Snuggled in the Andean Highlands of Ecuador two hours north of Quito is the small town of Otavalo. Here you’ll find the largest and most famous indigenous market in South America. Feast your eyes on the spectacular colours of organic fruits and vegetables grown in the surrounding fertile volcanic soil. They taste as good as they look, or unbelievably better! Watching the locals carefully choose and purchase their produce you’ll easily become immersed, stepping into their culture and way of life.
The market is held every day of the week, with Saturday being the busiest. Get up early to get the best prices before the tour groups arrive – that’s when the prices tend to go up. You could easily do a day trip from Quito, but why rush the experience ? How much nicer to stay over a few days and discover what Otavalo and the surrounding villages have to offer. The ancient crafts and many of the textiles supplied to the market are made in these local villages.
Start your day first in the animal market with a hearty meal from a vendor then move on to the food and produce market and finally to the textiles, crafts and artisans section. Here you’ll find musical instruments, wooden carvings, artwork and silver jewelry. Blankets and bolts of cloth are woven in the most brilliant hues imaginable. Woven and felt hats and clothes are in abundance along with alpaca ponchos, t-shirts, backpacks and bags of every description and size. Panama hats are made in Ecuador. Beautiful white blouses with exquisite colourful embroidery and black skirts are the local attire worn by most of the women. These are also available in the market. Ecuadorians are a proud people and dress in their best clothes and hats on a daily basis.
Do bargain … it’s expected. A little practice beforehand works wonders. Maybe use a mirror to fine tune your facial expressions like ‘I’m not interested’ or ‘too much money.’ Even turning and walking away can produce a good bargain.
Ecuador has a wonderful spring-like climate year round with warmest months from July through September. Although situated on the equator, the high altitude keeps temperatures pleasant for much of the year.
Long stem roses are grown here, would you believe five feet tall as they grow towards the overhead sun? Very reasonably priced organic roses that you can have sent home or send to someone special as a gift. Surprise your mother for Valentine’s Day !