The small city located just a couple of hours bus ride from Quito is definitely my favorite city in Ecuador. Mostly is inhabited by Otavaleño people, who are count more than half of the town’s population.
What makes this place particularly remarkable is history and tradition. The indigenous group of Latin America produce best of the Andean art and their colorful textiles, woodcarvings, paintings are famous all around the World.
This is my ultimate travel guide to my favorite city in Ecuador!
Plaza de los Panchos – Otavalo Market
Otavalo Market is undoubtedly one of the most famous markets in South America. It lies in the heart of the city in Plaza de los Panchos and it is the largest outdoor market in South America!
The stalls are filled with colorful blankets, table linens, pillowcases, backpacks, handbags, leather wallets, belts, alpaca-wool socks and sweaters. You can also find plenty of artisan jewelry and traditional instruments.
Otavalo market is probably one of the best places in South America to buy the most unique souvenirs for your loved ones! It opens at 9am and closes at 5pm during the week. On Saturdays, the day starts early for stallholders, it’s 6 am.
Mirador El Lechero
El Lechero is an important stop on the way to the Condor Park with an incredible lookout viewpoint. The mirador lies at 2847m over sea level and allows you to be very close to all important points in Imbabura Province. Standing in the middle of natural beauties, you can notice the San Pablo lake, Fuya Fuya Mountains, Cotacachi, Imbabura volcanoes and have a great view of the Otavalo town.
The tree is very important part of lives of indigenous people. It is believed that this is purely sacred side with a magical healing power. There are a variety of purification rituals and spiritual ceremonies along indigenous Otavaleños.
San Pablo Lake
San Pablo Lake is very impressive area at the foot of Volcano Imbabura and lies 3km west of the Otavalo town. Indigenous people of Kichwa Otavalo and Cayambi inhabit territories around the lake.
Parque Condor is a bird sanctuary where are located rescue predatory birds. They are protected to be free and have a better life. The center lies in Curiloma, just few minutes walk from E Lechero mirador. Parque Condor gives you an unique opportunity to stand almost face to face with noble birds like Andes condors, owls, eagles, falcons or sparrowhawks.
It is open to the public from Wednesday to Sunday from 9:30 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon. The hours of flight exhibition are from 11:30 until 3:30 in the afternoon.
Cascada de Peguche
Cascada de Peguche is located 1,5km from Peguche town and 3,3km away from Otovalo. The impressive 18m high waterfall is reachable by pleasant walk through small traditional villages, farms and green lush. It reaches an altitude of 1821 meters above sea level, and is surrounded by forest where you can camp. Below the trail, you can find small pools set just next to the river.
Cascada de Peguche is also a main ceremonial area for cleansing rituals along local dancers, especially during the festival of Inti Raymi.
Laguna Cuicocha is one of the most stunning lakes in this region, set 22km away from Otovalo. The name means Guinea Pig which is a very popular and common food source along people living here. As a result of over 3,000 years volcanic eruption, the caldera resembles the shape of Guinea Pig. Local people are amazed by this phenomenon named place Guinea Pig Lake.
The trail takes about 5 hours around the crater at the base of the inactive volcano Cotacachi. The unusual lake contains two little lava domes covered by green lush. The highest point reaches 3240 meters above sea level with stunning view of the clear tourniquet lake wrapped around mountains.
Local people still believe in the healing power of the lake and every second day of Inti Raymi take a bath in the lagoon.
Fuya Fuya Volcano
Fuya Fuya is inactive volcano of the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes. It is an easy 3 hours trekking with the highest point reaches 4263 meters above sea level. The trail starts at the base of Laguna Grande de Mojanda.
The mountains are very popular along climbers and mountaineers because it is a good place to acclimate and adapt the body before making an ascent to bigger mountains.
How to Get There
If you are in Quito, you can easily get there by bus which costs $2.50. Buses from Quito to Otavalo leave from the Terminal Carcelen in the Northern Quito. The Cooperativa Otavalo bus company is the most common transport on this route.