Situated only two hours north of the capital city of Quito, Otavalo Ecuador is a hot new destination that should be on every travelers radar. Surrounded by the Andes mountains and three massive volcanoes, everyday here makes for some jaw dropping scenery. The famous Otavalo craft market is the main draw, and has turned this once quiet farming town in Ecuador into a thriving tourist center. Even with its booming new economy, the music, art, food, and traditions of Otavalo have survived! This can be seen not just through the one Otavalo market, but three other amazing ones to discover.
Ecuador Travel Inspiration
Otavalo Crafts Market
Time your trip to Otavalo Ecuador for the weekend, as on Saturdays this small urban center of 50,000 transforms into the largest craft market in all of South America. The main square, Plaza de Panchos, spills into every street corner and engulfs the entire town.
This tradition spans hundreds of years and brings people from every nearby village together to sell their amazing work. The craft section is the most well known Otavalo market, and also the most touristic.
What to Buy at the Otavalo Ecuador Market
Alpaca Blankets: These are the warmest, softest things money can buy, and by far the most popular item in the Otavalo market. Unlike the llama, the Andeans breed Alpaca specifically for their incredible fibers. We almost shipped ten of these home to Boston to survive the next winter!
Jewelry: The Otavalo market has an abundance of beautiful handmade jewelry for sale. The pure silver mixed with precious gems shine brightly and seem to draw everyone in from the streets.
Clothes: Leave the Polo and Ralph Lauren at the door. Unless you’re rocking a llama sweater you’re pretty much a nobody. Join the ode to Ecuador’s most important animal and grab as many llama sweaters, hats, and scarfs as you can fit in you bag.
Art: The unique art you will find in this Otavalo market is absolutely amazing. The paintings, weavings, and wood sculptures are so filled with color and patterns that at one point I thought I was hallucinating. I also realized I’d actually seen these famous works before as they are actually sold around the world.
Hammock: A second bed? One that hangs OUTSIDE and can provide you with endless naps? This is a no brainer purchase at the Otavalo Ecuador market.
Quick Otavalo Haggling Tips
The Walk Around: Take a spin through the Otavalo market when you first arrive and assess your target souvenirs. You will get very different prices for the same items so don’t bite at the first sales pitch.
The Walk Up: Don’t be naive. When they see tourists they see $$$$ signs. This means jacking the prices up 2 or 3 times the actual value. Starting as LOW as possible (without insulting anyone) will greatly increase your odds of getting a good deal.
The Walk Away: When you feel like you’ve reached a stalemate for that llama sweater you can’t live without, take a deep breath and walk away. The majority of the time the seller will be chasing you down the street. Kind of a savage strategy, but you can’t argue with results.
Local Food at the Otavalo Market
Stop into the local market for lunch to get an authentic Andean experience. Pig row will be shocking at first, but all your fears will be long gone after that first taste of pork. We went to the Otavalo food market 3 days in a row and didn’t see one other tourist.
Rule of Travel: If you want an authentic experience and guaranteed best food ALWAYS eat where the locals do.
The Best Otavalo Food to Try
Pork: We’ve had a lot of good pork in our day, but none as juicy and tender as in the Otavalo Ecuador market. It doesn’t really get any fresher than carved straight off the pig. A plate of the day will only run you about $2 USD including soup, meat, assorted beans, and salad.
Soup: A starter accompanying practically every meal in Ecuador. Most are creamy potato based, but we’ve found them to be extremely hit or miss. Go for the “locro de papa” (cheese and potato) if the opportunity presents itself.
Beans: Beans have always been an afterthought for me, and you’ll typically only see them next to our tacos. However, Otavalo Ecuador has a wild selection that’d be hard to find anywhere else in the world. Warm chick peas can go a long way with that slice of pork!
Fruit: On the bus, on the street, at the bar, and yes even in the Otavalo market, we pretty much bought fruit everywhere possible. Ecuador is blessed with fresh strawberries, bananas, mangos, and the best passion fruit we’ve ever tasted.
Otavalo Ecuador Animal Market
Located on the far side of town is the animal market. We really had no business at all venturing over here… And unless you’re looking to buy, sell, or trade animals with Otavalian farmers you probably don’t either. Cows, pigs, bulls, alpaca, horses, and chickens can all be found at this EXTREMELY local venue. It’s kind of like a zoo without the cages.
Should you Visit the Otavalo Market?
Yes! We hope this helps you navigate through Otavalo Ecuador a little bit easier. There are plenty of tours available if you’d like to explore or hike, but the markets are where are all the action is. The shipping is a bit expensive out of here so leave some room in your bag, and enjoy the city!
Have any questions on Otavalo Ecuador Market, or want to share your own experience? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Where To Stay In Otavalo Ecuador
Ultra Luxury (High End) – Hotel Medina Del Lago – This luxury hotel has a beautiful panoramic view of the lake and mountains of Ecuador. Relax and enjoy one of the hotels many treatments or choose to get outside where cycling, hiking, and biking is available.
Fun Vacation (Mid Range) – La Casa Sol Andean Lodge – Just outside the center of town, La Casa Sol Andean Lodge is perfect vacation spot to take in Ecuador. This place has an authentic Ecuadorian feel, and is perfect to escape the craziness of the markets.
Hostel Life (Budget) – Hostal La Rosa Otavalo – Good value for the money and located right in the center of Otavalo.
For more places to stay in Otavalo you can explore the latest prices here!*We receive a commission for purchases made through links in this post. This allows us to continue our travels and keep providing great content to our readers! Also, as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
I want so badly to visit there.
But I know that will NEVER be a possibility!
I love listening to Raimy Salazar sing, play and traditional dance on YouTube! Absolutely more beautiful than anything I’ve seen or heard before! I live in Bowling Green, Kentucky USA
I hope you will someday get to visit!
Debbie, thanks for introducing me to Raimy Salazar. That guy is amazing.
I don’t know your situation, but your “never” makes me angry and sad.
KY to Quito is $550 in the spring. Airbnb is as low as $10 per night in nice parts of the city. Food is ~$6 a day. Tours to Otavalo from Quito are $49.
Travel is magic, and I hope you get to live it.