Otavalo is one of the cities with more native population in Ecuador. It combines the charm of an ecuadorian city with the beauty of the surroundings, such as the peaks of Imbabura, Peguche Waterfall, Cotacachi and Mojanda volcanoes. For visitors who love shopping, Otavalo has one of the oldest indigenous markets in Latin America, where tourists can buy crafts, textiles and other typical products of the zone, and even bartering still works there.
Plaza de los Ponchos, a great square
This square has the name of the poncho, a typical clothe of the indigenous communities that can be taken as souvenir. This square was designed in 1970 by a Dutch architect called Tonny Zwollo. It has the charm and authenticity of an old square. It is transformed on Saturdays, with an emblematic market, where the local manufacturers sell colorful textiles, like tablecloths, handmade blankets and much more.
In the past, indigenous (Quichuas) worked making textiles, and for this reason they have a large tradition designing clothes, processing wool from sheep, flames and small flames. That is the main material for products such as sweaters (jackets), carpets, shirts, blouses, gloves, ponchos, hats, socks, etc.
They also produce typical jewelry like necklaces that are worn by indigenous women, as well as embroidered blouses. Tourists can enjoy this experience, not only for the shopping, but also for knowing the indigenous communities. Visiting Otavalo is like travelling to the past. Otovaleña women wear distinctive clothes, with their blouses, skirts and braids; and men wear the typical ponchos and white trousers. Otavalo is not only about clothing and textiles, other interesting traditions are musicians and their local cuisine.
Other local markets, less known
In addition to this market, if the traveler is staying in Otavalo or the surroundings for more than one day, there are two more markets that may also sound like a great plan to visit. They are more geared to local, which gives a more realistic vision of the city, as sometimes touristic places don’t represent the real day-by-day of the local people.
The first one is a market with live animals that also opens on Saturdays, very early in the morning (3:00 or 4:00 am until about 9:00 am). Here you can see the selling of animals that local people offer, such as chickens, guinea pigs, pigs, sheep, turkeys, ducks, etc.
The other market offers vegetables and it is also available on Saturdays. There you can see the sale of fresh local products, directly sold from the producer. Among the products available are a wide range of varieties of corn. The province of Imbabura, where Otavalo is located, is one of the largest producers of corn in Ecuador.