Otavalo, Ecuador Travel Information
Otavalo is only 50 miles north of Quito on the Pan-American Highway and famous for its Saturday market – Mercado de Ponchos – where indigenous craftsmen and artisans display their art for viewing and purchase year-round.
Otavalo is located in the mountain and valley paradise known as Imbabura Province. The valley it is situated in straddles Volcano Imbabura (4,630 metres/ 15,190 feet) and Volcano Cotacachi (4,995 metres/ 16,388 feet). Nearby towns include the popular relocation destination Cotacachi (approximately 8200 residents) as well as Atuntaqui and Ibarra. Cost of Living in Cotacachi
Vendors display their wares seven days a week so if you want to avoid the hoardes of tourists who may or may not be present (depending on the time of year), visit during a weekday.
Pulling a close second to the market as a popular tourist attraction is Fiesta del Yamor celebrated early in September. It coincides with the Autumn Equinox when planting season begins and is intended to give thanks to Mother Earth for all her bountiful gifts – especially the sun that provides energy and power for seeds to grow and the cycle of life to continue. Prior to the solstice the best corn is selected and fermented into potent liquor – Chica – as an offering to the Sun god.
The festival lasts two-weeks and activities include parades, folk dances, cockfights, fireworks, music, reed boat races (Lake San Pablo) and last but not least – one beautiful, lucky lady being crowned the ‘Yamor Queen‘.
Getting to Otavalo from Quito: You can hire a taxi for approximately $15 USD (two-hour drive) or pay only $2.50 USD for a 2 1/2 hour bus ride. Bus companies Los Lagos and Co-op Otavalo have busses leaving from Terminal Terrestre in Quito.
Photograph of typical vendors selling belts is courtesy of OceansArt.Us