Otavalo – Province of Imbabura

San Luis de Otavalo, located in Imbabura province, is known as the “Intercultural Capital of Ecuador”. Otavalo’s climate has an average temperature of 16 ° C (ºF).

Otavalo has one of the most recognized indigenous markets in South America, the Otavalo Market, where the Plaza de Ponchos is located, here you can find a wide variety of Ecuadorian handicrafts and textiles made by the indigenous people of Otavalo. In Otavalo Market you can buy the famous ponchos de Otavalo. Are made entirely with sheep, alpaca, llama wool, hand-spun and dyed with natural pigments, blue on one side and light colors and squared figures on the other.

Otavalo indigenous people who make the traditional ponchos de Otavalo, are part of 50% of the current population of Otavalo. Kichwa is their mother language and textile production is one of their main activities. Otavalo textiles can be seen in the Plaza de Ponchos in Otavalo market and throughout the city.

The textile activity in Otavalo dates from the time of the Spanish conquest, between the XV-XVI centuries, when the obrajes were established, centers of textile development that operated on the estates. Currently, the works are maintained but with a tourist vision.

How to get to Otavalo from Quito?

Otavalo is located 100 km north of the city of Quito. Visiting Otavalo will take you a trip of approximately 2 hours. You can travel by private car or by taking an interprovincial bus from the Carcelén Terrestrial Terminal in the city of Quito. There are several transport cooperatives that go to Otavalo, some have a direct route, that is Quito-Otavalo. Others only make a brief stop at the Otavalo Terminal or on the Otavalo highway.

Los Lagos Cooperative and the Otavalo Cooperative are two of the transport companies that you can choose to go directly to. The approximate value of the ticket is 3 US dollars, this may vary depending on the transport company.

How to get to Otavalo from Cuenca?

Cuenca and Otavalo are at a distance of 543 km. The trip is approximately 10 hours and can be done in your own vehicle or by taking an interprovincial bus. To travel to Otavalo, you must arrive at the Cuenca terminal and buy a ticket in the Imbabura Fleet. Which goes directly to the city. It costs $14 and the bus leaves once a day. The trip lasts approximately 11 hours because the bus makes stops in several cities that are on the way.

Typical food in Otavalo

Otavalo traditional food is framed by its customs and traditions.The traditional “chicha del Yamor ” is one of their main traditional Otavalo dishes. This delicious chicha is also called “chicha de la sabiduría”. It is a sacred drink that was destined for the great caciques in pre-Inca times. And that is made with seven varieties of corn typical of the Andes, which is tasted in September during the traditional Yamor festival. On your trip to Otavalo, you will be able to savor the Atuntaqui fry. This fry is accompanied by “mapahuira”, pork produced in cooking, accompanied by potatoes, ripe, mote, corn, toasted; If you want to try something more “exotic”, the guinea pigs of Chaltura are another delight.

The “Carnes Rojas de Cotacachi”, pork marinated in beer with garlic, onion, achiote, cumin, oregano, accompanied by chicha de jora, is another of the delicious dishes that you can taste in the surroundings of Otavalo.

If you prefer a sweeter option, fruit ice creams and sweets made from corn flour such as sighs, mojicones, and donuts are ideal for you.

Where to eat in Otavalo?

Otavalo has several establishments that offer a wide variety of dishes. These offer delicious typical food and also other typical dishes of the different regions of the country. One of the most visited places by national tourists is the “Nuevo Mercado Municipal 24 de Mayo”. On the second floor of this market you can find all kinds of dishes, for all tastes and at different prices to suit the budget of all.

On the other hand, around the Otavalo market there are several restaurants that offer different kinds of food. Among them, the restaurant “El Auténtico Yamor de Yolanda Cabrera ” stands out for its delicious chicha del Yamor, that it serves accompanied by fry with potato tortillas. 

Other restaurants that serve traditional food in Otavalo are: “La típica colada con churos de Doña Esthersita”, “El Indio Inn” or “Las fritadas en leña de Mama Juana”.

Clothing of the Otavalos

The town of Otavalo has a worldview framed between the universe, the earth and man (Pachamama, Allpamama, Truna). The indigenous clothing of the Otavalos ethnic group is a mark of their ancestral identity and is one of the most recognized among all the clothing of the indigenous peoples and nationalities of the country.

All the garments used by the Otavalo ethnic group are made by hand, demonstrating their skill in the crafts, which reflect the knowledge transmitted from generation to generation.

Clothing of the Otavaleña woman

Otavalo clothing is generally made up of 10 pieces. On the head the woman uses the humaguatarina, which is a folded cloth. The shirt used by the Otavalos is usually white, embroidered with different designs and colors; Anacos or skirts are made of cloth, usually black or blue. The anacos are fastened with two bands tied at the waist, the thickest band is called mama chumbi and is usually red and the thin band is called guagua chumbi and it is usually of different colors and with a design. 

