nothing special.
Otavalo is a must see destination of any trip to Ecuador. Make sure you’re there on a Saturday and give yourself one or two more days to explore the area and absorb its’ slow paced lifestyle. I know I had a blast and certainly recommend the place to everyone.
Have you visited Otavalo? How did you like the market? Did you buy anything? Tell us what you did, any recommendations you might have and please share the post if you liked it!