Otavalo’s beauty lies in its people and surroundings, the Otavaleños and the towering volcanoes that surround the andean town. The Otavalo Market, which makes this market town famous, is undoubtedly one of the most important and spectacular markets in all of Latin America.
When I was in Ecuador years ago, I had wanted to go but was unable. I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass me by again.
The Otavalo market is a fascinating way to experience traditional Ecuadorian culture and the traditions of the Andes. Local people use market day much the way their ancestors did during Ecuador’s pre-Colombian history. The market is attractive to visitors for both its outstanding shopping and its cultural significance.
History has it that Otavaleños have been talented textile makers and businesspeople since ancient times, prior even to the Inca invasion. The textile boom in Otavalo took off in the early 1960’s, when Otavaleños began to use weaving techniques introduced from Scotland.
The weavers diversified their products and soon established themselves throughout the country. Now, with over 80% of the Otavaleños involved in textile industry, products from Otavalo are found in markets around the world.
Traveling to Otavalo from Quito is a full day excursion. We inquired about the price of a tour bus but soon realized that it would be less expensive to hire a private driver for the four of us.
Upon our arrival in Otavalo, we found parking along the street near the market and began to browse. To my surprise, many of the vendors offered the same thing .. blouses, sashes, and traditional skirts for women as well as plastic toys for young children.
I’d hoped to see a variety of handcrafts and local artwork, but a las, I was disappointed. I learned too late that the best day of the week to hit the market is Saturday. Sadly we were there on a Thursday.
We did make a few small purchases. Panama Hats are native to Ecuador and can be bought at the market as well as many upscale boutiques and shops throughout the country. My son loves hats and I expected him to come home with one, however, the style that most appealed to him were those worn by the local Otavaleños.
He put his bargaining skills to work and even tried to use a little Spanish. His personal style certainly shines. He turned a lot of heads and many locals admired his hat throughout our journey in the Andes.