The hair is usually tied back by ribbons and they usually use bracelets called manillas or maki waraba made of coral, coral or synthetic and gold necklaces, known as walka. 

The espadrilles are black or blue with a cabuya or synthetic rubber base, this clothing is complemented with the shawl. This is a twill under the arm and is tied on the opposite shoulder, and the fachalina is a garment that distinguishes a married and single woman.

Embroideries are traditionally made by hand and that is why the embroidery of a single blouse can take a month to be carried out causing its cost to rise. Currently there are blouses whose embroideries are made by machine.

Otavaleño man clothing

The clothing is composed of a white long-sleeved shirt and its cuffs and neck are made of a finer fabric. This garment represents spiritual cleanliness, the pants are long and white, they use a dark-colored poncho, usually navy blue or black. Its design is based on the shape of the Andean mountains.

They are made of wool or cloth woven on the handloom and a felt hat or cloth in black, blue, or brown colors. Men also wear espadrilles. Men’s hair is long and is braided. Otavalo clothing is a symbol of identity for this population and its people wear it with pride, in the Otavalo Market it is very common to see people wearing their typical clothing. It can be seen in the plaza de ponchos and in the general population of Otavalo.

What to do in Otavalo?

Otavalo has a great culture which is present in every corner of the province of Imbabura, mixed with the beautiful natural landscapes that they have offers various places for all kinds of tourists.

Below are the main attractions that can be visited within Otavalo and its surroundings, which will allow you to know and enjoy this part of Ecuador.

Otavalo Market

The Otavalo market is located in the center of the City. In the popular “Plaza de Ponchos” every day you can admire the variety of colors through the corridors of the Otavalo market

It does not matter if the day is sunny or a little cloudy, you will be able to contemplate the beauty of the textiles, the delicacy of the elaboration of necklaces, earrings and more wonders.

For this reason, Otavalo market is known as a place where history, culture and tradition continue to be present in the artisan practices of this city.

How to get to the Otavalo market?

Once you have arrived in Otavalo, one of the first stops should be the Otavalo market.

But, How do you get to the Otavalo market? This market is located in the center of the city which facilitates your arrival. If your arrival point is the Otavalo terminal, it will take around 10 minutes to walk to the Otavalo market.

You should go to the southwest on Av. Atahualpa, then take Av. Quito to get to Calle Modesto Jaramillo, where the Otavalo Market is located. If you are not good with the directions or you feel that you have passed the site. You can always ask people how to get to the Otavalo Market, also known by them as Plaza de Ponchos. People are very friendly, they will indicate to you with great kindness.

It is not advisable to take a taxi because it will not take more than 5 minutes to get to the Otavalo market due to its proximity, but it is always an option.

What days to visit the Otavalo market?

The official days of the Otavalo Market are on Wednesdays and Saturdays, which start from 7 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon, that is why it is recommended to arrive early at the Otavalo Market to find a great variety of products.

But the Otavalo market is open every day of the week, which is a great opportunity to visit it and include it in the itinerary. Maybe between Monday to Friday not all the stores are open but this does not take away the charm of the Otavalo Market. 

These days there are not so many visitors. 

Remember to visit the Otavalo market with time. This will allow you to get to know the market and find many objects, at different prices and you can even talk to the sellers, which gives you the opportunity to know how they make their products, their history and take you with a wonderful experience.

"Cascada de Peguche" Protected forest

The Peguche waterfall is located 3.3 km from the city of Otavalo, it belongs to the Faccha Llacta community, it has several trails where the smell of eucalyptus can be quickly identified. Eucalyptus trees are predominant.

The Peguche waterfall is a waterfall 20 m (65.6 ft) high and 6 m (19.6 ft) wide. The community considers it as a ceremonial center, here purification baths are carried out on dates close to Inti Raymi, making the Peguche waterfall more special.

What activities to do in the Peguche waterfall?

Its climate is pleasant, it has an average temperature of 12 ° C, which allows you to enjoy the different trails that the “Cascada de Peguche” Protective Forest has, in the same way, you can visit a second waterfall, which is 6 m ( 19.6 ft) high, you can also perform: Camping, photography, Cycling, picnic.

How to get to the Peguche waterfall?

From the Otavalo terminal, you can take a bus from the Imbaburapac cooperative that leaves every 30 minutes, this goes to the Faccha Llacta sector, where the Peguche waterfall is located. The value of the ticket is $ 0.25 US cents and it will take 10 to 20 minutes to reach the Peguche waterfall.You can take a taxi from the city of Otavalo in the direction of the Peguche waterfall and its approximate cost is $ 2 US dollars.

If you want to walk to the Peguche waterfall, it is possible but it should be considered that it will take more time, the walk will last about 40 minutes, from the center of Otavalo you must reach the train track and continue your way north.

On this road, you will reach the community of Peguche and you must take the right detour to reach the community of Faccha Llacta.

