Otavalo


Otavalo Itineraries:

Otavalo & Amazon Adventure Otavalo & Amazon Adventure

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Otavalo



Otavalo

On any given morning in the town of Otavalo, Plaza de los Ponchos is a rainbow of textiles comprised of blankets, wall hangings, handbags, table runners, alpaca-wool sweaters and scarves. While this Ecuadorean town doesn’t boast especially attractive architecture, it is home to the largest and finest craft market in South America. Crowds swarm through the square and, on Saturday mornings when the market is at its busiest, into the surrounding streets. Much of what’s on display is aimed at travelers – from pan pipes to woven wall hangings of Andean and Galapagos animals – but this is so much more than a tourist spot. The Otavalo market is a place of history and tradition, continuing centuries-old artisan practices from around this northern town.


For hundreds of years, Otavalo has been the host of one of the most important markets in the Andes. Vendors hawk a array of handmade traditional crafts as well as an ever-increasing number of slyly disguised imports. The market tradition stretches back to pre-Incan times, when traders would emerge from the jungle on foot, ready to conduct business.


These days the market has morphed into a broader cultural crossroads and has become something of a must-see destination for tourists from around the globe. Otavaleños and indígena (indigenous) people from the surrounding villages still wear traditional wardrobes. Women scoot about the market in embroidered white blouses, long wool skirts, fachalinas (headcloths), woven belts, canvas sandals and strands of beads and men in felt hats, blue ponchos and calf-length pants and hair braided in one long strand.

Otavalo


The indigenous Otavaleño people, who make up approximately 50% of the town’s population, have been weavers since pre-Incan times. In colonial days, their skills resulted in many of them being forced into obrajes (textile workshops), creating a textile trade that continues freely today.


On Saturdays, the craft market begins early, with stallholders setting up at around 6 am. A large animal market is held at the same time on the outskirts of the city, trading cattle, sheep, pigs, llamas, chickens, rabbits and masses of guinea pigs, turning the town into a sprawling marketplace. In the quiet of morning, before busloads of visitors begin arriving from Quito, take the chance to wander and chat with the stallholders in relative calm. Alongside the textiles, there are stalls filled with myriad other crafts, from silver jewelry to wooden carvings to Panama hats, which originated in Ecuador but became famous in Panama. The selection of crafts is extensive, and good gifts or souvenirs include woolen scarves, blankets and ponchos.


In Cotacachi, 10km north of Otavalo, craftspeople have been making leather products for hundreds of years, owing to the town's position surrounded by cattle and dairy farms. Wander the main street of Avenida 10 de Agusto, known locally as Leather Street, where over four blocks there are more than 100 boutique-style leather stores, selling jackets, trousers, bags and even shirts, many with workshops behind the display floor.


Otavalo


At the very northeastern edge of Otavalo, Peguche is celebrated for its weavings. Wander through the village to hear the chatter of mechanical looms at work; at the center is Artesania El Gran Condor, arguably Peguche's most noted textile producer. Here, the entire weaving process, from the spinning of the wool to the mixing of the dyes, is done by hand – a bit of calm amid the cacophony.


Peguche also offers a break from shopping. Just a few hundred meters east of Artesania El Gran Condor is the entrance to the Cascadas de Peguche, an 18m-high waterfall that plunges out of the thick forest. A walking trail to the falls leads through a stand of eucalypts, from which bromeliads grow, drawing their water from the spray of the distant falls.


For its history, shopping and incredible opportunity to submerge oneself into a long standing tradition and cultural gathering, Otavalo is not to missed while exploring Ecuador.




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Otavalo Accommodations



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Casa Mojanda
Built as a labor of love and dedication to true eco principals, Casa Mojanda opened in 1995. The lodge has a firm commitment to the practices of eco-tourism and was designed to have as minimal impact as possible on the local ecosystem and culture - earth-friendly construction methods were used such as rammed earth adobe, non-endangered wood, brick and straw.

Otavalo & Amazon Adventure



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