Recommendations

  • Having cash, because at the entrance is necessary to register and give an economic contribution, which allows the community to maintain the Protected Forest Cascada de Peguche.
  • Bring comfortable shoes, a camera, comfortable clothes.
  • Bring mosquito repellent and glasses.
  • Bring a bag to collect the garbage and deposit them in the designated places.
  • If you visit in winter, wear warm clothes.

Condor Park

Located on the Curi hill, you must enter the Panamericana Highway at the height of the gas station at the entrance to Otavalo and you must continue for 5 km. In its surroundings is the Otavalo market, the Peguche waterfall, the San Pablo lagoon.

The Condor Park is a site for the rescue, protection, rehabilitation, reintroduction of the Andean Condor and other species of birds, this being its main message for the visitors.

Within this park, you can participate in educational activities, meet birds rescued from unsuitable environments and their rehabilitation process, in the same way, you can observe a flight show, led by a trainer in which you can participate to hold the birds.

Does the visit to Condor Park have a cost?

The Condor Park is a private place, in which you cannot enter with food or pets. The entrance fee is $ 3 for National Adults. $ 3.75 for Foreign Adults and $ 2 for children and people with disabilities. It is open from Wednesday to Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the airshow is held in two hours at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

San Pablo Lagoon

The San Pablo lagoon is a spring located at the feet of the Imbabura Volcano, known by the population as Taita Imbabura. It is located in the Gonzales Suares parish 10 minutes from Otavalo.

How to get to Laguna San Pablo?

From entering the community of San Pablo and Arrenque, you will reach the old dock until you reach Arenque, where we will get off and arrive at the entrance of the San Pablo lagoon.

From the center of Otavalo there are several cooperatives such as Otavalo or Los Lagos, that lead to the communities of San Pablo and Arenque. The cost of the pass is $ 0.25 cents.

Recommendations

When entering Otavalo you will find the Miralago viewpoint from which you can see a panoramic view of the wonderful landscape that the San Pablo lagoon and the Imbabura volcano provide us, becoming one of the first stops and a mandatory site when entering Otavalo.

Cotacachi

Santa Ana de Cotacachi is the largest canton in Imbabura, it is located 25 minutes from Otavalo. The population is located on the slopes of the Cotacachi volcano, known by the population as Mama Cotacachi. It is known as the Musical Capital of Ecuador for the artistic expressions that it offers. It is also known as Castillo de Luz for the combination of the cultural and natural elements of the destination. Their people work with leather, made by hand, which has made it a main destination to know and acquire this impeccable work in the art of saddlery.

Cotacachi has become a favorite place for foreigners to live. This is due to the pleasant climatic conditions that it offers, the average temperature ranges from 11 to 22 ° C, the warmth of its people and the prices of properties are factors that influence the decision to live in this land; Most foreigners who decide to reside in Cotacachi are American, where a large percentage of these are retirees

Cuicocha Lagoon

In Cotacachi one of the main tourist destinations is the Cuicocha Lagoon, located 14 km southwest of Cotacachi, the Cuicocha lagoon, is on a volcanic crater with a depth of 200 m (656.1 ft) 4 km long and 3 km wide.

What to do in the Cuicocha Lagoon?

The Cuicocha lagoon belongs to the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve, so you can enjoy various activities within the site, such as hiking trails, which will take you to the viewpoints of Cuicocha Loma and Mirador Las Antenas.

Do a 4-hour trek along the path that surrounds the Cuicocha lagoon.

You can participate in boat trips for 25 minutes, where you will travel through the Cuicocha lagoon until you reach the islets of Teodoro Wolf and José María Yerovi, located in the center and divided by the “Canal de los Ensueños”.These islets emerged in small eruptions. 

The cost of this activity is $ 2.50 US dollars.

How to get to the Cuicocha Lagoon?

From the Otavalo terminal you must take a bus in the direction of Quiroga in Cotacachi, this bus has a cost of $ 0.25 cents. Once in Quiroga, you must rent a truck in the direction of the Cuicocha lagoon, which has an approximate value of $ 4 US dollars.

Recommendations

  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, in summer you can wear light clothing but remember that there is wind in the afternoon.
  • Bring sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • Carry bags to collect the garbage generated and contribute to the care of the area.

Quitsato Solar Clock

Quitsato comes from the Tsafiqui language which means Middle of the world, is a monument located right on the Equatorial line or Parallel Zero. It is located in the Guachalá sector in Cayambe. This also functions as a sundial where the movements of the sun can be understood, through the large stone mosaic that indicate the lines of the solstices and equinoxes, in addition to the hours which are projected by the shadow of the 10m pole. (32.8 ft) high located in the center of the circular platform.

Cayambe Biscuit Factory

Cayambe is a place that is on the way to the city of Otavalo and biscuits are a traditional dish of this area and the country. This delicacy is made with flour, egg, lard and cooked in the oven. They are considered an ideal companion for breakfast, generally it is usually accompanied with leaf cheese, milk or cream and a drink with coffee or hot chocolate. In Cayambe you can find many places that offer this delicacy, where you can observe the production process.

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